English Grammar

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Infinitives

Read these sentences.


1. I want to go.
2. They tried to find fault with us.
The forms to go and to find are "infinitives."
The infinitive is the base of a verb, often preceded by to

Read the following sentences.
1. To err is human.
2. Birds love to sing.
3. To respect our parents is our duty.
In sentence 1, the Infinitive, like a noun, is the Subject of the verb is.
In sentence 2, the Infinitive, like a noun, is the Object of the verb love.
In sentence 3, the Infinitive, like a noun, is the Subject of the verb is, but, like a verb, it also taken an object.
It will be seen that Infinitive is a kind of noun with certains features of verbs, especially that of taking an object and adverbial qualifiers. In short, the Infinitive is a Verb-Noun.

The word to is frequently used with the Infinitive, but is not an essential part or sign of it.
Thus, after certains verbs (bid, let, make, need, dare, see, hear), we use the Infinitive without to; as,
1. Bid him go there.
2. I bade him go.
3. Let him sit here.
4. I will not let you go.
5. I heard him cry.
6. I saw him do it.
7. Make him stand.
8. You dare not do it.
9. You need not do it.
10. I made him run.

The Infinitive without to is also used after the verbs will, would, shall, may, might, can, could and must.
Examples :


1. I will pay the bill.
2. You should work harder.
3. He can speak five languages.
4. You must come to the office at nine tomorrow.
The Infinitive without to is also used after had better, had rather, would rather, sooner than, rather than;as,
Examples :
1. I would rather die than suffer so.
2. You had better ask permission.
3. I had rather play than work.

Use of the Infinitive
The Infinitive, with or without adjuncts, may be used, like a Noun -

A. As the Subject of a Verb;as,
To find fault is easy.
To reign is worth ambition.
To err is human.

B. As the Object of a transitive Verbs;as,
1. He likes to play cards.
2. I do not mean to read.

C. As the Complement of a Verb;as,
1. His custom is to ride daily.
2. Her greatest pleasure is to sing.

D. As the Object of a Preposition;as,
1. He had no choice but to obey.
2. The speaker is about to begin.

E. As an Objective Complement;as,
1. I saw him go.
When the infinitive is thus used, like a Noun, it is called the Simple Infinitive.

The Infinitive is also used -



A. To qualify a Verb, usually to express purpose;as,
1. I come to bury Caesar. (Purpose)
2. He called to see my brother (= for the purpose of seeing my brother).
3. He wept to see the desolation caused by the flood. (Cause)

B. To qualify an Adjective;as,
1. Figs are good to eat.
2. The boys are anxious to learn.
3. He is too ill to do any work.
4. This medicine is pleasant to take.

C. To qualify a Noun;as,
1. This house is to let.
2. This is not the time to play.
3. Here is a house to let.

D. To qualify a Sentence;as,
1. He was petrified, so to speak.
2. To tell the truth, I quite forgot my promise.

When the Infinitive is thus used it is called the Gerundial or Qualifying Infinitive.

The Infinitive may be active or passive. When active it may have a present and a perfect form, and may merely name the act, or it may represent progressive or continued action.
Active
Present : to love
Perfect : to have loved
Present Continuous : to be loving
Perfect Continuous : to have been loving

When passive the Infinitive has a present and a perfect form.
Passive
Present : to be love
Perfect : to have been loved

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