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The Infinitive as Object

§ 186.The infinitive may be used as an object of a verb. It is
lexically dependent in this function. We find it after the following
verbs: to agree, to arrange, to ask (=to request), to attempt, to be-
gin, to care
(=to like), to cease, to choose (=to prefer), to claim,
to come
(=to begin), to consent, to continue, to decide, to deserve,
to determine, to expect, to fail, to fear, to forget, to go on, to
hate, to help, to hesitate, to hope, to intend, to learn, to like, to
long, to love, to manage, to mean, to need, to neglect, to offer, to
omit, to plan, to prefer, to pretend, to promise, to propose
(=to in-
tend), to refuse, to regret, to remember, to start, to swear, to
tend, to threaten, to try, to want, to wish
and some others.

e.g. They had arranged to visitthe laboratory the next day.
Margaret continued to visit Jack in hospital.
I came to knowhim well towards the end of the war.
Do you mean to sayhe actually approves of it?
He did not propose to forgivethis time.
He did not want to be leftalone.
I pretended not to be listening.
She claims to have readhis diary.

In addition to the verbs mentioned above, the infinitive as an
object is used after the modal phrases can afford and can bear in
their negative and interrogative forms,
e.g. Some say we cannot afford to doit. I say, we cannot afford

notto doit.

Can you afford to goon such an expensive trip?
I couldn't bear to damagehim.

The infinitive is also used after the set phrases to make up
one's mind, to take care, to take the trouble, to make sure,
some others.

e.g. I took care to askStrickland nothing about his own doings.
The next day he made sure to buya copy of the newspaper.
With all the verbs mentioned above the infinitive is used with
the particle to (see the examples above). The only exception is the
verb to help which may be followed by an infinitive with or with
out to.

e.g. Helen will help to make tea.

I'm sure you will help talkher out of it.

The subject of the infinitive in this function is the same as
that of the predicate verb (see the examples above).

(For comparison with the ing-form see §§ 214 and 237.)

§ 187.The infinitive may also be used as an object of an adjec-
tive. It is lexically dependent in this case. It is used after various
kinds of adjectives: adjectives proper, predicative adjectives and
adjectivized participles. The most commonly occurring of them
are: (un)able, afraid, aghast, amused, annoyed, anxious, apt,
ashamed, astonished, bound, careful, certain, content, crazy, curi-
ous, delighted, determined, difficult, disposed, distressed, due, ea-
ger, easy, entitled, fit, fortunate, free, frightened, furious, glad,
grateful, good, happy, hard, helpless, horrified, impatient, inclined,
interested, keen, liable, (un)likely, lucky, moved, obliged, pleased,
(im)possible, powerless, prepared, proud, puzzled, quick, ready, re-
lieved, reluctant, resolved, right, safe, scared, set {=
slow, sorry, sufficient, sure, surprised, thankful, touched, useless,
(un)willing, (un)wise, wonderful, worthy, wrong,

e.g. He's still very anxious to see you.
I am curious to knowthe news.
He would be crazy notto doso.
I felt reluctant to go out.
His next book is sure to be worthless.
Dinner was ready to be served.

The subject is now not likely to be raised during the talks.
I am sorry to have doneyou harm.

The infinitive is always preceded by to in this function.

Adjectives having infinitives as objects are generally used in
the function of a predicative after the link-verb to be (see the ex-
amples above). Other link-verbs are also possible, though they are


e.g.- He seemed glad to have me there.

I found them getting ready to go out.

In a vast majority of cases the subject of the infinitive is the
person or thing denoted by the subject of the sentence (see the ex-

amples above). However, when the infinitive follows the adjec-
tives difficult, easy, good, hard, wonderful, the subject of the sen-
tence becomes the object of the action expressed by the infinitive.

e.g. Their language was not difficult to understand.

She was not easy to discourage.

I was angry because he was so hard to persuade.

The apples were good to eat.

Occasionally a for-phrase is used to indicate the subject of the
e.g. He was impatient for me to meetthem.

He was eager for me to starton my new job.

Iam prepared for everyone toaccuse me of being foolish.

(For comparison with the ing-form see §§ 215, 217and 238.)

§ 188.The infinitive as object may be part of a phrase intro-
duced by the conjunction whether or one of the following conjunc-
tive pronouns or adverbs: what, who, whom, which, when, where,
and how long.

e.g. I did not at all know what tosay.
Idon't know whoelse to ask.
Neither of us knew when to begin.
He had come away, not knowing where to turnor what to do.

As most of the conjunctive words begin with wh-, this kind of
infinitive group may be called the wh-phrase.The infinitive in the
phrase is always preceded by to.

As is seen from the above examples, the wh-phrase serves as
an object of a verb. It usually occurs after the verb to know (see
the examples above). Yet it may also follow some other verbs and
set phrases, e.g. to advise, to decide, to make up one's mind, to
wonder and some others.

e.g. He could not decide whether to speak or not.

Icouldn't make up my mind whether to acceptthe offer.
stood wondering how to stopthe fight.

