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I would need help with shortening this sentence as much as possible without making it sound strange.

He was surrounded by the maliciousness of all, but he had no strength to defend himself against their groundless accusations. The only thing left (for him) (to do) was to cry his heart out.

Is it correct to just say

The only thing left was to cry his heart out?

or do I need to do? Can I leave for him out?

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All of the following are possible:

The only thing left for him to do was to cry his heart out.

The only thing left for him was to cry his heart out.

The only thing left was to cry his heart out.

However, although they are all grammatically correct, there is a nuance of meaning. It is important to remember that context always makes a difference. English is a context-dependent language.

The only thing left for him to do was to cry his heart out

John had tried and tried to make it up with his girlfriend but she eventually got together with someone else. The only thing left for him to do was to cry his heart out.

In others words, he had exhausted all ways of dealing with the situation and only one remained - to cry.

The only thing left was to cry his heart out

This sounds quite impersonal. It seems as though he was working through a checklist. He had successfully completed all the items on the list and now only one remained - to cry his heart out. Maybe he was an actor and was shooting scenes for a movie. The last scene was for him to cry his heart out.


So please, when you are asking about a single sentence, give some context about the rest of the conversation. No-one simply speaks a sentence without some background to their utterance. Thanks

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The sentence

The only thing left was to cry his heart out.

sounds a little awkward without the "to do", although it could make sense in context. Of the four options (with/without the "for him" and with/without the "to do") I'd probably go with the original sentence.

If you have the "to do" in there and you're aiming for a relatively casual tone, you could skip the other "to":

The only thing left for him to do was cry his heart out.

This would be more reflective of typical speech (in the Northeastern U.S., at least), although people who are particular about grammar might feel that the absence of the "to" makes this incorrect. (Note that this sounds very strange without the "to do":

*the only thing left for him was cry his heart out

would be odd. To my ear, it still sounds strange if you substitute, for example, "to cry," so I think this is a peculiarity of the phrase "to do.")

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