Grammar. 10.11.2011
Grammar Teacher

Ins and outs of the Infinitive

Автор: Grammar Teacher

 In one of my earlier posts I was talking about Gerund as one of the forms of a verb (/blogs/post/219).  And probably Gerund’s main antagonist is Infinitive. Many verbs and adjectives, and some nouns, can be followed by one or other of these forms, and in some cases by more than one form.  

The base form of a verb (go) often functions as an infinitive. It is called the BARE INFINITIVE because it is used WITHOUT TO. We must distinguish it from the TO-INFINITIVE, where TO is always used in front of the base form of the verb (to go). Today we’ll be talking about all the ins and outs (ази, основи) of The TO-INFINITIVE, or THE FULL INFINITIVE.

To sneeze, to smash, to cry, to shriek, to jump, to dunk, to read, to eat, to slurp—all of these are full infinitives.

In the following video Kristen and Janna show you what infinitives are in an entertaining way:

Let’s look at the functions of the full infinitive closer:

{C}           1.It can be used as a noun. For example:

To sleep is the only thing Eli wants after the 2 weeks of non-stop work.

To sleep functions as a noun because it is the subject of the sentence. More examples:

"To err is human";

"To know me is to love me".

{C}          2.    {C}It can be used as an adjective:

Wherever Melissa goes, she always brings a book to read in case has a long wait.

He is the man to talk to.

The infinitive to read here explains which book Melissa brings, it modifies book (характеризує книжку). In the second sentence to talk to explains who he is. He is the man we need to talk to.

{C}         3. The full infinitive is often used to explain purpose (мету):

(In order) to meditate, one must free one's mind.

We will need some paper to wrap the books in.

To wrap here explains WHY we will need some paper.

{C}          4. It can be used after certain verbs such as agree,decide, hope, need, refuse etc. For example:

She refused to help us.

I decided to ask for my money back.

I hope to go on a vacation soon.

The list of verbs that take infinitives is quite long. Here are just some of them:


{C}        5. It can be used after the direct objects of many verbs:

For example:
Finally they allowed us to enter the club. 

I begged her to let me in.

The government promised its people to increase the average salary.

The general formula of these sentences is V + O + to-infinitive where us, her, and its people are objects.

Particularly interesting is the group of the “want” verbs: want, like, would like, would prefer, dislike, hate, wish:

I only want us to be together. (= Я хочу, щоб ми були разом.)

Her mother did not like her to be out for too long. (= Її мати не хотіла, щоб вона була довго поза домом.)

I'd like you to find him a job. (= Я б хотіла, щоб ти знайшов йому роботу)

Note that the person expressing the desire in the main clause is different from the person who is doing the activity in the infinitive clause.

5. Many adjectives can be followed by to-infinitives:

I'm pleased to meet you.

I was glad to hear she was promoted to manager.

He is always prepared to take a lot of trouble.

He is easy to please / It is easy to please him.

He is too weak to lift it.

{C}        7. {C}After question words:

These verbs: ask, decide, explain, forget, know, show, tell, understand, can be followed by a question word such as where, how, what, who, when or 'whether' + the 'to-infinitive'.


·         {C}She asked me how to use the washing machine.

·         {C}Do you understand what to do?

·         {C}Tell me when to press the button.

But! The question word Why is followed by the zero infinitive in suggestions. Examples:

·         {C}Why wait until tomorrow?

·         {C}Why not ask him now?

·         {C}Why walk when we can go in the car?

8. The to-infinitive can be used after nouns and words used in place of nouns, such as something, someone, a lot:

There was nothing to do so we played computer games.

I've got an essay to write.

I need someone to substitute me next Monday.

{C}        9.   In expressions such as To tell you the truth, To be honest/fair, To cut a long story short, etc.

To be honest with you, I don’t much like the idea.

To tell you the truth, I never liked her anyway. 

Some of these uses are covered in this video: 

Negative infinitives

We form the negative of a to-infinitive by putting not before to!!

{C}·         {C}Ask Rex not to phone. I don't want to be disturbed.

{C}·         {C}He told me not to feed the animals.

{C}·         {C}I can't promise not to be late. My car is very unreliable.

The split infinitive

'Splitting an infinitive' (putting an adverb between to and the verb) is usually considered unacceptable and should generally be avoided. For instance clearly could not come between to and read in the following:

I want you to read that last sentence clearly.

It is better to place the adverb after the verb or object:

We will need to plan carefully for our holiday or

We will need to plan our holiday carefully. 

However, adverbs such as completely, fully, really, and truly that emphasize the action do separate to from the infinitve:

It's difficult to really understand the theory of relativity.

To fully understand what has happened here, we need to look at the recent history of the country.

Next time I will tell you about the bare infinitive!

And now have a little bit of practice!

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