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I have a lot of work to do. = I have a lot of work that I must do.

It is the same. I can't understand that. How?

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  • Try it in this order: I have to do a lot of work. That means I am obligated to perform many tasks = I have many tasks that I am obligated to perform. Feb 11 at 0:18
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    The meanings aren't identical. Consider I have a lot of food to eat. That would usually be understood to mean a lot of food which I can eat, which isn't the same as having a lot of food that I must eat. Syntactically speaking, work to do and food to eat are the same - it's just that we tend to assume doing work is something you only do because you must, whereas you're more likely to eat food because you can. Feb 11 at 3:10

2 Answers 2

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I have a lot of work [to do].

The bracketed element is an infinitival relative clause modifying "lot of work".

Infinitival relative clauses like this have a modal meaning comparable to that expressed in finite clauses by "can or "should". Your example is comparable to

I have a lot of work that I should do.

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In

I have a lot of work to do.

the infinitive to do modifies a lot of work to form a noun phrase.

It means almost the same as

I have a lot of work that I must do.

where the relative clause that I must do modifies a lot of work.

Using must in the second sentence is valid as work is usually perceived as something we do only because it's a must. If we use food in the first sentence, the modal verb in the second sentence would likely be can. Please refer to @FumbleFingers' comments.

More flexible would be

... many things to do

... many things that I must (or can) do.

Please note not all infinitives modify their preceding nouns to form noun phrases. In

The project needed money to be completed.

The infinitive to be completed is an "adverbial expression indicating the purpose of all the words before, and is movable to the start of the sentence". We can also insert in order:

The project needed money in order to be completed.

The infinitive here does not modify money.

*money to be completed

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