"What to do?" is NOT correct English. It has no finite verb,* only an infinitive, so it is a sentence fragment. You will see it often, especially in sloppy journalistic writing and blog posts, but it is not correct and it is also not used in speech. (Nobody would ever say "What to do about this?" They would say "What do I do about this?" or "What should we/they/etc. do about this?"
A few questions later in the multiple choice version of this question, the English suggested by DuoLingo for this sentence is "What is to be done?" which is another correct way of expressing the question in a complete sentence using proper grammar.
*Refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finite_verb for examples and a fuller explanation.
As you have stated "cgjour", it is not ostensibly correct English, but it is, however, a phrase that many people say. Perhaps not in your region of the world, but in Western PA, one often encounters an individual mumbling to themselves in a platitudinous moment of boredom, "What to do?", which is, in my mind, a contraction of "What am I to do?".
Additionally, I should add, your entire point is based on the rationale that correct English is the thing with which we are dealing, when, in fact, this is conversational French, and anyone with a brain at least rivaling that of a bass would see that quite frequently people do not apply the seemingly proper, standard English in conversation. No one says, "From where are you?"; everyone says, "Where are you from?" Now, if given this phrase in French to translate to English, do you think that they would condemn an individual for translating it as "Where are you from?" rather than "From where (or whence) are you?"? Absolutely not!
I suggest that you take a more open mind to English and to propriety in general. Do not allow the long-instituted and ever-changing guise of "Standard English Grammar" distract you from the purpose of language itself: to express and communicate.
I would say it's wrong in grammar and usage. You might hear it as someone questioning themselves about what they want to do, but I would wager you wouldn't often hear anyone say "what to do" in normal speech. Esp American English. Never heard it from British friends either, but I'm no expert on BE.
It's uncommon, that's for sure. It feels like something you'd hear as a soliloquy in a play or children's show. Like, something bad happens to the main character and they'll maybe say to themselves "oh, what to do, what to do".
Either way, I've heard it used like that, whether it's grammatically correct or not. But I have to say, it probably shouldn't be accepted here given how obscure the usage is.
Yes. That's exactly what I'm trying to say. I think sometimes we get caught up thinking a literal translation is a great option, but we should aim for the best meaning or things native speakers actually say. A soliloquy is where I've always heard it (although I can picture toddlers saying it as well).
Not a heavily used sentence in general... If at all. Shockingly Duo gives us stuff we may never use... but it gives us a particular structure of how to use the language. Last I checked, I'm not a dead bird that eats butter with an empty pocket while holding a single sock.
I would dare say that a longstanding grammar rule doesn't always dictate "never use this" but rather "usage of this is frowned upon". Never say never was the main point.
Agreed. But I don't walk around saying "I am an apple" because it's grammatically ok, and others because it's not. I think the appropriate response to seeing a sentence that native english speakers say is wholly unnatural is "how can I use a similar sentence naturally or find the right sentence"?
Good luck Duoing.
i know you guys may be have strong conversation here about the " what to do" can say that or not. I can smell the fire here. but the thing is this argument is great!
That's my personal idea:
Language grows with the culture, it is the tool for people using it. for example, "google it", we say it everyday, but is google, a verb? the answer is no, right~~ but we use it.
You are correct that language grows and changes over time! I also see your point, but if you're going to go by the grammarian standpoint, then "Google it" is totally standard. "To google" is a transitive verb in the English language, and has been for many years, thanks to our culture. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/google
On the Internet, people will go as far as saying "w(h)at do". :P
It's not correct, but the meaning is the same as the French sentence. So, if you are looking for a proper translation, it's wrong. If you're looking to understand the meaning, though, "what to do" is spot-on.
I don't know what the obsession with "people have done it on the internet" is. "What do" is grammatically, stylistically, and auditorily atrocious. If you used it on Reddit or Imgur, you'd never hear the end of it.
I would recommend working towards CORRECT grammar rather than strange anomalies that you've noticed on the internet.
I don't know what your obsession with denying something grammatically wrong can make sense to people is. But you've got quite a lot of replies for that, so color me equally intrigued.
I guess just as using incorrect language can get a message delivered, focusing in the wrong point of a matter can keep the debate going and new people taking part in it.
I would recommend working towards CORRECT approaches on people who are just pointing at facts. Notice I haven't agreed or disagreed with any usage, as didn't other people, but here you are teaching us what we already know.
What to do, then? Well, I for one will leave it be, happy studying. Here's a lingot.
I agree. Would I be right in drawing a parallel here with "n'est-ce pas", which has no one-size fits all translation into English, but can mean "is he?" "do they?" "isn't it?" etc etc depending on context. A non-native English speaker can often be identified when they use this construction always as "isn't it?".
Although I can see that this sentence does not specify the doer, would I be right to translate this as "what can we do?" or "what will he do?" if the context supported it? I'd be interested to hear from French speakers.
I answered "What needs to be done" and it wasn't accepted. Can someone explain why my answer is not accepted? Where I am from it is more common to say "what needs to be done" over the DL translation "what is to be done". Maybe I'm totally missing meanings here. Hahah thanks in advance! :)
Wouldn't "what needs to be done" translate to "Que doit faire" or something? Since "que faire" doesn't have any form of "need" in it. Can't just add words that aren't there... At least not in most cases for Duolingo usage.
I prefer the use of "what to do" for this one. Much more common... and a little less "ye olde english"y.
I agree with shalfyard. Also you're getting into more complex tenses that haven't been covered up to this point. I don't even know how that would be, grammatically. You have infinitive, to be, as this lesson covers it, past, done, but you're also implying future with the fact that an action yet to occur has to.... I don't know maybe I'm thinking too hard on it. If someone can clear that up for me I would be ecstatic.
EDIT: I just realized the given solution is What is to be done?, I entered What to do?. So I really have no idea.