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Some 16 years before Esmeralda married Gringoire, a child had been left at Notre Dame Cathedral. To the left of the great church’s front door was a wooden bed sealed in the pavement. It was the custom to put orphans here. Anyone who chose to could take them away. A copper basin for donations was placed in front of the bed

Dose it mean: Anyone who wanted could take these children and raise them?

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  • Anyone who chose to could take them away. Does it mean: Anyone who wanted could take these children and raise them?

The answer is yes. The idea of taking them away to raise them is not explicit but could be understood: in an ideal world, what else could orphans be taken away for?

I think the verb "chose to (do something)" within the relative clause "who chose to" is what confused you. The verb "choose" can be followed by "to"-infinitive, and in this case there is no infinitive because it is the same that appears in the main clause, so it is omitted to avoid repetition:

  • Anyone who chose to take them away could take them away.

Alternatively, this other (less elegant) form could have been used:

  • Anyone who chose to take them away could do so.
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Yes you're exactly correct. Even as a native speaker that sentence tripped me up: I was expecting an infinitive after chose (see example 4)

Whilst it's perfectly correct it's easier to read either without the "to" (examples 1 and 2): "to choose" and "to choose to" have very similar meanings here, or the reader could be helped with a comma after the subject to indicate the reader that the "to" isn't part of another verb (example 3).

Any of the following are easier to parse.

1) "Anyone who chose could take them away"

2) "Anyone who chose, could take them away"

3) "Anyone who chose to, could take them away"

4) "Anyone who chose to raise them, could take them away"

  • Thank you so much. Do you mean example 3 and 4 have simillar meaning? – Viser Hashemi Jan 9 at 12:58
  • Example 4 adds more than is in the original text, for example someone could take an orphan to give to a childless couple, without intending to raise them themselves. The rather clunky "Anyone who chose to take them away could take them away" preserves the original meaning, which you could make better with "Anyone who chose to take them away, could" as Gustavson notes. – james Jan 9 at 13:07

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