I came across the following sentence:

  1. People can play for fun, to win, AND to make money.

According to “the rule”, because can is a modal verb, it should be followed by a bare infinitive without to. But here we see the rule acts only for the first verb. Wouldn’t it be more correct to write it this way?

  1. People can play for fun, win, AND make money.
  • 2
    The infinitival clauses are complement of "play", not "can", so they are fine: "People can play [for fun], [to win], and [to make money]. Your suggested alternant is ungrammatical.
    – BillJ
    Jun 9, 2021 at 16:49
  • @BillJ: the suggested alternate is perfectly grammatical: People can play for fun, [can] win, and [can] make money. Jun 9, 2021 at 16:54
  • 2
    Not for the intended meaning per the original sentence, where the infinitivals are purpose adjuncts
    – BillJ
    Jun 9, 2021 at 17:01
  • @Peter Shor IMHO, those are two different sentences: the alternate version isn't a rephrasing of the first version: it breaks up the sentence into smaller clauses where can is the "governing" word in each clause. On the other hand, the role of can as a "governing" word is limited to only the first part People can play for fun in the first version. It is true that both versions are grammatically OK, but the implications are different.
    – user126190
    Jun 9, 2021 at 17:05
  • 2
    @User40475: I very strongly suspect that the OP did not understand the intended meaning of the original sentence. Saying that his rewrite is ungrammatical might completely confuse him. Jun 9, 2021 at 17:17

2 Answers 2


You're parsing the original sentence incorrectly.

In the sentence, the underlying construction is not can to win and can to make money but play to win and play to make money.

So while your rewrite is a grammatical English sentence, it doesn't quite mean the same thing as the original.


The original sentence has three clauses connected with and that's been reduced by Conjunction Reduction. The boldfaced parts below are what Conjunction Reduction deletes:

  • People can play for fun, and
  • people can play to win, and
  • people can play to make money.

In the first clause, for fun is a preposition phrase used as a purpose adverb -- fun is the reason for some people to play. The second clause mentions another purpose -- in order to win, a purpose infinitive, parallel to the first purpose phrase. The third clause completes the trifecta with another purpose infinitive, in order to make money.

So that's three reasons people can play. The author apparently considers this a lot, since they capitalized AND, and that usually implies it would be stressed (i.e, loud) when spoken. Which marks it as advertising, since it's praising gambling loudly, and nobody does that without being paid.

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