This is another post on the Non-Finite Verbs based on the topic of “Infinitive” that most of the ESL pursuers or beginner English learners find difficult to make out. In this post, the definition of Infinitive and its different usages are made clear as much as possible.
You may visit the link below to have a better understanding of the Non-Finite Verbs.
The Infinitive is one of the three Non-Finite Verbs that remain in the same form in all the tenses, numbers and persons of their subjects.
Consider the following examples:
(i) We all want to build our careers.
(ii) He tried to find a place for sleeping.
The forms to build and to find are “infinitives”
The Infinitive is a Verbal Noun. In fact, it is that form of the verb which partakes of the nature of both a noun and a verb in a sentence. It is formed by adding “to”, expressed or understood before the base form of the verb.
Read the following sentences:
(i) Children love to play.
(ii) To obey our elders is our duty.
In the first sentence the infinitive, like a noun, is the object of the verb “love”.
In the second sentence, the infinitive, like a noun, is the subject of the verb “is”, but, as a verb, it also takes an object “our elders”.
The Different Usage of the Infinitive
The Bare Infinitive
In most cases, the word or preposition “to” is used with the infinitive but it is omitted in certain cases as well. When an Infinitive is used without “to” it is called the Bare infinitive.
A. Thus after certain verbs (let, make, need, dare, hear, see, bid etc.) we use the infinitive without to.
(i) Let me do it.
(ii) I made you do it.
(iii) You need not come tomorrow.
(iv) You dare not do it.
(v) I heard her cry.
(vi) I saw him go there.
(vii) They bade him go.
B. The infinitive without to is also used after the auxiliaries and defective verbs like will, would, shall, should, can, could, may, might, must, do, has, have.
(i) You will/should go there.
(ii) Do post the letter.
(iii) I must attend the meeting in time.
(iv) I can speak three languages.
(v) May God bless you.
C. It is omitted after the phrases had better, had rather, had sooner, would rather, sooner than, rather than, had as soon … as etc.
(i) You had better or had sooner (to) leave
(ii) I had rather (to) remain here than (to) go.
(iii) She would rather die than suffer so.
D. The sign of the infinitive is omitted after than, except, as, better and but especially when preceded by do.
(i) We could do nothing but (to) watch.
(ii) He did everything except (to) carry out my order.
(iii) She is better able to play than dance. (than she is able to dance)
The Simple or Noun – Infinitive
Here the Infinitive is used as a Noun –
When the Infinitive is thus used it is called the Simple – infinitive or the Noun – Infinitive.
A. The Simple Infinitive is used as the Subject of a Verb –
(i) To err is human.
(ii) To retain wealth is not easy.
B. As the Object of a transitive Verb –
(i) He likes to play cricket.
(ii) She did not mean to harm you.
C. As the Complement of a Be Verb –
(i) My greatest achievement is to win your heart.
(ii) His plan is to increase his share value.
D. As the Object of a Preposition –
(i) The concert is about to commence.
(ii) She could not but (to) go there.
E. As an Objective Complement –
(i) She made me do it.
(ii) I heard him say so.
F. Absolutely used in an exclamation or an interrogation –
(i) To realize that she won’t agree with you!
(ii) And now how to make it happen?
(iii) What to do?
The Gerundial or Qualifying Infinitive
The Infinitive is also used to express purpose, cause, result, and condition.
A. The Infinitive is used to qualify a Verb to express purpose (Adverbially to a Verb) –
(i) He came to see my brother. (purpose)
(ii) We eat to live. (purpose)
(iii) She was overwhelmed to see her dream come true. (cause)
B. To qualify an Adjective (Adverbially to an Adjective) –
(i) I am ready to go.
(ii) He is anxious to learn.
(iii) The child is too short to climb the wall.
C. To qualify a Noun (Adjectivally to a Noun) –
(i) She has a house to let.
(ii) Is this the time to play?
(iii) This is not the place to sit on.
D. Absolutely to qualify a sentence (Parenthetically to a sentence) –
(i) To tell you the truth, I forgot your name.
(ii) To be frank, I didn’t expect such an honor.
(iii) He was glad, so to do it.
Now that the examples of both the Simple Infinitive and the Gerundial Infinitive have been cited above, how would you distinguish between these two types of infinitives?
Yes, the best way to differentiate between a Simple and Gerundial Infinitive is to expand it. An Infinitive is Simple if it becomes a noun clause but an Infinitive is Gerundial if it appears to be an adjectival or an adverbial clause.
The Split Infinitive
Sometimes the main verb in an infinitive construction is wrongly separated from “to” usually by some adverb or adverbial phrase between. An Infinitive thus used is called The Split Infinitive.
(i) I request you to kindly grant me the leave. (Correct: I request you to grant me the leave kindly.)
(ii) You are requested to sympathetically look into this matter. (Correct: You are requested to look into this matter sympathetically.)
However, the rule is not strictly in practice today and modern English usage guides have made the use of Split Infinitive quite regular that it occasionally serves a clear and useful purpose. It is recommended to avoid Split Infinitives in formal writing unless the Infinitive used alters the meaning of what is being said.
(i) He solely had to do it.
(ii) He had to solely do it.
The sentences above are quite different in meaning. The first sentence means – its important that he did it alone. But the second one states that he had to do it very carefully or closely.
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