I learnt at school that "a pen to write" is incorrect and that you need to say "a pen to write with" because you don't write a pen but you write with a pen.

However, I found this sentence in a dictionary.

  • The bar is a favorite of the locals to unwind after work.

You don't unwind the bar but you unwind in the bar, don't you? Why don't you need to add the preposition, in, after "unwind" in the sentence above and make it like this?

  • The bar is a favorite of the locals to unwind in after work.
  • 1
    "a pen to write" is a phrase, and can be correct in many contexts, even contexts where "a pen to write with" is also correct. Please make complete sentences so we can assess whether your sentences are correct or not.
    – gotube
    Oct 31, 2022 at 17:17
  • For example, "I use a pen to write." is correct, isn't it? However, I believe that "I have a nice pen to write." is incorrect, isn't it?
    – kuwabara
    Nov 1, 2022 at 14:46
  • 1
    "I have a nice pen to write" is correct because it can mean "I have a nice pen in order to write."
    – gotube
    Nov 1, 2022 at 15:23
  • 1
    We actually unwind at a bar rather than in a bar, but either way, this is a great question!
    – ruakh
    May 3, 2023 at 2:25
  • The royal "we" seems out of place here. People can unwind at/in a bar and it makes no difference at all, unless you want to distinguish between being standing at the bar/counter or seated. For example, in a typical British pub. Or in European countries like France, Italy or Spain, where prices may be cheaper standing at the bar/counter than if you are sitting at a table.
    – user46359
    Jun 19, 2023 at 10:01

3 Answers 3


It is not a universal rule.

In American English, for example, you will often see people say "I will write you".

Even the example given is wrong, because nobody would think it unnatural to say; "I need a pen to write".

There are many more examples.


I use a stove to cook

Basically, any verb that can be use intransitively.

  • I use a bicycle to commute, a knife to cut, a drill to pierce. Oct 31, 2022 at 9:26
  • "I need a pen to write" and "I use a stove to cook" is perfectly fine because these to-infinitives are used as adverb phrases and they each qualify "need" and "use", not "a pen" and "a stove". However, in the sentence I gave above, "to unwind" is used as an adjective phrase without doubt and it qualifies "the bar". I am asking about to-infinitives that are used as adverbial phrases, not adjective phrases.
    – kuwabara
    Oct 31, 2022 at 10:36
  • "Favourite" is interpreted as "favourite place".
    – BillJ
    Oct 31, 2022 at 11:53
  • Please make it explicit how your answer addresses the OP's question. What is "not a universal rule"? What's the connection between "I will write you" and the OP's example sentence? There are many more examples of what? What exactly can you do with "any verb that can be used intransitively"?
    – gotube
    Oct 31, 2022 at 17:30

Context is all.

You have made the leap from a teaching aid

"a pen to write" is incorrect and that you need to say "a pen to write with"

I will assume what your teacher was saying, was

"I need a pen to write" is incorrect and that you need to say "I need a pen to write with"

Thus associating the pen with making marks on paper. This is one piece of information.

Fast forward to

You don't unwind the bar but you unwind in the bar, don't you?

When you look at the sentence you need to observe the context in which it is written.

The bar is a favorite of the locals to unwind after work.

your should now automatically separate that into two pieces of information

The bar is a favourite of the locals

Because two sentences have been combined to make this sentence we also know that it has elements that are common to both pieces of information "The Bar and The Locals"

(locals like) to unwind after work (in this place)

From the context we know they like this place because it is a favourite. We also know they are in the bar when they are relaxing, because it is the fact they are here that causes them to relax.

unwind verb (RELAX) CED (also wind down)

to relax and allow your mind to be free from worry after a period of work or some other activity that has made you worried:

It easy to comprehend the link between pen and writing but to comprehend the thought process of physically unwinding a bar takes a lot of comprehension.


The sentence you found is correct and natural, but you're right that it's ambiguous, and you could naively parse it to mean the locals like to unwind the bar after work. Lots of natural sentences in English can be parsed to have a meaning other than what was intended, so this alone isn't a problem. The question is how this sentence has the intended meaning, which becomes unambiguous when you add "in", as you have correctly done.

So let's take an unambiguous sentence with comparable underlying structure:

The park is a favourite place for people to meet.

In this sentence, even without any preposition, we understand that people meet at the park, not that people meet the park. If you wanted to though, you could naively parse "meet" as a transitive verb, with the park as the direct object, meaning "People commonly meet the park."

The bar is a favourite of the locals to unwind after work.

The same thing is happening in your example sentence, except "favourite" is understood to mean "favourite place", which is enough of a context clue to help the reader parse it as intended.

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