To Be, Or Not To Be

ToBeOrNotToBeI’ve noticed a puzzling trend in fiction lately: the elimination of the linking verb “to be” within a sentence.  A recent example I discovered is, “The piano needs tuned.” Huh? Wouldn’t it be better to say, “The piano needs to be tuned.” or “The piano needs tuning.”

Since I’m not a grammar expert, I asked my grammar queen friend about this, and she was perplexed as well. I realize that good writers will use “to be” verbs sparingly, but it’s completely jarring when they’re eliminated all together.

Anyone else notice this trend? Can you explain it? Does it bother you, or is it natural?

Just for fun, here’s Gilligan’s Island‘s version of Hamlet, “To be, or not to be” sung to Carmen’s Habanera. (Anyone else memorize Hamlet thanks to this episode of Gilligan’s Island?)

Comments 2

  1. I haven’t noticed it enough to call it a trend, but I do know that certain area dialects eliminate it when speaking. Also, I had no idea that certain area dialects say, “All the sudden” when it’s always been said, “All of a sudden” in my area. The first time I read it said this way, I thought the author forgot or misplaced the words until it was used more than once, and I realized it was on purpose and too good of an author to make that kind of “error”.

    1. Yeah, trend might be too strong of a word, it’s just that I’ve heard it so much within the past few months, but never before that. So, I suppose it’s a regionalism then–just like in Minnesota we end sentences with *with* all the time, i.e. “Won’t you come with?” Critiquers always pick on me. 🙂 Of course, there are many, many more Minnesota-isms than that, most are quirkier …

      I’d never heard “All the sudden” before. I’d add the “of” in there too.

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