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The infinitive as predicative
§ 104. 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.
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.
If they are linked by the conjunctions and or or the particle to is generally used with the first infinitive only:
Your duty will be to teach him French and play with him.
His plan was to ring her up at once, or even call on her.
The use of the infinitive as a predicative has some peculiarities.
1) In sentences with an infinitive subject the predicative infinitive denotes an action that follows, or results from, the action of the subject infinitive.
To see her was to admire her.
To come there at this hour was to risk one’s life.
Sentences in which both the infinitives are used without any modifiers are usually of aphoristic meaning:
To hear is to obey.
To see is to believe.
To define is to limit.
The predicative function is generally performed by the common non-perfect active forms of the infinitive. Still passive forms sometimes occur:
To be born in poverty was to be doomed to humiliation.
2) The set of nouns that can function as the subject of a compound nominal predicate with an infinitive predicative is very limited. It includes about 50 nouns describing situations:
A predicative infinitive phrase may be introduced by the conjunctive, adverbs and pronouns how, when, where, what, whom, the choice depending on the lexical meaning of the noun:
Now the question was what to tell him.
The problem was how to begin.
3) The function of the subject may be also performed by the pronoun all or the substantivized superlatives the most and the least with an attributive clause attached to them:
All he wanted was to be left alone.
The least I can expect is to have this day all to myself.
In such cases the predicative infinitive can lose its marker to:
All I can do is get you out of here.
4) Occasionally the function of the subject can be performed by a gerund or a what-clause:
Living with hemophilia was to live off balance all the time.
“What we want to do, “ said Brady, “is to fight a world.”
The infinitive as simple nominal predicate
§ 105. The infinitive as simple nominal predicate may be used in exclamatory sentences expressing the speaker’s rejection of the idea that the person to whom the action of the infinitive is ascribed is likely to perform this action, or belong to such sort of people*, as in:
* For details see Syntax § 41.
You - of all men - to say such a thing!
Me - to be your lover!
As a rule the infinitive in exclamatory sentences is used with the particle to, although it occasionally occurs without it:
Me - marry him! Never!
The infinitive may be also used as predicate in interrogative infinitive why-sentences, both affirmative and negative, where it expresses a suggestion:
Why let him sleep so long?
Why not go away?
In such sentences the infinitive is always used without the particle to.
The infinitive as part of a compound verbal predicate
§ 106. The infinitive is used in compound verbal predicates of three types.
I. In a compound verbal modal predicate after the modal verbs can, may, might, ought, must, shall, should, will, would, need, dare, to be, to have, and expressions with modal meaning had better, would rather.
I can tell you nothing at all about him.
She ought to have told me before.
II. In a compound verbal phasal predicate after verbs denoting various stages of the action, such as its beginning, continuation, or end. These verbs (to begin, to come, to start, to continue, to go on, to cease, etc.) followed by a “to”-infinitive form a compound verbal phasal predicate.
Now I begin to understand you.
Then she came to realize what it all meant.
They continued to whisper.
The verbs to begin, to continue and to start can also be followed by a gerund, although with a certain difference in meaning. Thus the verb to stop followed by a gerund means to put an end to an action, to interrupt, whereas followed by an infinitive means to pause in order to do something. So the infinitive after the verb to stop is used in the function of an adverbial modifier of purpose.
III. The compound verbal predicate of double orientation * has no analogy in Russian. The three subtypes of this predicate can be distinguished according to the expression of the first part:
* For details see Syntax § 53.
1. The first part is expressed by one of the following intransitive verbs in the active voice: to seem - казаться; to appear - оказаться, казаться; to prove, to turn out - оказаться; to happen, to chance - случаться. After the verbs to prove and to turn out the infinitive is mostly nominal, that is presented by to be + noun or adjective. After the verbs to seem, to appear, to happen all types and forms of the infinitive are possible.
Simple sentences with this type of predicate are synonymous with complex sentences of a certain pattern:
Sentences with compound verbal predicates of double orientation are translated into Russian in different ways depending on the meaning of the first verbal element:
2. The first part of the predicate is expressed by the passive voice forms of certain transitive verbs. They are:
a) verbs of saying: to announce, to declare, to report, to say, to state, etc.
b) verbs of mental activity: to believe, to consider, to expect, to find, to known, to mean, to presume,
to regard, to suppose, to think, to understand, etc.
c) verbs of sense perception: to feel, to hear, to see, to watch.
d) the verb to make.
3. The first part is expressed by the phrases: to be likely, to be unlikely, to be sure, to be certain. In this case only the non-perfect forms of the infinitive are used, with future reference.
