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Today I read the below sentence:

The employment rate has continued to rise in big cities thanks to the efforts of the local governments to increase it.

Why is there a "to" used before word "increase"? It reads strangely to me. Is this sentence wrong? Is the "thanks to" in this sentence wrong?

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If you want a simple answer, I'm afraid I don't have one for you. In English the infinitive of a verb, words like "to play", "to walk" or "to think" can be used as "to-infinitives" (where the particle 'to' is included), and "bare-infinitives" (without the particle 'to'). The bare-infinitives are the headwords of dictionaries.

When you can use one or the other depends on specific rules, which are outlined in this Wikipedia article, which shows when you can use the to-infinitive or the bare-infinitive bare-infinitives.

Cases where the "bare-infinitive" is allowed is in constructions like:

I can to speak English.
I will to go to bed.
The loud bang made me to jump.

If you follow that article I linked you'll come down to a list of examples where the "to-infinitive" must be used. It shows:

As a modifier of certain nouns and adjectives:

the reason to laugh
the effort to expand
anxious to get a ticket
to-infinitive

In certain cases you can reform the construction by using "of + present participle", such as "I made the effort of trying it."

If you go to this site, which is a grammar checker, and copy and paste the following in:

I made the effort leave my school. I made the effort of leaving my school. I made the decision stop my habit. I made the decision of stopping my habit.

You'll see that it highlights "effort leave" and "decision stop", as there needs to be the particle "to" in between the two words.

In your sentence the "thanks to" means the same thing as "due to" or "because of". This part does not have any bearing on whether "to" needs to be included. Think of the following sentences and ask yourself if they are grammatical:

I made the effort clean my room.
He made a strong effort win the competition.

It makes no difference in this case if it's the efforts of the government, an effort or a decision or an attempt is generally "to do" something, ie., a "to-infinitive" verb,

Here are some dictionary entries for the use of "effort".

2.It was an effort to get up.
3.Make an effort to arrive promptly.
American Heritage Dictionary

2.a our effort to save him failed.
Collins English Dictionary

  • Thanks a a lot,I suddenly see the light.I should have known the "to" means purpose,but I just realize the role is "efforts","of the local governments" is additional burden of this sentence! – webkws Jan 1 at 14:59
  • I have to say that the "effort of" sentences sound wrong to me (native British English speaker) – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jan 1 at 17:36
  • @MartinBonner Yes, I have to admit it sounds strange to me also with certain verbs. I don't know if I'd personally use many myself. I was just trying to illustrate that type of construction, "of" + present participle, which I'm pretty sure it isn't ungrammatical. I guess I might say something like "He went to the effort of" such and such. – Zebrafish Jan 1 at 18:11
  • *I made the effort of trying it. is indeed wrong. A sentence like "Someone went to the effort of creating this artwork" is isomorphic to "Someone went to the seaside town of Brighton." "Creating this artwork" is the gerund phrase that tells what effort someone went to; the artwork definitely got created in this case, albeit with (effort/difficulty/persistence). OTOH, "Someone made an effort to create this artwork" simply means "Someone tried to create this artwork." The (effort/attempt/try) might or might not have succeeded. – Quuxplusone Jan 1 at 18:46
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    It should have highlighted "I made the decision of stopping my habit" as well. A sentence like "I agree with the decision of the committee" is OK, because "the decision of the committee" or "the committee's decision" is a straightforward genitive construction. The "of" clause says who made the decision. But "of stopping my habit" is not a genitive clause. "Stopping my habit's decision" doesn't make any sense at all. – alephzero Jan 1 at 20:48
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thanks to the efforts of the local government to increase it

There are three modifiers attached to the noun "efforts": the definite article, a prepositional phrase, and an infinitive phrase.  The entire noun phrase "the efforts of the local government to increase it" is the object of the preposition "to", which attaches this noun phrase to the word "thanks". 

 

Let's look at what happens without the "to" before "increase":

The efforts of the local government increase it.

This is a complete independent clause.  Without the "to", "increase" works as a finite verb.  It has tense.  It creates a predicate which requires a subject.  This version can stand as a sentence on its own.  It cannot act as the object of "thanks to". 

The infinitive phrase "to increase it" represents the purpose of the efforts.  The predicate "increase it" would represent the action of the efforts. 

 

Without the "to" before "increase", we're left with a clause that does not attach to the prior clause, leaving the sentence broken.  We're also left with a clause that carries a different meaning than the noun phrase in the original version of the sentence. 

With the "to" before "increase", we're left with a noun phrase that acts as the object of the "to" after "thanks".  The sentence is coherent.  The meaning is clear. 

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The employment rate has continued to rise in big cities thanks to the efforts of the local governments to increase it.

Your confusion is probably increased by the three different uses of the word "to" in that sentence.

The middle one is part of the idiom "X is happening, thanks to Y." This is a relatively informal way of abbreviating the idea that Y is responsible for X. That is, if you want to thank somebody for X (i.e. "give thanks to somebody for X"), you should send your thanks to Y. In this case, the word "to" is being used in its normal prepositional sense ("directed towards").

So we can rewrite the sentence like this:

The employment rate has continued to rise in big cities.
Why? Because of the efforts of the local governments to increase it.

(where the antecedent of "it" is "the employment rate").

You later commented:

I just realize the role is "efforts","of the local governments" is additional burden of this sentence!

Right.

The employment rate has continued to rise in big cities.
Why? Because of efforts to increase it.
Whose efforts? Local governments' efforts. The efforts of local governments.

Incidentally, I don't think "efforts of local governments" is particularly idiomatic. I would rather say

The employment rate has continued to rise in big cities.
Why? Because of efforts to increase it.
Efforts by whom? Efforts by local governments.

The employment rate has continued to rise in big cities thanks to the efforts by local governments to increase it.

We still need to explain the first and third uses of "to" — "continued to rise" and "efforts to increase it." In both cases, as Zebrafish said, "to X" is the to-infinitive form of a verb; that's just how infinitives work in English.

Frequently, you can use either a to-infinitive or a progressive after another verb; so,

The employment rate has continued to rise (acceptable)
The employment rate has continued rising (acceptable)

This is because the thing following "continued" is something like a noun phrase: it says what is being continued. We can use an infinitive, a gerund like "rising", or even an actual noun:

The employment rate has continued its upward trajectory (acceptable)

However, I can't think of any cases where you could do that after a noun (such as "efforts"). This is because the thing following "efforts" is something like an adjectival or prepositional phrase: it says what kind of efforts, or efforts with what purpose.

efforts to increase the employment rate (acceptable)
efforts with an eye to increasing the employment rate (acceptable)
efforts at increasing the employment rate (acceptable IMHO, but informal)
*efforts increasing the employment rate (unacceptable)

And in neither case is it acceptable to omit the "to" part of the infinitive:

*The employment rate has continued rise (unacceptable)
*efforts increase the employment rate (unacceptable)

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