Do I need two or three "to's" in the following sentence?

3

He prayed to God to not (to) have an accident.

Do I have to omit the last to? Why or why not?

The reason I suspect this is because the version with only two to's has more Google results. I'm not sure if that's a good grammar check, though.

alex

Posted 2016-11-30T16:54:30.093

Reputation: 4 803

No, you don't need it -- but this question might be removed unless you edit it to explain why you think you don't need it, or why it's confusing. – Andrew – 2016-11-30T16:56:08.903

@Andrew Okay, I edited the question. – alex – 2016-12-01T01:19:19.190

Answers

4

You're using an infinitive verb there, which comes in the form to [do something] or the negative to not [do something].

Therefore, you need:

He prayed to God to not have an accident.

Dan

Posted 2016-11-30T16:54:30.093

Reputation: 2 334

1"... not to have" is also fine. He needs one "to" or the other "to" but not two "to"s. – Andrew – 2016-11-30T17:51:58.480

@Andrew "not to have" has more Google hits ... maybe it's more common. – alex – 2016-12-01T01:20:30.883

Replacing the bold text with "not to have" in this case feels like there's an implication that he is praying that God does not have an accident. Though grammatically it's correct too. – Dan – 2016-12-01T10:21:15.930

2

You need two "to"s - however, I'd personally remove the middle one.

The first "to" expresses who's receiving the prayer - analogical to "I gave the papers to John". Obviously you can't omit it:

*He prayed God to...

is not grammatical - you can say "convinced God" or "asked God", but the verb "pray" requires the preposition "to".

The second "to" is trickier. Both of those forms are correct:

He prayed to God not to have an accident.

He prayed to God to not have an accident.

However, the first one is much more common and it avoids splitting the infinitive.

To me, there's also a subtle difference in meaning - in the first sentence, the praying person is asking God to make it so that he doesn't have an accident, but in the second one, it's the act of prayer that's supposed to protect the praying person from harm. So the first one I'd interpret as:

He prayed to God. He asked of Him that he doesn't have an accident.

and the second one as:

He prayed to God. He did it so that he would not have an accident.

I'm not 100% sure whether that's how a native speaker would read it, though.

Maciej Stachowski

Posted 2016-11-30T16:54:30.093

Reputation: 6 370