The only way to win this war is to ensure Trump and Bolton are stopped before they start it.


I would like to ask whether it is possible to replace the bolded part with "being stopped" or "to be stopped" which I would opt there.

  • 1
    Why do you think those suggestions are better than "are stopped"? – Weather Vane May 14 at 17:40
  • Where the gerund could be used: "... is by ensuring..." – Weather Vane May 14 at 17:47
  • 2
    I do not think that my alternatives are better. I would choose them on the basis of my – probably limited – knowledge of English. Maybe I would write "should be stopped". – bart-leby May 14 at 17:49
  • 1
    Although not wrong (with rephrasing), there is no need to change the verbal phrase. Also note that, semantically, the sentence is a little strange. If they are stopped before the war is started—then the war will never happen in the first place, and there will be no war to win or lose. (It sounds a little bit like something out of a science fiction novel, where history is changed by going back in time.) – Jason Bassford May 14 at 18:20
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    @Jason Bassford I think this is a matter of rhetoric, the author is saying that the only way to with the war s/he writes of is to stop it before it starts. If it once starts it will be a loss for all sides. – David Siegel May 14 at 23:48

The form:

The only way to X is to ensure that Y and Z are stopped.

(To X is an infinitive verb phrase that serves as the subject of the sentence.)

is perfectly proper and quite natural. One cannot substitute "being stopped" or "to be stopped" without significantly recasting the sentence.

One could write:

  • To X we must ensure that Y and Z are stopped.
  • To X we must ensure that Y and Z will be stopped.
  • To X, Y and Z need to be stopped.
  • To X, Y and Z must be stopped.
  • Unless Y and Z are being stopped, we are not Xing.

As you can see, each of these changes the form. That last one also changes the meaning somewhat, but it is the closest I could get using "being stopped".

None of these are a significant improvement on the original, in my view. However, each is grammatical and reasonably natural.

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