I have been musing on the innocuous looking little word <to>, not the preposition as in I’m going to Scotland, but the infinitive particle as in I want to eat that cake. This train of thought was prompted by a question from my friend JDL — a question I couldn’t answer — but I’ll return to that later.
Consider the skeleton dialogue:
A: Why did(n’t) you Y?
B: Because I Xed to Y.
where both X and Y are verbs. It is highly likely that Y will be deleted in B’s response. However, some X verbs require the word to to remain and others don’t. So, for example, A: Why did you eat it? B: Because I wanted to. Leaving out the to results in a distinctly odd-sounding utterance. However, if A says: Why didn’t you eat that cake? and B replies: Because I forgot to, leaving out the to is fine.
Why? It seems to me that this is a bit of a minefield for non-native learners of English. Furthermore, there are some horrible verbs like suggest, which don’t allow a TO + VERB complement. I suggest to go now is an example of a fairly frequent non-native learner error.
Back to JDL’s question. It is: are there any other languages like English which allow the construction exemplified by I wanted to?