All you can do is wait/waiting/to wait?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by JuneKid, Mar 14, 2011.

  1. JuneKid Member

    All you can do is wait/waiting/to wait? Which is correct?

    I am confused with the word after "is", not sure if I should use the original form or infinitive form, or even -ing form?

    Could any one please also tell me why?

    Thank you.
  2. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    I don't know what the "original form" is.

    "All you can do is wait" is an acceptable sentence in English.

    I think "wait" is called the "bare infinitive," a term I never heard in school but that has been used here.
  3. MikeLynn

    MikeLynn Senior Member

    I agree with Fabulist and the form is really called the bare infinitive, infinitive without to or even base form in most grammar books.
  4. Languagethinkerlover Senior Member

    English-British and U.S.
    'wait' is the correct answer. All you can do is wait.

    Because of that sentence, you would say 'is wait.' If the sentence is 'she is _,' the answer would be 'she is waiting' or 'she waits.'

    When you say 'is+waiting,' it almost implies (or directly states) that you are actually waiting. It's something you are actively doing in the present. 'All you can do is' does not imply something that is occurring right now if that makes sense.

    I hope that helps.
  5. MikeLynn

    MikeLynn Senior Member

    JuneKid, I've searched my grammar books and the only reference I found was in A Practical English Grammar by A.J.Thomson&A.V.Martinet in the section on bare infinitive page 221
    Quote: BUT and EXCEPT take the bare infinitive when they follow do+anything, nothing, everything
    There's nothing to do but wait. My dog does everything but speak.

    and now:

    The to is optional in sentences such as:
    The only thing to do/we can do is (to) write to him.
    All we can do is (to) write to him.
  6. sevengem Senior Member

    In the textbook there is one sentence: All you can do is switch off your brain.

    I suppose it should be to switch for there can't be two verbs in a simple sentence. Why is bare infinitive used here?
  7. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    "To" in a "to-infinitive" often isn't necessary for comprehension, and people sometimes omit it in informal English: All you can do is read books about the subject.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2012
  8. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    There must be many threads about this, but it's impossible to find them as there are so many thread titles containing 'all', and I found only a couple of small discussions. The same thing happens when the subject begins with 'what': What I want to do is (to) switch off my brain. So also expressions like 'The best thing to do is (to) . . .' 'To' is possible, but these constructions sound a little more natural without 'to'.

    There aren't two verbs in a simple sentence here, and the presence of 'to' doesn't make any difference to that. The simple sentence is 'X is Y', where X contains a subordinate clause 'you can do', with its own verbs, and Y is a complete verb phrase with its own verb (with or without 'to'), and the whole verb phrase, not just the verb 'switch', is the complement of 'is'.
  9. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    There are embedded structures here, sevengem, so two verbs coming together isn't an issue. I have used double square brackets to show the embedded clauses.

    All [[you can do]] is [[write to him]].

    Write to him is a clause that functions as a subject complement.

    EDIT: Cross-posted with etb, whose second paragraph makes the same point. :)
  10. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Here is a previous discussion: All I can do is (to) drink.

    (Its conclusion is similar to that of this thread, but it covers more details.)
  11. giuggiola91

    giuggiola91 Senior Member

    Hello everyone, I have a question: my english native teacher said that a sentence like "My favourite activity is sleeping" is correct, so I'd like to ask you why this sentence is correct and "the only thing to do/all you can do is waiting" is not. What's the difference?

    Thank you in advance
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2015
  12. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    One of the functions of (a verb phrase using) the ing-form is to go where a noun phrase can go, as in your example:

    My favourite activity is sleeping / drinking beer / playing chess.
    My favourite activity is chess / sex / golf.

    However, nouns aren't possible in the 'all' or 'what' constructions, so ing-forms also aren't:

    :cross:All we can do is tolerance* / mini-golf.
    :cross:All we can do is waiting / playing mini-golf.
    :tick:All we can do is wait / play golf.

    :cross:What I want to do is explanation.
    :cross:What I want to do is explaining.
    :tick:What I want to do is explain.

    * I'm having problems finding good nouns that don't also work as verbs.
  13. giuggiola91

    giuggiola91 Senior Member

    Don't worry, I've perfectly understood. Thank you so much!!
  14. lahza New Member

    Is it right to say "its true purpose is convince shoppers" as in this sentence "A brand’s first mandate is to differentiate its product from all others but its true purpose is convince shoppers that your product is the preferred choice"?

    A Brand Toolkit | What are brands and why is it important?

  15. lahza New Member

    Is this also applied with "only" construction as in "MikeLynn" example (The only thing to do/we can do is (to) write to him.)?
  16. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    This is a mistake. It should be: its true purpose is to convince shoppers....

    They are similar. See The only thing I want to do is <going / to go> and.
    Further comments and questions about 'the only thing' may be added to that thread.

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