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

JuneKid

Member
Chinese
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.
 
  • Fabulist

    Banned
    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.
     

    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.
     

    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.
    or
    All we can do is (to) write to him.
     

    sevengem

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    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?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    "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:

    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'.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I suppose it should be to switch for there can't be two verbs in a simple sentence. Why is bare infinitive used here?
    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. :)
     

    giuggiola91

    Senior Member
    Italian
    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:

    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.
     

    giuggiola91

    Senior Member
    Italian
    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.
    Don't worry, I've perfectly understood. Thank you so much!!
     

    lahza

    New Member
    Arabic
    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.
    Is this also applied with "only" construction as in "MikeLynn" example (The only thing to do/we can do is (to) write to him.)?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    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.
    What about in Kylie Minogue's "I should be so lucky - she sings but dreaming's all I do, if only they come true .. Doesn't it sound right ?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I certainly understand the words and the word order in that line from Minogue's song, Poland91pl. It sounds okay to me. Remember, though, that song lyrics often use words in some way that isn't entirely natural in ordinary sentences. "Do" and "true" are deliberate rhymes in that example. It's pretty unusual to use rhymes in a sentence unless that sentence is part of a song or a poem.
     

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I certainly understand the words and the word order in that line from Minogue's song, Poland91pl. It sounds okay to me. Remember, though, that song lyrics often use words in some way that isn't entirely natural in ordinary sentences. "Do" and "true" are deliberate rhymes in that example. It's pretty unusual to use rhymes in a sentence unless that sentence is part of a song or a poem.
    Then you would not e.g say "going to work is all I do in life" or "going to work is all I do right now ?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I could easily say one of those things, Poland. My comment about the unusual nature of the example is only a comment about the fact that the line uses rhymes.

    I'm not criticizing the word order in that example. I am not criticizing anything else, either. I'm only telling you that it is unusual to use rhymes in sentences unless those sentences are part of a song lyric or a poem.
     

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I could easily say one of those things, Poland. My comment about the unusual nature of the example is only a comment about the fact that the line uses rhymes.

    I'm not criticizing the word order in that example. I am not criticizing anything else, either. I'm only telling you that it is unusual to use rhymes in sentences unless those sentences are part of a song lyric or a poem.
    OK. So: all I do is to cry/crying/cry - are all correct ?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    "All I do is cry" is ordinary. "All I do is to cry" is possible, but it doesn't sound as natural to me as the first version does. "All I do is crying" is strange. I don't think that this version of the sentence is correct.
     

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    "All I do is cry" is ordinary. "All I do is to cry" is possible, but it doesn't sound as natural as the first version to me. "All I do is crying" is strange. There isn't anything about that version that I would consider to be correct.
    That's what I wanted to hear as a kind of confirmation of what I think :), thank you owl :)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    What entangledbank pointed out earlier was the construction involving 'all' in the subject ('All I can do is cry'). This is different if 'all' is in the subject complement, as in your examples ('Crying is all I can do').
     

    Kacy.H

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Hello, everyone.
    I also have a clause in my subject, does this mean I should use the "bare infinitive" ? Many many thanks!
    The way most people live their lives is have a nice family life, have fun and save a little money
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top