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Hi,

Second, those who advocate against college often cite extremely unrepresentative individuals – like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who both dropped out of Harvard – as evidence that one can skip college and earn billions of dollars anyway.

The only broad lesson to be drawn from these unusual cases is that prospects outside of college do matter: if you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – say you are one of the lucky teenagers selected by the entrepreneur Peter Thiel to receive $100,000 in exchange for skipping college and pursuing your dreams– then by all means go for it.

(taken from The New York Times)

As far as I know, the meaning of infinitival relative clauses vary, case by case. Let me start with the first example.

The only broad lesson to be drawn from these unusual cases is that prospects outside of college do matter.

According to a liguist's paper I have recently encountered, there are two types of interpretations of infinitival relative clasues: modal and non-modal.

ex) John is the only man to really know her.
= John is the only man who really knows her.(non-modal)

ex) Jane found a book to draw cartoons in.
= Jane found a book one could draw cartoons in.(modal)

The non-modal interpretation seems to hinge on the presence of one of the following kinds of modifiers: superelatives, ordinals, and only.

In the case of passive infinitival relative clauses that modify nominals with one of those aformentioned modifiers, he adds that both non-modal and modal readings are available.

ex) This is the best argument to be considered by the committee.

= This is the best argument which has been considered by the committee.(non-modal)
= This is the best argument which is to be considered by the committee.(modal)

Q1) How should I interpret the meaning of "is to be considered" in the modal interpretation? One of my grammar books lists the meaning of the verb be+to infinitive(is/am/are to+infinitive) as follows:

1. to refer to something that is going to happen as a result of a plan or decree
2. can
3. should/has to
4. appropriate

Q2) Which one of the definitions fits the best for my first example?(The only broad lesson to be drawn from these unusual cases is that prospects outside of college do matter) Does it have non-modal meaning as well?

I'd appreciate your help.

p.s. I'm going to have to do my second example in another post since this thread is getting a little too long.
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jooneyI'm going to have to do my second example in another post since this thread is getting a little too long.
Good idea! Too much scrolling up and down when answering a long post!
jooneyAccording to a liguist's paper I have recently encountered, there are two types of interpretations of infinitival relative clasues: modal and non-modal.

ex) John is the only man to really know her.
= John is the only man who really knows her.(non-modal)

ex) Jane found a book to draw cartoons in.
= Jane found a book one could draw cartoons in.(modal)

The non-modal interpretation seems to hinge on the presence of one of the following kinds of modifiers: superelatives, ordinals, and only.
Interesting. And quite plausible.
jooneyex) This is the best argument to be considered by the committee.

= This is the best argument which has been considered by the committee.(non-modal)
= This is the best argument which is to be considered by the committee.(modal)

Q1) How should I interpret the meaning of "is to be considered" in the modal interpretation?
If I understand the author's conception of "modal interpretation" correctly, I often insert "destined" in these "is to be" constructions, which does not make a very good sentence, but for teaching purposes it does help to get the point across (I think - I hope).

This is the best argument (which is destined) to be considered by the committee.

Other words like "supposed", "designated", "scheduled", or "going" may substitute for "destined" without completely destroying the meaning. It's related to case number 1 below. The committee plans to consider that argument.
jooney1. to refer to something that is going to happen as a result of a plan or decree
2. can
3. should/has to
4. appropriate

Q2) Which one of the definitions fits the best for my first example?
2. can.

The only broad lesson that [one / we / you] can draw from ... is ....
jooney Does it have non-modal meaning as well?
I don't think so. At any rate, I can't find one.

CJ
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Thank you very much for your answer, CJ.Emotion: smile

If I understand the author's conception of "modal interpretation" correctly,...

He doesn't really give a detailed account of what he means by "modal interpretation". Instead, he gives various examples of modal interpretations.

ex1) Jane found a book to draw cartoons in.
= Jane found a book one could draw cartoons in.

ex2) The man to fix the sink is here.
= The man whose purpose is to fix the sink is here.

ex3) She went to L.A. to buy a violin.
= She went to L.A. so that she could buy a violin.

ex4) Will is to leave tomorrow.
=Will is scheduled/supposed to leave tomorrow.
OK. Those examples conform to the conception I had of "modal interpretation".

CJ