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What we have to do now is find why the accident happened.

Why can is add a verb here (find)? And I think find should be finding.

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There are some problems with this sentence, but not the problem you thought. This is a bit of a lazy construction, and has an implicit to; it's also missing the word "out," which should be present:

What we have to do now is to find (out) why the accident happened.

To find something is to locate it. To find something out is to learn or discover it. The latter is the meaning intended here.

The infinitive form to find is correct because the phrase is acting as a noun phrase: it is the thing that "has to be done now." As such it is grammatically abstracted from the rest of the sentence, and the verb is not conjugated.

  • I don't agree that the word out "should" be present. It's optional, and often omitted in contexts like these. Check out this Ngram. – J.R. Jun 4 at 14:15
  • I don't see a problem with 'to' here. From a Beatles song: all you have to do is call and I'll be there. Here's a thread, mentioning statistics in favour of no 'to' (which is especially impressive for AE): english.stackexchange.com/questions/104546/… – Alex_ander Jun 4 at 14:31
  • @Alex_ander I said the "to" is implicit. I agree it can be left out, and often is, especially in spoken form. – TypeIA Jun 4 at 15:22
  • @J.R. Interesting Ngram, but I think both the examples you picked are special cases, as "to find the truth" and "to find the facts" are set phrases. In the OP sentence I feel like "why it happened" is something that should be found out. It sounds strange to my ear without it. – TypeIA Jun 4 at 15:25
  • So, 'What we have to do now is find why the accident happened' equals 'What we have to do now is to find why the accident happened'. That is to say 'to' can be omited. Is this right? – Y. zeng Jun 5 at 13:58

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