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I read the following sentence in a grammar book which is displayed as a fault example of usage of "and".

She told us to read the text carefully, and that we should write a short review of it.

And the correct one is

She told us to read the text carefully and to write a short review of it.

But I didn't get it. In my opinion, the two parts connected by "and" have the same grammatical function in the sentence. Here, both "to read the text carefully" and the "that" clause serve as the direct objects of "told" (with "us" being the indirect object), i.e.

She told us to read the text carefully.
She told us that we should write a short review of it.

Isn't that also acceptable?

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  • Does the book not give the reason? I would say that the sentence reads much better if the two halves use a parallel structure. (She told us to... and to...) Commented May 17 at 7:34
  • @KateBunting It just said the grammatical function of the two parts connected by "and" are not the same. Yes I do agree "to... and to..." reads better, but I also think the original sentence is not grammatically wrong?
    – Yuehkai
    Commented May 17 at 7:40
  • That's the same reason that I gave, just expressed differently. I'm not sure that it's grammatically wrong, but it sounds clumsy and is best avoided. Commented May 17 at 7:47
  • @KateBunting Thanks! But if I change the subject of the "that" clause: "she told us to read the text carefully, and that she would check it thoroughly", do you think this also sounds clumsy?
    – Yuehkai
    Commented May 17 at 7:51
  • No, because in this case there are two different kinds of clause; the first an instruction, the second a statement of what she will do. You wouldn't expect the second to be expressed in the same way as the first. Commented May 17 at 9:11

2 Answers 2

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*She told us [to read the text carefully], and [that we should write a short review of it].

The OP's example has two complements to the verb head; the complements are bracketed. In such a construction, I wouldn't use a comma:

(1) She told us [[to read the text carefully] and [that we should write a short review of it]].

This construction is still not very good; a different construction using parallel structure would be better:

(1a) She told us [[to read the text carefully] and [to write a short review of it]].

Back to the original example, placing a comma would be fine if we remove the complementiser that:

(2) She told us to read the text carefully, and we should write a short review of it.

Here we have two independent clauses joined by a comma and a coordinating conjunction. (Whereas in the original example, the declarative content clause that we should write a short review of it is not independent.) This, however, is not as good as (1a).

If the verb head has three complements, instead of two, using commas would be fine:

(3) She told us [to read the text carefully], [to discuss with team members], and [to write a short review of it].

Here I have used parallel structure, similar to what I explained in (1a).

The following would be fine too:

(3a) She told us to [read the text carefully], [discuss with team members], and [write a short review of it].

The Oxford comma is optional.

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Coordinated structures should be of the same category. In your example, you are combining an infinitive phrase (to + verb) with a complementiser phrase (that + finite phrase).

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  • Function rather than category is the crucial factor. Take, for example, "He won't reveal [the nature of the threat] or [where it came from]". The bracketed coordinates belong to entirely different categories (NP+clause) but the sentence is perfectly grammatical. What makes that example acceptable despite the differences of category is that each coordinate could stand alone: with the same function: "He won't reveal the nature of the threat" / "He won't reveal where it came from", where each coordinate is functioning as complement of the verb.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 9 at 8:50

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