What are Infinitives?
The word infinitive means unlimited. The infinitive form of a verb expresses the idea of that verb in the simplest way; that is, we do not change the form of the verb or restrict it by person or number. In this respect the infinitive differs from the indicative, the subjunctive, and the imperative moods. The word to is the expressive sign of the infinitive, as in "to run," "to play."
The infinitive has two tenses:
Present: "To see" Present: "To be seen"
Past: "To have seen" Past: "To have been seen"
NOTE You should use the present tense of the infinitive when both the verb and the time of the action indicates the same: "Yesterday he hoped to finish his homework" "hoped to finish " yesterday.
NOTE You should use the past tense of the infinitive when the action is previous to the main verb: "Yesterday he hoped to have finished his homework" "to have finished " some time before yesterday.
The infinitive is a verbit has an object, or a predicate noun, or adverbial modifiers. Let's look at the following sentences:
As a substantive
1. As subject (with or without an object or a modifier)
EX. To advertise pays.
EX. To organize a party is very fun.
2. As object of a verb
EX. The class likes to play.
EX. They try to listen a lot.
3. As object of a preposition
EX. They had no plan but to walk. (Except to win)
EX. There is little to do except to go.
4. As predicate nominative
EX. Our object was to win the game.
EX. Their plan was to make a film.
5. As an appositive
EX. This was their motivation, to win the game.
EX. That taught them a lesson, to listen.
We can use the introductory word "it" (an expletive) to introduce a sentence that has an infinitive subject.
EX. It was our plan to win the football game. (To win was our desire.)
Besides using an infinitive as a noun, you can also use an infinitive as an adverb or as an adjective:
As an adverb
EX. He studies hard to achieve success. (To achieve tells why he studies hard, therefore adverbial use.)
As an adjective
EX. This was his chance to win success.
(To win is equivalent to "for winning" and modifies chance, therefore adjectival use.)
Remember: The infinitive is the simple form of the verb, usually preceded by "to." The infinitive has two tenses: the present and the past. We use the past tense of the infinitive only when the time of the action is previous to the main verb.
Writers tend to make three mistakes with infinitives.
(1) The subject of an infinitive is formed in the objective case.
EX. They want me to go.
EX. They wanted Danielle and me to go. (not "I")
EX. They knew him to be me. (not "I")
The words "me," "Danielle," and "him" are subjects of the infinitive. When we use two words (as "Danielle and me"), both we must use both in the objective case.
(2) After we use the infinitive as a linking verb, we must make the objective case agree with the objective case of the subject. In the third sentence we have a linking verb connecting "him" with "me."
(3) We need to make sure we place an infinitive in the present tense unless we want it to represent action earlier than that of the main verb.
EX. It was not necessary for you to go. (not "to have gone")
EX. She expected to come. (not "to have come")
Remember: When we use a pronoun as subject of an infinitive we must form the objective case. When we use a pronoun after an infinitive and refer to its subject we must form the objective case. We must place the infinitive in the present tense unless it represents time earlier than that of the main verb.
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