Nouns are sometimes post-modified with a to-clause. These are non-finite clausesSee the glossary definition , usually without a subject.
The to-clause gives more information about the headword. Often, the main clauseSee the glossary definition containing the headword would have little meaning without the to-clause.
the best wayhead noun phrase to prevent this from happeningto-clause (context) Since inflammatory responses are hard-wired in our bodies, the best way to prevent this from happening is by not eating ultra-processed foods at all.
The noun "way" is one of the commonest headwords post-modified with a to-clause.
a modelhead noun phrase to account for the effect of acid during the whole of the degradation processto-clause (context)Our study proposed a model to account for the effect of acid during the whole of the degradation process, including the early stages.
To-clauses often contain other nouns which are postmodified in various ways. In this sentence we have three nouns which are modified by prepositional phrases.
the music’s abilityhead noun phrase to stimulate parts of our minds that play a role in mathematical abilityto-clause, (context)This is based on research that found listening to complex classical music like Mozart improved test scores, which the researcher argued was based on the music’s ability to stimulate parts of our minds that play a role in mathematical ability.
To-clauses often contain other nouns which are postmodified in various ways. In this sentence we have two nouns which are modified by prepositional phrases and a relative clause.
strong potentialhead noun phrase to reduce falls and sustain a good quality of life in older people with dementiato-clause (context)We also found that tai chi had strong potential to reduce falls and sustain a good quality of life in older people with dementia.
In this sentence the head noun (potential) is effectively followed by two to-clauses (to reduce falls, and [to] sustain a good quality of life ...). Again there are also two nouns modified by prepositional phrases
experimentshead noun phrase to determine which of several explanations might be trueto-clause (context)We are currently designing experiments to determine which of several explanations might be true.
In this example the to-clause is followed by a wh-clause.
a wayhead noun phrase to reproduce them in different conditions in the labto-clause (context) To try to understand which of these settings is the most plausible, scientists take the different components essential for life and see if we can find a way to reproduce them in different conditions in the lab.
Another example with "way", plus two prepositional phrases.
a fascinating spacehead noun phrase to see some of the different types of stars in their various stages of lifeto-clause (context)The Orion constellation is a fascinating space to see some of the different types of stars in their various stages of life.
Nouns relating to location (space, place) are also fairly common headwords followed by a to-clause.
the powerhead noun phrase to override other emotions momentarilyto-clause (context)Laughter does have the power to to override other emotions momentarily – we cannot sob morosely or simmer with anger while simultaneously laughing.
"power", like "potential", is also a fairly common headword followed by a to-clause.
a somewhat misguided wayhead noun phrase to describe polymersto-clause (context)“Plastic” has become a somewhat misguided way to describe polymers.
The headword itself may often be premodified in various ways, in this case by an adverb modified adjective, so that the headword may be a head noun phrase of a few words.
inabilityhead noun phrase to eat certain foodsto-clause (context)People with untreated oral and dental diseases can experience severe pain, loss of sleep, inability to eat certain foods, time off work or school and embarrassment about their appearance.
The words "ability" and "inability" are also not uncommon headwords to to-clauses.
The best wayhead noun phrase to identify themto-clause (context)The best way to identify them is by looking at their ingredients.
the best wayhead noun phrase to avoid the harms of ultra-processed foodsto-clause (context)But making meals from scratch using natural foods is the best way to avoid the harms of ultra-processed foods.
Two more examples with "way" as the headword.
even less timehead noun phrase to think about Christmasto-clause (context)The effect may have been particularly pronounced this year because, in the post-pandemic normality, life is busier than ever and we have even less time to think about Christmas.
timehead noun phrase to crystallizeto-clause (context)With temperatures that cold, ice freezes so quickly that it doesn’t have time to crystallize.
"time" along with "place" and "way" are probably the commonest headwords to be modified by to-clauses.
Test your understanding with the To-Clauses Quiz.
These examples were sourced from articles in The Conversation: Ultra-processed Foods; Historical Film Decay; Music and Study; Tai Chi. Moths and Light; Ocean Research Prizes; Stars; Laughter; Plastics; Oral Health Christmas Hepatitis Vaccine