What does the following sentence means? "have to" is succeeded by a non-verb group. Is that correct?

The access smartphones have to vast amounts of information poses some drawbacks.

  • They have access to information... (vast amounts of it)
    – Octopus
    Jul 31, 2015 at 21:03

2 Answers 2


Have to is an accidental collocation, not the verbal idiom = must.

Parse it like this:

The access [which] smartphones have . . .

What kind of access?

access to vast amounts of information

That is, smartphones have access to vast amounts of information.

  • Actually it would be "that", not "which". Jul 31, 2015 at 22:54
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit Nope. Relative that is used only with restrictive clauses, but wh- words may be used with both restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. Jul 31, 2015 at 23:14
  • o.O never heard that before. "Which" is only used with non-restrictive clauses in my country. That's England, by the way. :) Jul 31, 2015 at 23:15
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit I think not. A lot of style manuals adopted as a "rule" the Fowlers' 1906 suggestion that the two relatives be distinguished by use, and spoken English (when it employs a relativizer at all) tends to prefer that in all contexts. In consequence, restrictive which has been increasing steadily for 50 years in writing, passing which around 1990; but the "rule" was never widely accepted, and is ignored or scorned by modern linguistics-based grammars. Restrictive which is still very much alive on both sides of the Atlantic, particularly in less colloquial registers. Jul 31, 2015 at 23:54
  • Alright good for you then Aug 1, 2015 at 0:57

This is a poorly worded sentence, but what this sentence means is this:

The sentence is talking about access. The simplest form of the sentence is this:

Access poses drawbacks.

Adding some additional words, we'd get:

(The) access poses (some) drawbacks.

Then we just add some additional words to describe the access:

(The) access [smartphones have] poses (some) drawbacks.

Finally, the writer throws in a prepositional phrase to further describe the access which the smartphones have:

(The) access [smartphones have] {to vast amounts of information} poses (some) drawbacks.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    I wouldn't say it's poorly worded, just that it has some potentially confusing aspects. Jul 31, 2015 at 20:28
  • 1
    That's fair. A sentence that has potentially confusing aspects was always described by my mother (an English teacher) as "poorly worded." I apologize for bringing my baggage to the table!
    – Scott Dart
    Jul 31, 2015 at 20:30
  • I think it mostly depends on the extent of the possible confusion and the context; almost any poetry, for example, might confuse most learners, but that doesn't mean it's badly worded, just that it's very sophisticated. And a research paper's dense English isn't necessarily much of a problem either. Jul 31, 2015 at 20:38
  • The main confusion is from leaving out the "that", as in "the access that smartphones have".
    – BobRodes
    Jul 31, 2015 at 21:28
  • 1
    Apart from everything else, the singular "poses" after two plurals "smartphones" and "amounts" is a bit of a shock, even though it's grammatically correct.
    – alephzero
    Aug 1, 2015 at 0:45

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