10

I found these sentences in my book:

  1. He did nothing but cry.

  2. He had no choice but to obey.

Example #1 uses a bare infinitive ("cry"), but example #2 uses a to-infinitive ("to obey").

Why is this so?

  • There might be related info in the 2002 CGEL, in the section "(g) Matrix-licensed complements", on pages 641-3. It seems that the complements of the PPs in your two examples might be licensed by the matrix clause itself. – F.E. Mar 26 '15 at 6:32
2

I think we can understand this syntax in terms of the verb in the matrix clause:

He did...

He had...

These verbs govern the objects on either side of but.

He did nothing but he (did) cry.

He had no choice but he (had) to obey.

We cannot say "*he did to cry". Nor can we say "*he had obey".

Thus:

When he was rescued from the desert, the parched man did nothing but ________.

  • 1
    +1 But I suggest that the verb which governs to obey is not have to but choose -- derivative/cognate nouns often take the same sorts of complement as the verbs they're related to. – StoneyB Mar 25 '15 at 14:15
  • Yes I get your point. Actually in my book says bare infinitive is used with 'but, than, and ,except, as, or'. So i get confused with these sentences. Sometimes this rule follows sometimes not. for example: "to give is better than to receive". In you example there should be bare infinitive. – starun008 Mar 25 '15 at 14:23
  • 2
    Now I am getting confuse again. You all are right. You all have your point to prove your rule. @Araucaria saying the infinitive has nothing to do with verb "had". It is contradicting the answer above answer than how to find what to use "bare infinitive" or "to + infinitive". – starun008 Mar 25 '15 at 19:50
  • 1
    @Araucaria: What underlying verb governs in "...had no alternative but to retreat"? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 25 '15 at 21:52
  • 1
    @TRomano I didn't say that there was an underlying verb. There are different types of complement clauses that a word may take: -ing, [for ...] to-infinitive, plain form, finite clause. But it seems that in those examples there is nothing special about the verb HAVE - (which isn't being used as part of a have to construction in the matrix clause anyhow). For the latest example, we might have "there was no alternative but to retreat". It doesn't seem like a good theory that the to-infinitive is because of BE. It seems to be because of something else ... It's interesting! :-) – Araucaria Mar 26 '15 at 0:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.