The functions of the infinitive in the sentence

The infinitive can be used in different syntactic functions. A single infinitive occurs but seldom: in most cases we find an infinitive phrase, i. e. an infinitive with one or several accompanying words. The infinitive may be used as:

1. a subject. The introductory particle it can represent the Infinitive in this function.

It is never late to study.

To err is human.

2. a predicative. The infinitive can also be used as part of a predicative.

His intention is to get into parliament.

The abode of Mrs. Betty was not easy to find.

3. part of a compound verbal predicate.

a) after modal verbs, modal expressions,

I can speak English well.

When I was a boy I was not able to speak English well.

b) after verbs expressing the beginning, duration or end of an action: begin, cease, continue, go on, finish, start, etc.

Imprisonment began to tellupon him.

She continued to talk about the problem.

4. an object.

a) after verbs agree, care, decide, hope, learn, like, prefer, try, want, wish, etc.

He wants to be an expert on the subject.

After the verbs to allow, to order, to ask, to beg, to request, to implore, to teach, to instruct we often find two objects, one of which is expressed by an infinitive.

After waiting some time, she ordered the driverdrive back to her lodgings.

He asked me to walk in.

b) after expressions to be able (unable), to be certain, to be anxious, to be delighted, etc.

He is likely to be in time.

5. part of a complex object.

I never saw you act this way before.

6. an attribute after:

a) abstract and class nouns.

Theres no matter to discuss.

b) indefinite pronouns: somebody, something

Theres somebody to look after.

c) ordinal numerals

He was the first to come.

d) the adjective last

She was the last to do it.

e) expressions of quantity: a lot, little, much

There was much to be done.

7. The infinitive as an adverbial modifier of:

a) purpose. Sometimes introduced by the conjunctions in order to, so as.

He said it (in order) to save your life.

b) result. After adjectives modified by enough and too.

Bill is wise enough to confess his fault.

c) attendant circumstances. Sometimes introduced by never, the particle only.

He returned from the office to be struck by that terrible news.

d) manner (comparison). Introduced by the conjunctions as if, as though.

She opened her mouth as if to say something.

8. parenthesis: to cut a long short, to say the least, to tell the truth, to put it mildly, to say nothing of, to be quite frank.

was rude, to say the least of it.

put it mildly, he was not up to the mark.

tell the truth, I have been a little troubled, but it is over.


The use of the infinitive without the particle to (the bare infinitive)

In Modern English the infinitive is chiefly used with the particle to. The Infinitive with to is used:

a) after ought to, have to, be to;

The company ought to be making changes in its marketing strategy.

b) after the verb to feel the verb to be is used with to;

I felt this to be very true.

c) after the verbs to hear, to see, to make, to know in the Passive Voice.

She didn't want to be heard to criticize him.

Still there are cases when the so-called bare infinitive(the infinitive without the particle to) is used. We use Infinitive without the particle to in the following cases:

a) after auxiliary verbs:

It didnt snow at all last winter.

It will be frosty tomorrow.

b) after modal verbs except the modal verbs ought; to have to; be to.

I am confident a solution can be found.

c) after verbs denoting perception such as feel, hear, notice, observe, see, watch etc. (in the active voice):

Did you notice the boys go out?

I saw him get on a bus tonight.

d) after the verb let.

Let me know whats happening.

e) after the verb make in the active voice in the meaning of compel and have have in the meaning of force, allow.

What makes you think so?

I wont have you do this.

f) after the verb help (the omission of the particle to after the verb help is more usual in American than in British usage):

I helped Nick find his things.

g) in infinitive sentences beginning with why.

Why not go with us?

h) after the expressions had better, would rather, would sooner, cannot but, nothing but, cannot choose but.

You would better try not to think about it.

Infinitive constructions

In English there are the following predicative constructions with the infinitive:

1) the Objective-with-the-lnfinitive Construction;

2) the Subjective Infinitive Construction;

3) the for-to-Infinitive Construction.

The Objective-with-the-lnfinitive Construction

The Objective-with-the-lnfinitive Construction is a construction in which the infinitive is in predicate relation to a noun in the common case or a pronoun in the objective case. In the sentence this construction has the function of a complex object.

I've never seen him lose his temper or get angry about anything.

The Objective-with-the-lnfinitive Construction is used:

1. after verbs denoting sense perception: to hear, to see, to watch, to feel, to observe, to notice, etc.

I heard him lock the door.

After verbs of sense perception only the Indefinite Infinitive Active is used. If the meaning is passive Participle II is used.

I saw the fire slowly conquered.

If a process is expressed Participle I Indefinite Active is used.

He saw Fleur coming.

The verb to see is followed by a clause and not by the Objective-with-the-Infinitive Construction when it is not really a verb of sense perception, i. e. when it means 'to understand'.

I saw that he did not realize the danger.

After the verbs to see and to notice the Objective-with-the-Infinitive Construction is not used with the verb to be; a subordinate clause is used in such cases.

I saw that he was pale.

When the verb to hear is not a verb of sense perception, i. e. when it means 'to learn', 'to be told', a clause or a gerund (and not the Objective-with-the-Infinitive) is used.

I hear that he left for the South (of his having left for the South).

2. after verbs denoting mental activity: to know, to think, to consider, to believe, to suppose, to expect, to imagine, to find, to feel, to trust, etc.

She hates him to be bothered.

He believes it to have been a mistake.

After verbs of mental activity the Perfect Infinitive is used but seldom.

The doctor found his heart to have stopped two hours before.

With the verbs to think, to consider, to find the same idea can be expressed without an infinitive.

He thought her beautiful.

She found the subject rather interesting.

You consider yourself an honest person.

3. after verbs of declaring:announce, declare, pronounce, report.

They reported the enemy to be seven miles away.

4. after verbs denoting wish and intention:to want, to wish, to desire, to mean, to intend, to choose (in the meaning of 'want').

I want you to come and dine with me.

I wished those books to be returned to-night.

5. after verbs and expressions denoting feeling and emotion:like, dislike, love, hate, cannot bear, etc.

I dislike you to talk like that.

6. after verbs denoting wish and intention: desire, intend, mean, want, wish, etc.

I want you to come along with us.

7. after verbs denoting order, compulsion and permission:allow, cause, have, get, make, order, suffer, etc.

The noise caused her to awake.

What made you believe it?

Here we find the Objective with the Infinitive only if the object is expressed by a noun or pronoun denoting a lifeless thing or when the infinitive is passive. This restriction does not apply to the verbs to suffer and to have.

Mr. Merdle ordered his carriage to be ready early in the morning.

The verb to suffer, when followed by the Objective with the Infinitive, is rendered in affirmative sentences by allow unwillingly. In negative sentences it is rendered by allow. The verb to have denotes permission only in negative sentences; it is very close in meaning to the verb to suffer and is translated in the same way.

If the object is expressed by a noun or pronoun denoting a living being and the infinitive is active we find two direct objects.

He ordered him to perfect his plan.

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