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Like most backup programs, you need another drive to store the File History archive. You can use an external USB drive or a network location, and Microsoft has instructions for setting up either method on its site.

English Grammar Today by Cambridge says: "We use for + the -ing form of a verb to talk about the function of something or how something is used".

According to this grammar book, the above piece, quoted from The New York Times, would be wrong where the journalist write the bolded sentence because s/he is just talking about the drive function.

So, always in reference the mentioned rule, the journalist should write: "you need another drive for storing the File History archive".

Since I have found other occurrences of " ... need [something] 'infinitive' ... " on the Internet ("You need a licence to store petroleum spirit.", "Children need their own space to develop free from the prying eyes of parents" and many others), the question is: Is the above rule an actual rule? Or, does the verb "to need" has something special that makes it generating exception?

  • I'm not sure if there's a technical rule that contradicts traditional usage, so I won't leave an answer. This sentence reads perfectly fine to me, though. I'd expand it in my head as: "Like most backup programs, you need another drive [in order] to store the File History archive." And it sounds perfectly fine to my ear. – WendiKidd Mar 9 '13 at 22:42
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“We use for + the -ing form of a verb to talk about the function of something or how something is used.”

This dictum from English Grammar Today might have two very different meanings:

  • “To talk about the function of something or how something is used we must use for + the -ing form of a verb.”

    This is simply wrong. There are other ways of talking about these functions, even if we restrict ourselves to the constructions licensed by the verbs use and need: a marked infinitive, a subordinate clause introduced by in order that or so that or to the end of or for the purpose of. In fact, the quotation itself uses a marked infinitive with use for exactly that purpose: to talk about the function of, &c.

  • “A use of *for + the -ing form of a verb is to talk about the function of something or how something is used.”

    This is quite a different matter. This talks about what the construction is good for—or one of the things it is good for, since it has other uses, such as specifying the reasons for an award or an arrest.

Context, context, context!

  • I teach that for + gerund is used to describe function/use only when the thing described is the subject of the sentence. OP's post has a person as the subject so, as you point out, to + infinitive, etc. is correct. The other drive is (used) for storing the File History drive. – Shawn Mooney Mar 9 '13 at 23:59
  • @ShawnMooney With just a copula, sure: 'A hammer is for driving nails', but not ✲'A hammer is to drive nails'. But it sounds like you prohibit 'I use a hammer for driving nails'—that's not a rule I've encountered, and not one I would follow. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 10 '13 at 0:06
  • No, I wouldn't prohibit that, although it does sound odd to me--perhaps because we (or at least I) rarely use use in this way. My 'rule' aims to steer ESL students away from I went downtown for shopping kinds of mistakes. – Shawn Mooney Mar 10 '13 at 0:22
  • @Shawn Ah, now I see. Yes, I think you're quite right to warn them away from the minefield until they understand that different verbs license different constructions. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 10 '13 at 0:27

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