Infinitives

Infinitives
Infinitives

Infinitives:

The Infinitives are the verbs that are not limited by any subject, tense, person and number. They are generally used to show the actions and events in a more general way rather than to show the particular time and action.

Examples:

  • To find fault with others is easy.
  • To confuse others is his hobby.
  • He decided to attend the interview.
  • My idea is to go there.

There are three kinds of Infinitives:

  • To Infinitive: to eat, to play, to drink, to clean etc.,
  • Plain/Bare Infinitive (without to): eat, play, drink, clean etc.,
  • The Split Infinitive: to really play, to only clean etc.,

Uses of the To Infinitive:

To infinitive is of two kinds: – Simple Infinitives and Qualifying Infinitives.

 

Simple Infinitives (also called Noun Infinitives): 

These infinitives are used like  Nouns.

As the Subject of a Verb:

Examples:

  • To err is human.
  • To forgive is divine. 
  • To find fault with others is easy.
  • To confuse others is his hobby.
  • To convince everybody is very difficult.

As the Object of a Transitive Verb:

Examples:

  • He decided to attend the interview.
  • My friend likes to read two newspapers daily.
  • I love to play chess.
  • She asked me to accept her proposal.
  • My friend advised me to study the law.
  • Who permitted you to enter the campus?

As the Complement of the Verb: 

Examples:

  • My idea is to go there.
  • His ambition is to become an IAS officer.
  • What they want is to fight against corruption.

As the Object of a Preposition:

Examples:

  • The Chief Guest is about to begin his speech.
  • I have no choice but to accept.

 

Qualifying Infinitives (also called Gerundial Infinitives):

These infinitives are used to qualify a noun, verb or adjective.

To qualify a Noun:

Examples:

  • This is the programme to attend.
  • He is not the man to trust.
  • There is a house to purchase.
  • You have a problem to solve.

To qualify an Adjective:

Examples:

  • This story is not genuine to believe.
  • The area is too dirty to reside in.
  • He is ready to accept the proposal.
  • The children are happy to sing songs.

To qualify a Verb to express  purpose or cause:

Examples:

  • We eat to live. (purpose)
  • I visited the mall to buy grocery items. (purpose)
  • He was shocked to find his purse stolen. (cause)

To qualify a Sentence:

Examples:

  • To tell the truth, you are all qualified.
  • To be honest, I didn’t play well.
  • To sum up, it is a great story.

With question words like ‘what, where, when, how’ etc., but not why.

Examples: 

(Verb + Question Word + To Infinitive)

  • I don’t know how to speak to them. 
  • She can’t decide where to stay temporarily.
  • Diabetic patients do not understand what to eat.

(Verb + Object + Question Word + To Infinitive)

  • Let me tell you what to do with them.
  • Can you tell me how to speak to them?
  • He advised me where to stay temporarily.

 

Forms of the to-Infinitive:

Tense Active Passive
Present Simple To write To be written
Present Continuous To be writing
Present Perfect To have written To have been written
Present Perfect Continuous To have been writing

 

Uses of the Plain/Bare Infinitive:

After the Auxiliary Verbs: shall, should, will, would, may, might, can, could, do, does, did, must, need and dare:

Examples:

  • We shall inform him about this.
  • She must attend the seminar.
  • I do write him a letter.
  • She might go there. 
  • I can arrange all the things.
  • They would not solve this issue.
  • I dare not command you.
  • She need not submit the application.

Note:

When we use ‘Dare’ and ‘Need’ as Principal Verbs, we use a to-infinitive.

  • She needs to finish this project.
  • They dared to complain about this.

After the Principal Verbs like: watch, see, let, make, help, hear etc.,

Examples:

  • I watched the boy steal it.
  • She made me wait for an hour.
  • Let them sit down.
  • They helped me help others. 
  • We heard her sing.
  • I saw her jump.

After some expressions like: rather than, sooner than, would rather, had better

Examples:

  • You would rather speak to her now.
  • She had better get his permission.
  • I would rather listen than talk.
  • She would sooner catch the train than miss her interview.

The Split Infinitive

In to-infinitive construction, sometimes, an adverb or adverbial phrase is wrongly placed between the ‘verb’ and ‘to’. Such Infinitive is called the Split Infinitive.

 

Examples:

  • He asked me to carefully drive the car. (incorrect)
  • He asked me to drive the car carefully. (correct)

 

  • The principal instructed the invigilators to thoroughly check the students. (incorrect)
  • The principal instructed the invigilators to check the students thoroughly. (correct)

 

Although this rule is not strictly followed in modern English grammar, it is advised to avoid the Split Infinitives in formal writing. 

 However, the Split Infinitives are used in the following sentences where we find the change of meaning.

Examples:

  • I like to really give it to you.
  • I really like to give it to you.
  • I like to give it really to you.
  • Really, I like to give it to you.

 

Here, the adverb ‘really’ conveys a different meaning in the different sentences above.

 

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