The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (page 1262):

Infinitivals indirectly licensed by too, enough, sufficient, sufficiently:

[i] [a] It is too late [for you to go out now].
[i] [b] Enough people turned up [to form a quorum].
[i] [c] The instructions weren't sufficiently clear [for us to be able to assemble it].
[ii] [a] Too good [to miss __] is how I'd describe it.
[ii] [b] The problem isn't important enough [to worry about __].
[ii] [c] Have you had sufficient [to eat __]?

The underlined degree expressions license ordinary infinitivals, as in [i], or hollow ones, as in [ii]. The complements are indirect in that in constituent structure they are not dependents of the licensor, but of a head item that is modified by the latter. In [ia], for example, the infinitival is a dependent of late, not directly of too.

  1. Did I understand correctly that:
    1a. "For you to go out now" in [ia] is the indirect complement to "too", but not a dependent of "too".
    1b. "For you to go out now" in [ia] is not a determiner, modifier or complement to "late", but the dependent of "late".

  2. If "to eat" in [iic] is the indirect complement to "sufficient", then what is "to eat" a dependent of?


1 Answer 1


The two examples that you focused on:

[ia] It is too late [for you to go out now].

[iic] Have you had sufficient [to eat ___]?

The bracketed infinitival clauses are indirect complements.

In [ia] the clause "for you to go out now" is licensed by "too", but is complement of "late".

[iic] is tricky because "sufficient" is a fused determiner-head NP, understood as "sufficient food". The determiner element "sufficient", licenses the infinitival, but the infinitival itself is complement of the head of the fused NP, i.e. complement of understood "food".

  • I may be wrong, but I don't think H&P would say that there's an "understood 'food'" separate from "sufficient" and acting as the head of the NP; I think they'd say that "sufficient" is itself both the determiner and the head. That's how I read p. 332: "we analyse the construction in terms of fusion of the head with a dependent function rather than in terms of ellipsis of the head." Is there something I'm missing there?
    – alphabet
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 17:08
  • Could you help me please with defining licencors of hollow infinitivals? ---- "Her father is a very easy person to get on with." - the licencor of "to get on with" is the whole AdjP "very easy" rather than the word "easy". ---- "The assignment was an absolute pain to do." - the licencor of "to do" is the whole NP "an absolute pain" rather than the word "pain".
    – Loviii
    Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 9:16
  • For me (AmE speaker), [iic] is completely ungrammatical.
    – nschneid
    Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 14:52
  • @Loviii In your first example the licensor of the hollow infinitival is the adjective "easy". In your second example, the licensor is the adjective "pain".
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 17:44

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