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What's the difference between these two sentences:

  1. Mon but est faire le bien autour de moi.
  2. Mon but est de faire le bien autour de moi.
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The sentence without de is ungrammatical. I'm hard-pressed to explain why. –  Gilles Nov 26 '11 at 22:35
    
@Gilles Je tente l'explication par le groupe prépositionnel. –  rds Nov 26 '11 at 23:17
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

In that situation, de is used to build a prepositional group (de faire le bien autour de moi).

This prepositional group is the attribute of the subject. There are different kinds of constructions for the attribute of the subject:

  • adjective: mon but est noble
  • noun: mon but est un objectif difficile
  • pronoun: mon but est uniquement le mien
  • prepositional group of the form "de {infinitive}": mon but est de répondre à cette question
  • past particple: mon but est atteint
  • proposition introduced by que: mon but est que tu viennes ce soir
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According to the Banque de dépannage linguistique, it is a pecularity of the infinitive phrases that are arguments of être if the subject is not an infinitive itself : such constructions have to begin by de. I'd have a hard time trying to derive a general rule from this

L'infinitif en fonction attribut est précédé de la préposition de lorsque le sujet n'est pas un autre verbe à l'infinitif et qu'il est repris par une expression comme c'est ou ce serait.

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In the second sentence the "de" has the same role than the "to" when you say

My goal is to do ...

The first sentence is wrong. It would be similar than saying in English:

My goal is do good things ....

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Except that infinitive is introduced by the particle "to" in English. I'm sure you would not translate je veux faire ceci by I want do this. –  rds Nov 26 '11 at 22:50
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