I've been struggling for such a long time over making sense of a particular usage of "to". Please take a look at the sentence:

"I've hired a new manager to attempt to increase the company's profits."

Is "to attempt to increase the company's profits" explaining why the action in question (hiring) is undertaken by the subject, as in "I hired a manager because I want to increase the profits" or is it emphasizing the new manager as in "I hired a manager who will increase the profits"?


The sentence is ambiguous at best, and in my opinion carries both meanings. The speaker, no matter what, wants to increase profits made by the business. Sadly, the sentence isn't that clear, and without clarification from the speaker it's difficult to tell whether the manager will try to increase profits, or whether the manager is the speaker's attempt to raise profits.

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  • 2
    +1 Exactly: there is ambiguity but there is not any conflict between the two readings. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 14 '15 at 18:46
  • If I rewrite the sentence in this way, " to attempt to increase the company's profits ,I've hired a new manager" ,ambiguity seems to be removed right?, Secondly,what would do you think you can suggest to remove the ambiguity? – Cihangir Çam Mar 15 '15 at 14:12
  • Yeah, that removes that ambiguity there. You could use that without a worry. – HarryCBurn Mar 15 '15 at 14:13

I've hired ninjas to attempt to kill a rival shogun.

I've hired them in an attempt to kill the shogun. They will attempt to kill the shogun. He is heavily guarded, and there's no guarantee that they will succeed. But they are the agents of my intention.

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  • We can infer from the sentence by our logic,that ninjas are to be used to kill the rival shogun.What I'm concerned with here is what is the role of "first to" in the sentence.Must we regard it as an infinitive linked to a noun? (as ,ninjas to attempt to kill a rival shogun) or as an infinitive explaining why you've hired ninjas.. – Cihangir Çam Mar 15 '15 at 14:18
  • I don't consider the infinitive-phrase a modifier of "ninjas" if that's what you mean by "linked to a noun". In my understanding, everything after "ninjas" complements "hired": the verb hired has a direct object ("ninjas") and the infinitive clause "to attempt {etc.}" defines the nature of the transaction. Verbs like hire, pay, engage, enlist, summon, request, instruct, tell, command, want are similar in that they have a direct object + infinitive complement. What contemporary grammarians name this to-clause after the direct object of such transactional verbs, I do not know. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 15 '15 at 15:35

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