She is likely to be late.
He is sure to become your friend.
They are sure to be wanted as evidence.
In all these three subtypes the “to” - infinitive is always used.
The infinitive as object
§ 107. The infinitive can have the function of object after verbs, adjectives, adjectivized participles and statives.
After verbs the infinitive may be either the only object of a verb or one of two objects.
1. Verbs that take only one object are: to agree, to arrange, to attempt, to care (to like), to choose, to claim, to consent, to decide, to deserve, to determine, to expect, to fail, to fear, to forget, to hesitate, to hope, to intend, to learn, to like, to long, to love, to manage, to mean, to neglect, to omit, to plan, to prefer, to pretend, to refuse, to regret, to remember, to swear, to tend, etc.
She agreed to come at ten.
He planned to spend the day in town.
You’ll soon learn to read, sonny.
Among these verbs two groups can be distinguished:
a) the verbs to claim, to fail, to forget, to hate, to like, to omit, to regret, to remember, to swear, with which the perfect infinitive denotes actions prior to those of the finite verbs. It can be accounted for by the fact that semantically these verbs denote an action or state following or resulting from that of the infinitive (you can regret only what was or has been done).
I regret to have said it to her.
I remembered to have met him once.
She claims to have seen him before.
b) The verbs to attempt, to expect, to hope, to intend, to mean, to plan, to try, when followed by the perfect infinitive imply that the action of the infinitive was not fulfilled.
I hoped to have found him at home.
He intended to have reached the coast long before.
In this case the finite verb can be used only in the past tense.
Besides the above-mentioned verbs there are also some rather common phrases used with the infinitive-object. They are the phrases can afford, can bear in the negative or interrogative and such phrases as to make sure, to make up one’s mind, to take care, to take the trouble.
Can you afford to buy it yourself?
I can’t bear to hear of it again.
At last he made up his mind to answer Sibyl’s letter.
2. Verbs that take two objects, the first of which is a noun or a pronoun and the second an infinitive. These are the verbs of inducement; they all have the general meaning to persuade, to cause to do something.
Tell him to hurry.
He asked her to keep an eye on the clock.
What would you recommend me to do?
With all these verbs, except to have, to let and to make, a “to”- infinitive is used. After the verbs to have, to let and to make it loses the particle “to”.
She’ll have you do it at once.
Don’t let it bother you.
Soon she made me see where I was wrong.
The object, which is a noun in the common case or a pronoun in the objective case, denotes a person (or, very seldom, a non-person) who is to perform the required action expressed by the infinitive.
The verb to help can be used either with one or with two objects:
She helped to pack.
She helped me to make up my mind.
In either case a “to”- infinitive or a bare infinitive can be used.
And she actually helped find it.
I’ll help you do it.
With some verbs the function of object may be performed by a conjunctive infinitive phrase. These verbs are very few in number and fall into two groups:
a) Verbs that can take either an infinitive or a conjunctive infinitive phrase as their object. These are: to advise, to decide, to forget, to learn, to remember.
b) Verbs that can take only a conjunctive infinitive phrase as their object: to know, to show, to wonder.
She did not know what to say.
I know well enough where to stop.
Will you show me how to do it?
The infinitive can have the function of object after certain adjectives (adjectivized participles), mostly used as predicatives. Semantically and structurally these fall into two groups.
1. The most frequent adjectives of the first group are: anxious, apt, bound, careful, curious, determined, difficult, eager, easy, entitled, fit, free, hard, impatient, inclined, interested, keen, liable, powerless, prepared, quick, ready, reluctant, resolved, set, slow, worthy.
She’s determined to go on.
I am powerless to do anything.
He’s fully prepared to meet them any time they choose.
I was so impatient to start.
When used with these adjectives, the infinitive denotes actions either simultaneous with, or posterior to, the states expressed by the predicates, and cannot therefore be used in perfect forms.
2. The most frequent adjectives (adjectivized participles) of the second group are: amused, annoyed, astonished, delighted, distressed, frightened, furious, glad, grateful, happy, horrified, pleased, proud, puzzled, relieved, scared, sorry, surprised, thankful, touched.
He was amused to hear it.
I’m delighted to see you again, darling.
She is proud to have grown such a son.
Mother was furious to see them together again.
These adjectives and participles express certain psychological states which are the result of the action expressed by the infinitive object, so the latter therefore always denotes an action slightly preceding the state expressed by the predicate, and can have both non-perfect and perfect forms. The non-perfect forms are used to express immediate priority, that is, an action immediately preceding the state:
I’m glad to see you (I see you and that is why I am glad).
The perfect forms are used to show that there is a gap between the action and the resulting state.
I am glad to have seen you (I saw/have seen you and that is why I am glad).
3. After certain statives denoting psychological states, such as afraid, agog, ashamed:
He was ashamed to tell us this.
I’d be afraid to step inside a house that Rupert had designed all by himself.
In such cases the infinitive points out the source of the state expressed by the stative.
The infinitive as attribute
§ 108. The English infinitive functioning as an attribute is far more frequent than the Russian infinitive. This is because in Russian the infinitive attribute can combine with abstract nouns only, while in English it is used with a much wider range of words. In this function the infinitive always denotes a not yet fulfilled action, which is regarded as desirable, possible, advisable, necessary, etc. The modal meaning of the infinitive attribute is generally rendered in Russian by modal verbs or expressions, as is shown by the translations below.
The infinitive attribute can modify:
1. nouns, both abstract and concrete:
Because of his quarrel with his family he was in no position to get the news. (... не мог получить
The best thing to do would be to go back. (самое лучшее, что можно было сделать...)
Не is just the man to do it. (он как раз тот человек, который может/должен это сделать)
I suppose there was nothing to he done, but depart. (ничего нельзя было сделать, оставалось только
2. indefinite, negative and universal pronouns in -body, -thing, -
Have you anything to offer me? (Вы можете мне что-нибудь предложить? )
Не was someone to admire. (... тот, кем можно восхищаться)
Не had everything to make his life a happy one. (...что могло сделать его счастливым)
Occasionally the infinitive can have the function of an attribute to personal negative and reflexive pronouns or pronominal adverbs:
I’ve only you to look to.
Oh, but you have only yourself to praise.
Now I had nobody to see, nowhere to go.
3. substantivized ordinal numerals (especially first),
substantivized adjectives (next and last).
Jack was the first to come.
She was the last to reach the hall.
4. substantivized quantitative adjectives much, little, (no) more,
(no) less, little more, enough:
A man in your position has so much to lose.
I’ve no more to add.
5. the noun-substitute one:
I am not the one to run about and discuss my affairs with other people. (... кто может...)
§ 109. The most common form of the infinitive functioning as an attribute is the non-perfect common aspect active voice form and non-perfect common aspect passive form.
When performing the function of an attribute a “to”- infinitive is always used. If there are two or more homogeneous attributes the second (and the following) retain to if joined asyndetically, but drop it if joined by conjunctions.
There was, however, my little Jean to look after, to take care of.
Did he give you any small parcel to bring back and deliver to anyone in England?
§ 110. The infinitive as an attribute may be introduced by conjunctive pronouns or adverbs:
He had sought in vain for inspiration how to awaken love.
I had now an idea what to do.
The conjunctive infinitive phrase may be preceded by a preposition:
They had no knowledge of how to live on.
He’s got no information about when to start.
The infinitive as adverbial modifier
§ 111. The infinitive can be used as an adverbial modifier of: purpose, subsequent events, consequence, attendant circumstances, comparison, condition, exception, time, cause, or motivation. In all these functions but that of the adverbial modifier of exception, a “to”- infinitive is used.
1. The adverbial modifier of purpose. In this function the action denoted by the infinitive is always a hypothetical one following the action denoted by the predicate. As such it can be expressed only by non-perfect common aspect forms of the infinitive (both active and passive):
I think I will go to England to improve my English.
We stood in the rain and were taken out one at a time to be questioned and shot.
In this function a “to”- infinitive is used, but if there are two or more homogeneous adverbials of purpose joined by and, usually, though not necessarily, only the first of them has the particle to. Compare the following sentences:
Mary, looking pale and worried, left him to go down to the kitchen and start breakfast.
Then I went upstairs to say how-do-you-do to Emily, and into the kitchen to shake hands with Mary-Ann,
and out into the garden to see the gardener.
The position of the infinitive used as an adverbial modifier of purpose varies. It usually stands after the predicate, though the position at the beginning of the sentence is also possible:
To occupy her mind, however, she took the job given her.
In both positions the infinitive may be preceded by the conjunction in order, so as or by limiting particle (just, only):
I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life.
In order to see her better he had to turn his head.
I’m here just to see you off.
He came down only to say good-night to you.
2. The adverbial modifier of subsequent events. In this function the infinitive denotes an action that follows the one denoted by the predicate. The position of this adverbial in the sentence is fixed - it always follows the predicate. The only forms of the infinitive occurring in this function are those of the non-perfect common aspect, usually active.
He arrived at three o’clock to hear that Fleur had gone out with the car at ten. (He arrived and heard...)
I came down one morning to find Papa excited to the point of apoplexy. (I came down and found...)
He hurried to the house only to find it empty. (He hurried and found...)
In this function the infinitive may be preceded by the particles only, merely, simply, which change the meaning of the whole sentence: the action denoted by the infinitive preceded by these particles makes the action denoted by the predicate pointless or irrelevant.
She returned to London in a few days, only to learn that Bess had gone to the continent. (She returned...,
3. As an adverbial modifier of consequence the infinitive depends on a) adjectives and adverbs modified by too; b) adjectives, adverbs and nouns modified by enough; c) adjectives modified by so, and nouns modified by such. In the last two cases the infinitive is introduced by as:
a) Не was too tired to argue. (= He was so fired, that is why he couldn’t arque)
The story was too interesting to be passed over lightly.
He had gone too far to draw back.
b) He’s old enough to learn this. (= He is old enough, so he can learn this)
I thought I liked Letty well enough to marry her. (=1 liked Letty, so I wanted to marry her)
He was fool enough to enjoy the game.
He had seen enough blasted, burned out tanks to have no illusions.
c) She was so kind as to accept my proposal. (= She was so kind, therefore she accepted my proposal)
Do you think I am such a fool as to let it out of my hands?
In all these cases the infinitive denotes an action, which would become or became possible (enough, so, such) or impossible (too) due to the degree of quality or quantity expressed in the words it refers to.
The position of the infinitive is fixed, it always follows the words it modifies. The form of the infinitive is non-perfect, common aspect, usually active..
4. The infinitive used as an adverbial modifier of attendant circumstances shows what other actions take place at the same time as the action of the predicate.
He left the house never to come back.
I am sorry to have raised your expectations only to disappoint you.
The infinitive thus used always follows the predicate verb it modifies. As to its form, it is a non-perfect, common aspect, active voice form.
5. The infinitive used as an adverbial modifier of comparison refers to predicate groups including adjectives or adverbs in the comparative degree. The infinitive itself is introduced by than:
To give is more blessed than to receive.
Soon she realized, that it was much more pleasant to give than to be given.
He knew better than to rely on her.
Although the infinitive of comparison is generally used with to, it may also occur without it:
I was more inclined to see her safely married than go on watching over her.
6. The infinitive used as an adverbial modifier of condition denotes an action which pre-conditions the action expressed by the predicate.
To look at Montmorency you would imagine that he was an angel sent upon earth... (If you looked...,
you would imagine...)
To touch it one would believe that it was the best of furs. (If one touched it, one would believe...)
I’ll thank you to take your hands off me. (I’ll thank you, if you take...)
The position of this infinitive as can be seen from the examples above varies; it may either precede or follow the predicate verb it modifies. The only possible form of the infinitive is the non-perfect, common aspect, active voice form.
7. The infinitive used as an adverbial modifier of exception denotes the action which is the only possible one in the situation. The infinitive is generally used without to and is introduced by the prepositions but and except. It is found in negative and interrogative sentences:
I had nothing to do but wait.
What could I do but submit?
There is nothing to do except turn back.
8. The infinitive used as an adverbial modifier of time denotes an action which marks out the moment of time up to which or at which the action of the predicate is performed. Very often it has a secondary meaning of condition.
His father lived to be ninety. (lived till he was...)
I may not live to reach the airstrip this afternoon. (may not live till I reach...)
Go away! I shudder to see you here. (I shudder when I see..., if I see...)
The position of the infinitive is fixed, it always follows the predicate it modifies. Its form is non-perfect, common aspect, active.
9. The infinitive used as an adverbial modifier of cause or motivation refers to a compound nominal predicate with the predicative expressed by an adjective, a noun, or a prepositional phrase denoting someone's qualities (intellectual qualities, morals, etc.)
The infinitive denotes an action which serves as a cause or a motivation on which this or that charaterisation is based.
What an idiot I was not to have thought of it before! (I had not thought of it before, therefore I can justly
be called an idiot.)
She was silly to come here. (She came here, and it was silly of her.)
They’re out of their mind to have sent you here! (They have sent you here, so one can think them out of
The infinitive in this function follows the predicate. All the forms of the infinitive are possible.
The infinitive as parenthesis
§ 112. The infinitive used as parenthesis is usually part of a collocation, as in: to begin with, to be (quite) frank, to be sure, to make matters worse, to put it mildly, to say the least, to tell the truth, needless to say, strange to say, so to speak, to make a long story short, to crown all, to be more precise, to say nothing of..., etc.
To begin with, you have been lying to me all the time.
To be quite frank, I don’t like him at all.
He was, strange to say, just an ordinary little chap.
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