I was scrolling through, and I confused when I saw this post, I dont understand Why " to be returned" used here.

What tense is it ?

What's that "to" for ?

We see end of the cartoon's " To be continued " And it means next episode will come, I mean it is future tense. But here I dont think this text is implying to future time.

.To be returned

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    You're on the right track thinking about "future" here. But it's the future in the past - that's to say when it was banned, the mass protests and subsequent reinstatement lay in the future. Think of only to be returned as a slightly stylised was of saying but later it was returned. But I have to say I don't much like the "passive" use of "to be returned" in this exact context - I'd prefer either (active) only to return or (passive) only to be reinstated. Apr 20, 2021 at 17:12
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    @FumbleFingers - I can imagine using 'only to be' in conversation - how annoying for you, to do all that work on the project, only to be told that the boss' nephew was getting a bonus for it! Apr 20, 2021 at 17:38
  • @MichaelHarvey: Sure - at least some native speakers would have this only to be X'ed construction in their "productive speech" linguistic toolbox. But I suspect in practice an awful lot more would rarely if ever use it in speech, even if they were perfectly familiar with it in the written form (and by hearing it in the "relatively rarefied" speech of careful speakers who make their living contributing to public discourse on radio, TV, etc.). In your example, for instance, only to be told is a much "higher" register than semantically identical and then [to] be told. Apr 21, 2021 at 12:42

1 Answer 1


This is an example of one of the meanings of 'only':


You can use only before an infinitive to introduce an event which happens immediately after one you have just mentioned, and which is rather surprising or unfortunate.

Speedy Gonzalez was banned, only to be returned after mass protest.

My brother won $100 on a bet at the racecourse, only to lose it all when he was mugged on the way home.

I knew a man who worked hard all his life and retired from work at the age of 65, only to drop dead the next day.

Only (Collins Dictionary)

  • And what you describe as "to be v3" is how we form the passive infinitive in English. To return would be the normal (active) infinitive (something returns); to be returned is the passive infinitive (something is returned).
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 20, 2021 at 17:43
  • Returned by the Cartoon Network? I didn't describe anything as "to be v3". Apr 20, 2021 at 17:46
  • No, Michael, you didn't; @Burak Dutar did. Apologies for not clarifying.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 20, 2021 at 19:50

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