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F. ex. I wanted to know all about you

The infinitive has a double nature : nominal and verbal.

The nominal character is manifested in its syntactical functions:

1) It can be a subject. (To smoke is harmful)

2) It can be a part of the predicate. (We should not leave him alone)

3) It can be an object. (He asked to change the ticket)

The verbal characteristics are as follows:

1) It can be a direct object. (I wanted to know all about her life)

2) It can be modified by an adverb. (I cannot write so quickly)

3) It can have aspect, voice distinctions.

In modern English the infinitive has the following forms:

1) The Simple Infinitive expresses an action simultaneous with the action expressed by the finite verb. It may refer to the present, past, or future.

F. ex. He wants to ask you a question.

He wanted to be asked a question.

2) The Continuous Infinitive also denotes an action simultaneous with that expressed by the finite verb, but the action is in progress. Thus the continuous infinitive is an aspect form, expressing both time relation and the manner in which the action is presented.

F. ex. He seems to be asking you a question.

3) The Perfect Infinitive denotes an action prior to the action expressed by the finite verb.

F.ex. He seems to have asked you about it.

He seems to have been asked about it.

The passive voice is found only with transitive verbs and there are no perfect continuous forms in the passive voice. As for the non-perfect continuous passive, forms similar to the one in brackets, do sometimes occur, although they are exceptionally rare.

Although the particle “to” is very closely connected with the Infinitive, sometimes the bare infinitive stem is used. The causes where the infinitive loses its marker are few in numbers.

1) After auxiliary verbs. (I don’t like dancing)

2) After modal verbs (except have to, be to, ought to). You needn’t get up early tomorrow.

3) After causative verbs: let, have, make. (Let me tell you the truth.)

4) After verbs of sense perception (feel, watch, observe, notice, hear, listen to, feel, see): I heard somebody open the door upstairs.

5) After modal modal expressions (had better, would rather, would sooner): You’d better to go home, it’s late.

6) In the “but” phrases (cannot but, do anything but, do nothing but, couldn’t but): I couldn’t but criticize his project.

7) In the “why-not” sentences: Why not begin at once?



The infinitive as a subject

1.) The infinitive functioning as subject may either precede the predicate or follow it. In the latter case it is introduced by the so-called introductory it, which is placed at the beginning of the sentence: To be good is to be in harmony with oneself.

It’s so silly to be fussy and jealous.

The second of these structural patterns is more common than the first, and the subject in this pattern is more accentuated (compare for example: It’s impossible to do it and To do it is impossible). The other difference is that in the second case the sentence can be both declarative and interrogative, while in the first one the sentence can only be declarative:

Declarative sentences: It’s nice to see you again./To find him still at home was a relief.

Interrogative sentences:Wasn’t it a waste of time to sit there?/Is it bad to love one so dearly?

2) The infinitive subject in both structural patterns is a “to” - infinitive. If there are two or more homogeneous infinitive subjects in a sentence, all of them keep the particle to:

To be alone, to be free from the daily interests and cruelty would be happiness to Asako./It was awfully difficult to do or even to say nothing at all.

3) The function of the subject can be performed by the infinitive of any voice, aspect and perfect form, although the common aspect non-perfect active forms are naturally far more frequent.

To expect too much is a dangerous thing.

To be walking through the fields all alone seemed an almost impossible pleasure.

To have seen her was even a more painful experience.

To be recognized, to be greeted by some local personage afforded her a joy which was very great.

To have been interrogated in such a way was a real shock to him.

4)The predicate of the subject expressed by an infinitive always takes the form of the 3rd person singular. It is usually a compound nominal predicate with the link verb to be, although other link verbs may also occur, as well as a verbal predicate.

To acquire knowledge and to acquire it unceasingly is the first duty of the artist.

To understand is to forgive.

To talk to him bored me.

The infinitive as predicative

1) In the function of a predicative the “to”-infinitive is used in compound nominal predicates after the link verb to be: His dearest wish was to have a son.

2) With homogeneous predicatives the use of the particle to varies. If the infinitives are not linked by conjunctions, the particle is generally used with all of them:

My intention was to see her as soon as possible, to talk to her, to calm her.

3) If they are linked by the conjunctions and or or the particle tois generally used with the first infinitive only: Your duty will be toteach him French and play with him.

His plan was to ring her up at once, or even call on her.

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