22

Is this sentence correct or not?

I am not able to come to office.

Can we use "to" twice or can we write this sentence in a better way?

8
  • 2
    It is correct. The first "to" refers to the infinitive "come" and the second is a preposition. But you should give some more context. When are you going to use the sentence?
    – V.V.
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 7:14
  • 4
    What's the problem in using the preposition twice?
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 7:24
  • 8
    "to" is a mostly invisible word: a listener will notice its absence more than its presence.
    – Karen
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 14:23
  • 1
    In toto, I am able to come to two offices, too. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 17:44
  • 7
    I went to the market to buy a cake to take to the party, but I had to stop to ask Bob to lend me $10.
    – Hellion
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 19:35

9 Answers 9

31

I don't think it's incorrect to use the to come to form (and here you may find several examples). However, you should put a determiner (like the) before the word office:

I can't come to the office.

5
  • 1
    +1, it's certainly not incorrect to use 'to' multiple times, but it can sound a little better if you vary your words more, so the usage of 'can't' sounds better.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 4:09
  • @DCShannon I'm not sure that's why it's better. I can't come sounds more natural than I'm unable to come even though there's only one to in the latter. Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 14:10
  • 2
    @DCShannon I disagree that "can't" sounds better. I would just say it sounds more informal. I would probably prefer "am not able" or "am unable" if I were writing something work related, while I would probably prefer "can't" if I were speaking to someone I know well (even my boss, if we were on amicable terms).
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 4:51
  • @Araucaria That also. Both of those reasons.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 5:30
  • Using to twice is perfectly fine of course (mostly invisible). But I like "can't come" as it's less formal.
    – D_Bester
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 7:40
21

It is fine to use several to's in the same sentence:

  • I want to try to learn to ride a bike.

Here we can see three to's in the same sentence. The Original Poster shouldn't change their example. It's a fine sentence.

7
  • 5
    Thanks Lord, I've finally understood what OP means! :)
    – mrnld
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 13:17
  • 1
    @mrnld Yes, that's why I alwasy write it out in full and use capitals. It took me six months before I understood what it meant!! Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 13:18
  • 1
    So I'm not the only one to be too lazy to google it! :)
    – mrnld
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 13:23
  • 22
    Overall a good answer, but the OP should change their sentence to include the definite article before "office". It should read, "I am not able to come to the office." The definite article is used before generic places ("the store", "the racetrack", "the restaurant") but is not used before activities, as in "I am not able to come to work" or "... to band practice" or "... to dinner". Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 14:14
  • 1
    @ToddWilcox I agree, I didn't put that it mainly because it isn't the OP's main concern. I was going to edit the article into the original question, but when I read mnlrd's answer, I realised it would have spoiled it so I didn't. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 14:16
7

The two uses of the word "to" are fine but the sentence as a whole sounds weird to me (as a native British English speaker). In my opinion, there should be a "the" in there after the "to":

I am not able to come to the office.

3
  • British speakers always seem to say "to hospital" opposed to the American speakers "to the hospital." That always sounds weird to me, too, but when I read "to office" I assumed OP is using the same construct as "to hospital"? Two peoples separated by a common language. (Winston Churchill)
    – Ron Jensen
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 17:33
  • 1
    I wonder if we treat words like "hospital", "school" "college" and "university" in this context as activities (like "work") rather than as places (like "office") Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 19:20
  • 2
    Yes, exactly. Which is why @Ron we don't say that we're going "to office"; that's just weird! But we certainly don't have a monopoly on that construct; I assume that you, too, will at some point tonight be going to bed. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 22:07
4

This can be taken as an extended comment on Araucaria's succinct (and entirely correct) answer.

Technically, you're not using the single word 'to' twice; the first instance of 'to' is inexorably wrapped up with the word 'come', as the two words together form the infinitive form of the verb 'to come'. The second instance of 'to' is indicative of direction, placed immediately before a destination (in this case, the office). They have entirely distinct meanings in the sentence.

In other words, these instances of 'to' are homophonous, but not synonymous. English has many homophones (such as 'mean' or 'bat'), but 'to' is one of the most commonly used, and commonly confused.

3

The use of "to come" is the infinitive form of "come", in English.

It's also commonly called a helping verb.

The second "to" is the preposition of the prepositional phrase, "to office".

As it stands, your sentence does make sense, and would not sound or look strange. That being said, I would recommend adding the article adjective "the" between, "to" and "office".

The resulting sentence would be: "I am not able to come to the office".

5
  • Exactly what I was going to do, break it down into its parts. Excellent. Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 20:08
  • 1
    And yes, while there's the British/American divide on "hospital", I'm not aware of a dialect that wouldn't use "the" with "office" here. Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 20:09
  • @T.J.Crowder really? I wasn't aware some dialects hold that, "I'm going to hospital" is correct. Fascinating! Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 15:46
  • 1
    Yup, that's the normal way in British English. Also "He's in hospital" not "He's in the hospital" as it is in American English. In BrEng, you'd "go to the hospital" to visit someone who was there, but you'd "go to hospital" if you were having an operation. So you can tell how concerned to be for them if someone says "I'm going to (the) hospital" depending on whether that "the" is there. :-) Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 15:55
  • @T.J.Crowder Wow. I love that; clarity of intent via subtraction. Stupid founding fathers... ;) Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 16:10
2

the sentence

"i am not able to come to office"

is correct. because here both "to" have their own meaning first one for infinitives and second one for preposition

and alternative for the same could be

"i am unable to reach the office"

1
  • @Grish, Yes this is good option but our main motive behind this question is to know the usage of multiple to's in a single sentence. Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 12:42
1

Although the word "to" is used twice in one sentence, it is used in two different ways.

The first use is as an "infinitive." Specifically, "to come." Many other languages have infinitives, but they often have a suffix to the verb, as opposed to a separate word.

The second use is as a directional preposition, to, in the sense of "toward" or "into.

It's a confusing point in the English language, but you're not really using the same word twice. More like two "similar"-looking words in two different ways.

0

It's correct.

Here in the US replacing the second to with into is also acceptable in conversation.

"I am not able to come into the office."

or

"I am not able to come in today" If you're speaking to someone you work with, it's implied you're talking about the office.

-1

I think the sentence is correct. But it can be written in a better way:

I will not come to the office.

3
  • "I will not come office" is not correct, you need "to the office".
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 16:56
  • @Chenmunka Thank you for correcting me. I will try to correct my answer as soon as possible.
    – Kirti
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 17:04
  • 2
    I disagree. The sentence you propose suggests completely different intent. 'Unable to come' Basically means that something is preventing you. 'will not come' comes off as if you just decided you didn't feel like it.
    – AJ X.
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 18:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .