1

How do I know which one is correct between these two kinds:

  1. To + Present Simple

    • It's difficult to use.

    • I have nothing to cook.

    • That's too personal to ask.

  2. To + be + Past Participle

    • It's difficult to be used.

    • I have nothing to be cooked.

    • That's too personal to be asked.

Will there be a special condition when they are interchangeably used? And which "to" is it? An infinitive? A preposition?

I'm quite familiar with passive voice. In my context, e.g. "It's difficult to use" To use by whom? And it leads me to think that what if the correct way to say this is using passive form?

3
  • Your first group is [ "to" + base form ] (not present simple). The only difference between 1 and 2 is that 2 is passive voice. Are you familiar with passive voice?
    – gotube
    Sep 28, 2022 at 23:46
  • @gotube yes, I'm quite familiar with it. It's like when something is done by someone else or putting an emphasis on an object if I'm not mistaken. In my context, e.g. It's difficult to use. To use by whom? And it leads me to think that what if the correct way to say this is using passive form.
    – user516076
    Sep 29, 2022 at 0:15
  • 1
    Perfect. I've added your comment to the question because it clarifies what you're looking for.
    – gotube
    Sep 29, 2022 at 1:56

1 Answer 1

1

The sentences in 1 are all correct and natural. The sentences in 2 are either incorrect or unnatural.

The reason is that the sentences in 1 all have elided subjects of the infinitive verb phrases:

It's difficult (for people in general) to use.
I have nothing (for me) to cook.
That's too personal (for you) to ask.

From the context, it's clear who the subject of the infinitive verbs are, so we almost always leave them out. We only add the "for ..." phrase when it's unclear who we're talking about.

For instance, if there was some object that someone found difficult to use but not other people, then I would say:

This bottle opener is difficult for her to use because of her injury.

If we try and say these sentences with their subjects, but in the passive voice, we get nonsense:

This bottle opener is difficult for her to be used because of her injury.

2
  • 1
    Very easy to understand, thank you very much. By the way, if I may know, is elision (noun form) you mentioned in your answer, is it natural to implement, or there is no difference whether I elid them or not?
    – user516076
    Sep 29, 2022 at 23:34
  • @user516076 You would only add "for X" if it wasn't clear from the context. (and the verb is "elide").
    – gotube
    Sep 30, 2022 at 1:22

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