The nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries saw devastating outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, typhus and influenza in European cities. Physicians such as Jon Snow, from England, and Rudolf Virchow, of Germany, saw the connection between poor living conditions, overcrowding, sanitation and disease. A recognition of this connection led to the replanning and rebuilding of cities to stem the spread and severity of epidemics. link

Which role does 'to infinitive clause'("to stem the spread and severity of epidemics") do grammatically?

  1. a postmodifier of the noun "replanning and rebuilding"(in this case, the 'to infinitive clause' is included in the noun phrase headed by 'replanning and rebuilding')
  2. an adverbial clause that expresses 'Purpose'(in this case, 'to infinitive clause' is not included in the noun phrase headed by 'replanning and rebuilding') Which is right?

Distinguishing between these roles always makes me confused because every example has its own context. Thanks in advance:)

  • I don't think a native speaker would distinguish between the two or could tell you which they were using; there's little or no difference in meaning anyway.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 20, 2023 at 15:09

1 Answer 1


"Planning and rebuilding" is a gerund phrase, functioning as the object of "led to". The adverbial infinitive of purpose is part of that phrase, and it expresses the purpose of the action denoted by the gerund phrase.

In any case, maybe an infinitive of purpose can modify a noun, as in
There have been many efforts to control the pandemic.

  • Thank you. I want to add an additional explanation. I want to pick a role, out of three types of 'to infinitive clause after NP' : 1) 'He found a video to watch.'(in this case, 'a video to watch' can be paraphrased into 'a video that he could watch' ; 2) 'We need to give decent people a [chance] to elect a sensible council.'(in this case, the common head nouns taking to-clauses represent human goals, opportunities, or actions; for example, chance, attempt, effort, ability, opponunity, decision, plan, bid) ; 3) 'I borrowed a portable phone to ring Waterloo'
    – Mcreaper
    Jun 19, 2021 at 18:02
  • (in this case, 'to infinitive clause' can be placed in an initial position as in 'To ring Waterloo, I borrowed a portable phone', or can be paraphrased into 'I borrowed a portable phone in order to ring Waterloo.' So... which type do you think 'to stem the spread and severity of epidemics' belongs to?
    – Mcreaper
    Jun 19, 2021 at 18:05
  • @mcreaper It is not a requirement that an infinitive clause of purpose always be placeable in initial position in situ. In this case, led to ... precludes that initial position. Oct 20, 2023 at 12:50

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