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Uses of the Infinitive

1. The infinitive may be the subject of a sentence.

To save money now seems impossible.

To know how to drive is useful. Or It is useful to know how to drive.

It is more usual to place the pronoun it first. Note the use of introductory it in interrogatives:

Would it be safe to camp here?

2.The infinitive may be the complement of the verb.

His plan was to keep the affair secret.

3.The infinitive may be the object or part of the object of a verb. It can follow the verb directly:

He wants to pay now.

Or follow verb + question words:

Please show me what to do. Can you tell me how to get there?

Or follow verb + object.

She wants Peter to come on Monday.


1) The infinitive as object or complement of the verb is used after the verbs:

want need would like would love would prefer would hate hope expect plan intend mean long decide choose promise propose agree refuse seem appear pretend attempt happen claim etc.

He happened to meet her at the party last month.

He claims to have done it long ago.

2) Many verbs involving encouraging or forcing another person to do something take the infinitive in the function of object or complement of the verb:

cause command compel convince encourage force incite
induce inspire order oblige persuade tempt urge

She convincedhimto apply for the position advertized.



4. The infinitive can be used after certain nouns and pronouns:

Many nouns that correspond to verbs can be followed by a to-infinitive: I do not wish to see you. – I have no wish to see you He refused to help me. – His refusal to help me was a surprise. We agreed to meet later. – We made an agreement to meet later. Other verb/noun pairs like this are: to apply – an application to attempt – an attempt to propose- a proposal to decide – a decision to determine – determination, to plan – a plan, etc.   Mind the use of infinitive forms in the following structures: 1. 1. There is/there are + noun/pronoun + to-infinitive. There are ten letters to write/to be written. Note: The active to-infinitive has a passive meaning here. 2. 2. Have/Have got + noun/pronoun + to-infinitive She had nowhere to sleep. = She didn’t have a bedroom or bed. Note: You cannot use the passive infinitive here. 3. 3. Note the idioms: He is nowhere to be seen / to be found. Nobody’s to blame.


5.The infinitive can be used after adjectives:

Adjective/Adverb + to infinitive is used: 1) 1)to express simple emotions and attitude: to be anxious /determined / happy/ easy/ sure/ (un)likely, etc + to-infinitive I’m pleased to be here. He is sure to do the work. 2)to praise /to criticise people: To be right / wrong/ silly/ generous/ selfish/ stupid, etc (of smb.) + to-infinitive It was kind of you to ask them to come. Wasn’t it clever to do that! 2) 3)after comparative or superlative of adjectives and expressions with adverbs too and enough: It would be more interesting to go out. The piano is too heavy to move. He is not strong enough to move this box.

6.The infinitive can express purpose.


We use to do, in order to do and so as to do to express purpose. They answer the question. ‘Why?’ or ‘To do what?’ I went to collegeto get/in order to get/ so as to get a better job later. Note the negative forms: I went to the city not to seethe sights, but to find a job. Phone for details of our holidays immediately in order not to miss this wonderful opportunity! They exchanged addresses so as not to lose touch with each other.


7.The infinitive can be used with introductory or final set expressions.

To put it mildly, you are not very polite. I’ve never met him, to tell you the truth. To be honest, I liked it greatly. etc.


Infinitive without Particle to

(Bare Infinitive)


Rules Examples
Bare infinitive is used: 1. after auxiliaries and modal verbs except ought, have, be. Do you knowwhat time it is now? You must come and see us one day. But: You ought to have come earlier.
2. after the verbs denoting sense perception such as to hear, to see, to feel, to watch, to observe, to notice, to know (in the meaning to see /to observe) in the active voice. I saw him enter the shop. But: He wasseen to enter the shop. Ihave so often known a change of medicine work wonders.
3. After verbs of inducement to let, to make, to have (in the meaning to get), to bid in the active voice.   Don’t let the children annoy you. She made me do this test again. I’ll have an electrician repair it. She made me do this exercise again. But: I was made to stand in the corner.
4. after modal expression had better, cannot but, would rather, nothing but, would sooner, cannot choose but. I’d rather be toldthe truth. I’d rather not doit. You’d better not make a mistake next time. He couldn’t but go there.
5. in infinitive sentences beginning with why (not) Why not cook fish tonight? You look tired. Why not take a holiday?
6. we use both bare infinitive and to-infinitive forms after the verbs need, dare, doandhelp. (Bare infinitive is preferable after positive forms and needn’t. To-infinitive after doesn’t/don’t need, dare notandhelp not) You needn’t dothis washing up. You don’t need to clean the floor. Does he dare (to) refuseyou? All I did was (to) give him the information. Mother helped me (to) do my homework. How can I help my children not to worry about their exams?


Omitted to

We can join ideas with and, except, but and or. The particle to is usually dropped before the second infinitive. She wanted to go and *seethe film. He wanted to do everything except *study for his exams. She didn’t know whether to laugh or (to) *cry. Note: When two infinitives are joined by and, the second is almost always a bare infinitive. When they are joined by but or or, a to-infinitive is possible, but a bare infinitive is more common.


Reduced Infinitive


Sometimes the whole infinitive needs not to be repeated if it is understood from the context. A: Can you and Mary come to lunch next Sunday? – B: I’d love to. A: Can I smoke in here – B: No, you aren’tallowed to. A: Why aren’t you coming to the film? – B: I don’t wantto.



Date: 2015-12-11; view: 229

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