...to do everything from stabilize whipped cream to reduce the discoloration of boiled vegetables

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JungKim

Senior Member
Korean
A WIRED article titled "How Ecstasy, Aspirin, and LSD Look Under the Microscope" has this passage:
There's much more to explore. He's investigating ingredients that shape and manipulate what we eat. One of his most eye-popping images is of potassium bitartrate, which is used to do everything from stabilize whipped cream to reduce the discoloration of boiled vegetables. It's a visual reminder of the chemicals people ingest on a daily basis.
(Boldface mine.)

Is the usage of the boldfaced infinitive forms after the prepositions "from" and "to" grammatically correct?

Can the infinitives be replaced with gerunds as in "...to do everything from stabilizing whipped cream to reducing the discoloration of boiled vegetables"?
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    It doesn't really feel like an error to me either: I think I might sometimes use a bare infinitive in that context myself, though I'd be hard put to it to explain the usage.

    Here's an example from the British National Corpus:
    ~ LINFORD CHRISTIE [...] has signed a new six-figure deal to head Lucozade's TV campaigns and has been asked to do everything from race a greyhound to switch on the Oxford Street Christmas lights.

    And here are several* from the Corpus of Contemporary American:
    ~ Recent studies have found that certain images can do everything from make you happier to stop a snack attack.

    ~ Insurance companies will pay for patients to receive assistance from these professionals, who do everything from settle insurance disputes to prepare you for extended hospital stays.

    ~ Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into the country to do everything from rebuild roads to renovate water systems to feed orphans.

    --------

    (* There are quite a few more in COCA.)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't think it's an error as printed, but it is also correct with 'ing' form.
    I wondered about that for a bit.
    I can't decide if it is grammatically incorrect or just flawed because the bit of text '... stabilize whipped cream to reduce the discoloration ...' comes into my mind as if the 'to reduce' introduces the objective of stabilizing the cream rather than being a 'to-infinitive' form. So I hear these words:
    ... from stabilize whipped cream to reduce the discoloration ...
    That's OK so far, with 'to reduce' introducing the objective of stabilizing the whipped cream.

    Then I get to what that objective might be:
    ... from stabilize whipped cream to reduce the discoloration of boiled vegetables ...
    And my brain goes into spasm. How on earth could stabilizing whipped cream help to reduce the discoloration of boiled vegetables?

    Next comes the end of the sentence! Mental paralysis.
    I was in the middle of a sentence structure that demands 'from A to B' and the sentence has just ended after the 'from A' part?
    I am totally confused.

    Contrast this with the examples Loob has just given.
    has been asked to do everything from race a greyhound to switch on the Oxford Street Christmas lights.
    Could that mean Linford Christie has been asked to compete with a greyhound in a race to switch on the lights?
    Well yes, it could :) But the association of Linford Christie with 'race a greyhound', on its own, is entirely natural as an activity for Linford Christie, as is the switching on of the lights, so my brain immediately perceives these as two events.

    The same applies to the other examples - they are all immediately understandable as 'from A to B' structures without any mental effort.
    In contrast, the topic example is so complex that it confuses my simple mind, and is therefore a Bad Thing.
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I wondered about that for a bit.
    I can't decide if it is grammatically incorrect or just flawed because the bit of text '... stabilize whipped cream to reduce the discoloration ...' comes into my mind as if the 'to reduce' introduces the objective of stabilizing the cream rather than being a 'to-infinitive' form. So I hear these words:
    ... from stabilize whipped cream to reduce the discoloration ...
    That's OK so far, with 'to reduce' introducing the objective of stabilizing the whipped cream.

    Then I get to what that objective might be:
    ... from stabilize whipped cream to reduce the discoloration of boiled vegetables ...
    And my brain goes into spasm. How on earth could stabilizing whipped cream help to reduce the discoloration of boiled vegetables?

    Next comes the end of the sentence! Mental paralysis.
    I was in the middle of a sentence structure that demands 'from A to B' and the sentence has just ended after the 'from A' part?
    I am totally confused.
    The semantics aside, when you first encountered "from stabilize..." rather than "from stabilizing...", you could have noticed it as a pattern of "from A to B", where both A and B are infinitive clauses, and could have easily expected a corresponding "to + an infinitive clause" to follow right after the "from A". And that's exactly what happened.

    Now, when "to B" cannot be construed, semantically, as the objective of "A" as you have noticed, "to B" has to be the corresponding portion of "from A", does it not?
     
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