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Shortened Statements with the Word 'To'

Shortened Statements with the Word "To"
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Imagine you hear Americans discussing plans, activities or events.

You will likely hear statements such as “I would like to,” “I want to,” or “I’ll try to.”

We will explore the grammar behind such statements in today’s Everyday Grammar.

In this report, you will learn about shortened statements that use the word to.

Let’s begin with a few important terms and ideas.

Phrases and clauses

A phrase is a small group of words that work together to form a basic idea. Phrases typically make up a part of a clause. Clauses are groups of words that have a subject and a predicate – the part of the sentence that says something about the subject.

In everyday speaking and writing, English speakers often shorten phrases that repeat information. These shortened forms often come after certain verbs.

What are infinitive phrases?

The term infinitive refers to the word to plus a verb, as in to go or to see.

Infinitive phrases are groups of words that have an infinitive as well other words, as in to come to an event.

English speakers often shorten such phrases - particularly if they repeat information that has already been stated. The shortened form is the word to. Let’s explore an example.

Imagine you hear two people discussing an event.

You don’t have to come to the event.

Well, I would like to.

The infinitive phrase is to come to the event. In the second statement, the word to is an example of a shortened form. It takes the place of a larger group of words. If the second speaker had said the entire sentence, it would have been this:

You don’t have to come to the event. Well, I would like to come to the event.

Shortened forms and certain verbs

English speakers often shorten infinitive phrases after certain common verbs or verb forms, including would like, want, and try. Imagine you hear a boss asking a worker about a project. It might sound like this:

Will you finish the project today?

Yes, I’ll try to.

If the worker’s statement were not shortened, it would have been this:

Will you finish the project today?

Yes, I’ll try to finish the project today.

Closing thoughts

We began this report with a question about statements such as “I would like to” or “I want to” or “I’ll try to.”

While the examples in this report used the pronoun I, please note that English speakers use shortened forms with other pronouns – we, she, he, they, and so on.

Also, please note that the word to has many other uses and meanings in English. It can be used to shorten a phrase, as described today, but it can have other uses – as part of a phrasal verb, for example.

The next time you listen to English speakers, pay careful attention to the word to. Make note of how speakers use it to shorten phrases. Try to shorten infinitive phrases in your own speaking or writing. Over time, you will begin to shorten phrases much like an American.

I’m John Russell.

John Russell wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.


Words in This Story

grammar – n. the system or structure of a language

certain – adj. used to refer to something or someone that is not named specifically

phrasal verb – n. grammar: a group of words that functions as a verb and is made up of a verb and a preposition, an adverb, or both