1

Is your goal to win the contest?

Is the purpose of a pencil to draw?

Does this form of questions (Is something to do) sound natural to native English speakers?

  • Both sentences are grammatical. – user178049 Jan 8 at 13:40
  • Yes, I know that. Are they natural? – Alexey Jan 8 at 13:42
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Yes, they are natural. But that doesn't mean that the construction always will be.

This is a property of the particular nouns goal and purpose. Each of them can take a 'to'-infinitive clause as their complement. Several other nouns work the same way: intention, desire.

But fear doesn't: "My fear is to jump out of a plane" is not idiomatic, because fear takes a "that" clause, or a noun phrase (which could be an "-ing" clause) with "of".

I'm not sure about hope: "My hope is to get there in time" sounds a bit odd to me, but I think that many people would be comfortable with it.

  • By the way, I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that my question is about questions - do questions having such a form sound natural? It seems that you've answered something different, no? – Alexey Jan 8 at 14:05
  • I'm certainly with you as regards hope (can't unilaterally decry it, but I don't really like it much). Might it be because hope is usually "verbified" in constructions that also include an infinitive marker? (I hope to get there on time). Whereas we can't easily verbify nouns like goal and purpose. – FumbleFingers Jan 8 at 15:42
  • @Alexey: As Colin says, your examples are fine. But for many closely-related situations we'd often be more likely to ask using a verb associated with the person we're asking. Thus Do you intend to do that? rather than Is it your intention to do that? That second "circumlocutory" form is more stilted / formal. – FumbleFingers Jan 8 at 15:46
  • True, @FumbleFingers. But in the cases Alexey asked about (with an impersonal subject), the questions are completely natural to my ear. – Colin Fine Jan 8 at 18:34
  • I like being left alone - fine. I like to be left alone - fine. I fear being left alone - fine. I fear to be left alone - WEIRD. On the other hand, I hope to be left alone is fine, but I hope being left alone is a complete non-starter. Not easy for the non-natives! :) – FumbleFingers Jan 8 at 19:21

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