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My question is which answer is correct to fill in the blank?

The research he devoted himself to [ ] the farmers have a better harvest is very important.

A.helping

B.to help

I think an easier way to understand this sentence would be to rephrase it into

He devoted himself to the important research which helps the farmers have a better harvest.

Instead of using "which" at this time, it both makes sense to me to use "helping" as a present participle and "to help" as an infinitive. Though I've never seen a form like "to to help" if "to help " is the correct answer.

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1 Answer 1

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It is a very poor sentence. I've gone back and forth with myself as to whether A or B works better, but the real answer is that neither works because the sentence is not punctuated properly. The intended meaning of the sentence can be parsed like this:

  1. The research he devoted himself to is very important.
  2. The purpose of the research is this: to help [or: helping] the farmers have a better harvest.

When you combine the two, and punctuate the parenthetical clause properly, you get:

  1. The research he devoted himself to—helping the farmers have a better harvest—is very important.

But this is still not a very good sentence. The noun "research" does not go well with the verb "help." "Helping" is a thing that you do, not a thing that you research; you might research how to help, but you would not research "helping" itself, at least not in this context.

The sentence could be improved in a number of ways:

  1. Add the missing "which."
  2. Join the "to" to the "which" instead of leaving it dangling at the end of a clause. (This is a "rule" which your teachers might enforce. You may break it, but only if you know what you're doing...)
  3. Use punctuation to separate the parenthetical description of the research from the main clause.
  4. Change the subject of the research from "help" to "how to help."
  5. Combine the run-on sentence into two distinct clauses, and separate them with a colon.
  • The research to which he devoted himself—how to help the farmers have a better harvest—is very important.
  • He devoted himself to very important research: how to help the farmers have a better harvest.

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