Why not (to) do something?

  • Ilyana

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I just want to know the rule, so I took the neutral "do". However, I ran across some examples from British book, they were all with bare infinitive, and I wonder whether I can put "to" into these sentences:

    Why not (to) join the crew of a big old sailing ship?
    Why not (to) learn to dive?
    Why not (to) join an expedition to Antarctica?
    Why not (to) take up rock climbing?

    As to examples with why only, I made them by myself:
    Why (to) say it aloud? Everybody knows it, it isn't pleasant problem. Why (to) reveal it?
    Why (to) help them? They don't deserve it.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    The bare infinitive suits all your sentences. Why+to infinitive​ simply looks wrong to me and I don't recall having seen or heard it. Maybe it's legitimate in other varieties of English.
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Privjet, Ily.

    This is the way I see it.

    When you say, for example, "Why study German?" you are most probably answering someone who said something like "You ought to study German" or "Why don't you study German?" By saying "Why study German?" you are showing that the idea of studying German never crossed your mind, or seems to you to be bizarre.
    Linguistically speaking, you and your interlocutor are still at that stage in the exchange when notions, concepts, ideas, etc. are still being negotiated. It is a stage at which grammaticalization is kept to a minimum because what counts is, as I said, the "notions", which are the territory of nouns and verbs.
    The interesting thing is that, once the stage of negotiation has been passed and the "notion" (in our case "study German") stipulated by both parties, then whatever further question should follow, it will contain the operator "to":

    "Ok, why not, but where TO study it? In Germany or in Austria?"
    "Right, but how TO study it? On books and recordings or maybe with the help of some native speaker?"
    "I'd love to, but when TO study it? You know only too well that with two kids and a husband..."

    I hope I helped you.

    GS :)
     
    Added to previous thread.
    Cagey, moderator

    I do not understand why people say that phrases like Why not go there? are correct. Grammatically, go here is an infinitive verb so it has to have to before it, like it works with Try not to ... phrases. But native speakers ignore it and say just Why not go. Why?
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    It's not true that infinitives always have to have 'to' in front of them.

    In "I can go",  go is an infinitive.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Grammatically, go here is an infinitive verb so it has to have to before it, like it works with Try not to ... phrases. But native speakers ignore it and say just Why not go. Why?
    Bare infinitives are normal and common after questions that begin with why: (1) Why spend your time reading books? (2) Why work there when you can make twice as much if you work somewhere else? (3) Why not go there? People say that it's really good.



    Thank you. Threads merged.
    Cagey, moderator
     
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    Hans in Texas

    Senior Member
    US English
    Perhaps a distraction is the use of the to-infinitive following an adverb or pronoun following a clause featuring a verb of knowledge or communication.
    He showed us how to tie the bowline knot. We didn’t know where to buy such shoes. I told them what to do in case of fire.
     
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