The functions of the infinitive

Functions Indicators Patterns
Subject a) in the initial position: b) with the anticipatory “it” eg. It’s easy to ..., it was important to ..., it’s wise of him to… To study is never late.. It is never late to study.
Part of a compound nominal predicate (predicative) “be” in the required tense form His desire was to have a dog.
Part of acompound verbal predicate modal a) after modal verbs b) modal expressions *c) verbs denoting modality: expect, desire, hate, hope, like, intend, want, try, wish, etc. I can speak English well. When I was a boy I was not able to speak English well. *c) I expect to arrive in Bern at 4 o'clock.
aspect after verbs expressing the beginning, duration or end of an action: begin, cease, continue, go on, finish, start, etc. Bob began to work. She continued to talk about the problem.
Object He claims to be an expert on the subject.
Part of a complex object after verbs of: a) sense perception: see, hear, feel, notice, watch, etc. b) wish and intention: desire, intend, mean, want, wish, etc. c) mental activity: believe, consider, know, think, etc. d) feeling, emotion: dislike, hale, like… e) declaring: announce, declare, pronounce, report, etc. f) order, compulsion and permission: allow, get, have, let, make, order, permit… I heard him lock the door. I want you to come alongwith us. He believes it to have been a mistake. She hales him to be bothered. They reported the enemy to be seven miles away.Let her do what she wants to do. What made you believe it?
Attribute after: a) abstract and class nouns b) indefinite pronouns: somebody, something, someone c) ordinal numerals: first, third… d) substantivized adjectives: last, next substantivized quantitative adjectives: much, little, (no)more,(no)less, little more e) the noun-substitude one There's no matter to discuss. There is somebody to look after.   He was the first to come. She was the last to do it. I’ve got no more to add. A man in your position has so much to lose. I’m not the one to believe.
Adverbial modifier of purpose sometimes introduced by the conjunction in order to, so as He said it (in order) to save your life.
consequence (result) after adjectives modified by “enough” and “too” Bill is wise enough to confess his fault.
Comparison(manner) Conjunctions; as if, as though, than He opened his mouth as if to speak. He liked more to listen to the troubles of others than discuss her own.
parenthesis to be honest, to begin with, to cut the long story short, to get to the point, not to make too much of it, to put it another way, to tell you the truth, to say the least, to put it mildly, to say nothing of, to be frank, etc.

* c) I expect to arrive in Bern at 4 o'clock.Some scholars consider it to be an object.


1. The infinitive as subjectmay either precede the predicate or follow it. In the latter case it is introduced by so-called introductory (anticipatory) “it”,which is placed at the beginning of the sentence.

To do this work is impossible.

It’s impossible to do this work.

N.B! The second case

a) is more common,

b) can be both interrogative and declarative. (Is it possible to do this work?/It is possible to do this work.)

2.If there are 2 or more homogeneous infinitive subjects in the sentence, all of them take “to”

To be alone, to be free would be happiness to him.

It was cruel to do or even to say it.

3.The function of the subject can be performed by the infinitive of any voice, aspect or perfect form.


It’s difficult to explain his behavior.

“to explain”is a subject expressed by the indefinite infinitive active with the particle “to”. The subject is introduced by the anticipatory “it”.

To explain his behaviour is difficult.

“to explain”is a subject expressed by the indefinite infinitive active with the particle “to”.

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