9

Sometimes, I heard or saw sentences with “left”. For example:

Be left

A: How many windows are left?

B: There are two windows left.

I wonder what “left” is.

Is that the past participle of verb to “leave”? Are the above sentences passive voice?

Left with other verbs

A: How many tickets do you have left?

B: I have two tickets left.

I also wonder what “left” is here. Is that adverb?

How can we use and put “left” in a sentence for this meaning?

Should we always put” left” at the end of a sentence?

Would you explain it to me, please?

6

Per @Pheonix2105's answer, in some contexts there might be an implied to [do something to/with] after the word "left". But I don't see that as particularly relevant to the general case. For example...

1: Tom has 10 apples. He gives 3 to Dick. How many are left?

We neither know nor care whether Tom's 7 apples are "to eat", "to give to Harry", or whatever. All that matters is they're remaining (not given away, eaten, or otherwise removed from the original 10 apples).

In such contexts, left is simply an "adjectival" use of the past participle of the verb to leave...

2: Tom has 10 apples. Dick takes 3. How many does he leave?

Note that the last sentence there could just as well have been "How many does this leave?" - it's not really important whether we think of Dick as the "subject" who "leaves" (doesn't take) the leftover apples. If we use this, it's just a demonstrative pronoun meaning this action which has just been described.

If you're interested, see here for some interesting information about "Participle Adjectives" (such as "interested" and "interesting" as used earlier in this sentence).


Note that there are certain limitations on how adjectival left = remaining can be used...

3: Tom sold 3 of his 10 tickets. How many are left unsold? (either left or unsold could be omitted)
4: There are 7 left
5: There are 7 unsold
6: There are 7 tickets left
7: There are 7 tickets unsold
8: There are 7 unsold tickets
9: *There are 7 left tickets (idiomatically unacceptable)

...where #9 is "unacceptable" even though the basic construction is okay with alternatives which are "synonymous" in context (such as unsold, remaining). Because we're more used to adjectival left before a noun meaning "levo" (on the left, not the right side), we would normally express #9 as...

10: There are 7 leftover tickets (or left-over)

  • Thank you so much FumbleFingers! Your examples and explainations are too useful. For my first example “Be left”. I got it and it’s enlightening. For the second example, there are left and have. Is left an adjective too? Can they come from long sentences like these? A: How many tickets do you have to be left? B I have two tickets which are left. Could you please check it please? – nkm Apr 5 '14 at 4:00
  • 1
    @nkm: I can't imagine any possible context for #A "How many tickets do you have to be left?". Including "to be" in such a construction implies "which are and always were intended to be unsold" - which makes no real-world sense to me, since the tickets could only be described as left [over], unsold if you'd tried to sell them but failed. And native speakers would almost never include "which are" in constructions like your example #B. The reason for this is subtle, but I'll try to explain... – FumbleFingers Apr 5 '14 at 12:25
  • 1
    If I say "I have 2 tickets which are cheap", it might be that I only have 2 tickets (and they are both cheap), or that I have many other (more expensive) tickets, but only 2 cheap ones. But left is different, in that by definition, if I still have them they must be left [over], and also by definition I can't still "have" any other tickets which are not left/remaining. Repetition and tautology are not inherently incorrect in English, but in a case like your example #B there, we simply wouldn't do it. – FumbleFingers Apr 5 '14 at 12:35
  • Thanks a lot again! I really appreciate your help. I've learned a lot from your examples and explaination. I think I understand well how to use "left" now. Have a nice day!:) – nkm Apr 5 '14 at 15:06
4

A: How many windows are left(to clean)?

B: There are two windows left (to clean).

A: How many tickets do you have left(to sell)?

B: I have two tickets left (to sell).

It all depends on the context it is said in, if we were cleaning windows while I said "How many windows are left" to you, you would probably guess I am asking how many more windows we have to clean :)

  • I understand more about "left" and your explaination is very useful but I still wonder and don't understand what left is in those cases. Is it past participle or adverb or something else? However, Thank you very much Pheonix2105! – nkm Apr 4 '14 at 16:20

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