Friday, 28 December 2012

The Infinitive


The Forms of the Infinitive

  Active Passive
Indefinite to teach to be taught
Continuous to be teaching to be being taught
Perfect to have taught to have been taught
Perfect Continuous to have been teaching    ---

The Indefinite Infinitive expresses an action simultaneous with that expressed by the finite verb.
E.g.: I shall be glad to see him.

The Continuous Infinitive denotes an action in progress simultaneous with that expressed by the finite verb.
E.g.: He seemed to be waiting for us.

The Perfect Infinitive denotes an action prior to that expressed by the finite verb.
E.g.: I am sorry to have troubled you.

The Perfect Continuous Infinitive denotes an action which lasted a certain time before the action of the finite verb.
E.g.: He proved to have been teaching English for ten years.

The Active Infinitive denotes that the subject is the doer of the action.
The Passive Infinitive denotes that the subject is acted upon.
E.g.: The man came to teach us English.
         The man came to be taught English.


Functions of Infinitive

The Infinitive is used in the function of the subject, predicative, object, attribute and adverbial modifier.

Patterns. Read and memorize!
  1. To err is human. (subject) 
  2. My desire is to furnish our kitchen in a new style. (predicative) 
  3. The door is hard to lock. (part of predicative) 
  4. My father plans to buy a car for me. (object) 
  5. She was glad to have got a good refrigerator. (object) 
  6. This is a dish to put apples in. (attribute) 
  7. He was the last to come to our party. (attribute) 
  8. The flat was too small to hold so many guests. (adverbial modifier of result) 
  9. The kitchen is large enough to have meals in it. (adverbial modifier of result)
  10. He is too tired to continue the way. (adverbial modifier of result)
  11. He started drinking to forget. (adverbial modifier of purpose)


Infinitival Complex: For-Phrases

The doer of the action expressed by the infinitive may be denoted by a noun (or pronoun) introduced by the preposition ‘for’. The construction for + Noun (Pronoun) + Infinitive is called an ‘infinitival complex’ and may be used in the same functions as a simple infinitive.

Patterns. Read and memorize!
  1. It is very important for him to see our new flat. 
  2. We were anxious for him to come
  3. We bought a comfortable armchair for Granny to sit in
  4. I left the luggage at the station for him to collect
  5. The garden was too full of weeds for me to finish digging it in a day.


► The function of an attribute is very peculiar to the infinitive in Modern English. The modified word and the modifier stand in various relations to each other:
1). the modified word denotes the doer of the action expressed by the infinitive.
E.g.: The first man to come was his cousin.
         The next student to take the exam was Nick.

2). the modified word denotes an object acted upon by the infinitive. The infinitive may be both in the Active and in the Passive Voice, but the Active is much more common.
E.g.: We had a hundred and one things to do (or to be done).
         It is a very interesting book to read.
         There was nothing to be done about it.
         There were important things to be attended to.

3). The modified word denotes the time or the place of the action expressed by the infinitive.
E.g.: I must have room to hang my pictures.
        There were 2 minutes to wait.

  • Go to the 'Infinitive Worksheet' page