Do we need "to be"(or a form of 'to be') before adjectives? For example:

  1. I want my hair black.

  2. I want my hair to be black.

  1. This is ready to publish.

  2. This is ready to be published.

  1. I would like this short.

  2. I would like this to be short.

Would you tell me which of each pair is correct and explain the syntax behind it, please.

  • 1
    No: it's optional, not obligatory. In 1 and 5 the adjectives are objective predicative complements, while in 2 and 6 they are subjective complements of the embedded "to be" clauses. 3 and 4 are different constructions. In 3. the infinitival "to be" clause is complement of the adjective "ready", the whole AdjP "ready to publish" being subjective predicative complement. Finally, 4 is simply the passive version of 3. Note that some modern grammars call 1 and 5 verbless or 'small clauses'.
    – BillJ
    Nov 23 '20 at 8:53
  • In (4), is the whole AdjP "ready to be published" as well as in (3) "ready to publish"? Why does "ready to be published" equal "ready to publish" while "to be published" and "to publish" have contrary meaning?
    – xyz
    Nov 23 '20 at 11:34
  • @xyz Yes: they are the whole AdjPs. I wouldn't say that "to publish" and "to be published" have contrary meanings. I explained that in my last comment.
    – BillJ
    Nov 23 '20 at 13:08
  • 1
    Thank you very much @BillJ . Your comment has been very helpful and now I get a clearer idea, but could please shed some more lights on the 3 and 4 as this is still a bit unclear for me. Your help is very much appreciated.
    – Guri
    Nov 23 '20 at 14:38
  • @BillJ. Thanks a lot. But "to be published" change the subject and the object at "to publish". Could you explain further, why this change hold the meaning.
    – xyz
    Nov 23 '20 at 17:58


Sentence 1, 3, and 5 which omit any form of "to be" are perfectly valid. Note that when a verb is wanted it need not be a form of "to be". 1 could be rewritten as:

  • I want to wear my hair black.

  • I want my hair to be worn black.

  • I want to wear my hair colored black.

Note also that in 3 "publish" is a verb form, not an adjective. although the whole phrase "ready to publish" does serve as an adjective. One could also write:

  • This is ready for publication.

  • I have a text ready for publication.

where "ready for publication" serves as an adjective phrase.

  • Thank you very much @DavidSiegel , so in 3 does it mean that the subject "This" is ready to publish something else or itself is read to be published?
    – Guri
    Dec 30 '20 at 4:37
  • 1
    @Guri It could mean either, but most likely the second: "This (indicating a text) is ready to publish." If teh subject had been the person ready to publish something, then "I/s/he/they" would hav ben used in place of "this". Even a company would be referred to as "they" not 'this". Dec 30 '20 at 4:58
  • Thank you so much @DavidSiegel :)
    – Guri
    Dec 30 '20 at 6:15

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