I'll ask my travel agent. He advises me what to buyand
where togo.

As is known, infinitives generally do not serve as prepo-
sitional objects. However, the wh-phrase is occasionally found as
a prepositional object of a verb or a set phrase.

e.g. As we talked of where to meet, Inoticed something unusual

in his tone.
Whether he had changed his mind about what to say Idid

not know.
She gave us orders about how long to staythere.

In most cases the subject of the infinitive in this function is
the same as that of the predicate verb; occasionally it is expressed
by some secondary part of the sentence (see the examples above).

Although the wh-phrase is not in frequent use, it is not re-
stricted stylistically.

Note. The wh-phrase may, in theory, have all the functions of the infinitive in
the sentence. But actually it mainly occurs as an object to the verb to know. Here,
however, are some examples of the wh-phrase in other functions:

e.g. a) as an object to an adjective: No one seemed sure how to act.

b) as a predicative: The main problem is, of course, where to go.

c) as an attribute: I don't remember that I ever received any instruction on

how to putsentences together.

§ 189.The infinitive may serve as object in a special sentence
pattern with a formal it as subject. It is lexically dependent here
as it follows quite definite verbs.

The most commonly occurring verbs after which the infinitive
is used in this function are: to amaze, to annoy, to cause, to com-
fort, to delight, to distress, to enrage, to excite, to frighten, to
hurt, to interest, to irritate, to mean, to occur, to please, to puz-
zle, to shock, to soothe, to startle, to stir, to surprise, to trouble,
to upset, to worry
and some others.

The verbs in this sentence pattern are usually followed by
some other objects (direct, indirect or prepositional) which pre-
cede the infinitive.

e-g. In those days my experience of life at first hand was small,
and it excited me to comeupon an incident.

It did not annoy him to livealways in the same shabby room.

It pleased her particularly tosee how often the other chil-
dren asked her son how they should play.

It never occurred to him to pretendthat he had no influence

on events.

Besides, there are a number of set phrases which are in com
mon use and are treated as verb equivalents. They are all differ-
ent in structure and in meaning. But since they have the function
of the predicate in the sentence they are best to be classed as verb
equivalents and treated here.

e.g. It does me good to watchher playing with the other children.
It couldn't do any harm to takeher out of town.
It will take a long time to talkover the whole of it with you.
It took several days for her tofully realizeit.
A porter's voice informed them that it was time to boardthe


One morning it was his turn to cookbreakfast.
Mr Brooke said it was up to the girl to decidewhether or not

toaccept the invitation.

The infinitive is always preceded by to in this function.
The subject of the infinitive in most cases is the person denot-
ed by the noun (or pronoun) object following the verb.

e.g. It would interest him to hearabout it.
It didn't occur to me to askhim about it.
(For comparison with the ing-form see §§ 218 and 239.)

§ 190.In a sentence pattern with it as a formal subject, the in-
finitive (with the particle to) as object is also found after a con-
siderable number of adjectives, adjectivized participles and ing-
forms. The most commonly occurring of them are: absurd, advisable.
amazing, astonishing, awful, awkward, bad, careless, characteristic,
charming, complicated, convenient, correct, cruel, curious, custom-
ary, dangerous, decent, delightful, desirable, difficult, dull, easy,
embarrassing, enough, essential, fair, fine, foolish, funny, futile
good, hard, helpful, (dis)honourable, horrid, important, insulting
interesting, intolerable, jolly, (un)just, kind, late, marvellous-
monstrous, naive, (un)natural, (un)necessary, nice, normal, odd-
pleasant, (im)possible, preposterous, proper, queer, (un)reasonable
remarkable, ridiculous, right, sad, safe, satisfying, sensible, shock

ing, silly, splendid, strange, stupid, sufficient, suitable, surprising,
sweet, terrible, typical, unbearable, useful, useless, vital, wicked,
(un)wise, wonderful, wrong,

e.g. It's a little late to admitit, Iknow.

It was surprising to hearhow strong his voice sounded.

It's stupid to fallasleep like this, it gives you a headache.

It's wrong to hurtpeople.

It was unwise to berude to David.

It's unusual to meeta shy girl nowadays.

It's important to rememberthe figures.

Note. It should be mentioned that it is worth while is normally followed by an
infinitive object whereas it is worth is modified by an ing-form object (see "Verbs",

e.g. It might be worth while to mentionthat there is a train soon after 5.

Do you think it would be worth while to open a shop somewhere else in the

The subject of the infinitive in this sentence pattern is usually
associated with every or any person or an indefinite number of
unidentified persons (see the examples above). Yet it is not un-
usual for the infinitive object in this sentence pattern to have a
subject of its own. In this case the infinitive far-phrase is used.

e.g. It was rare for him togo outto dinner.

It's very good for them tohave an older man with plenty of
experience to come to for advice.

"Of course," said Mont, "it's natural for young men to bein-
terested in politics."

It was necessary for her to earnher living as quickly as she

The peculiar feature of this sentence pattern is that the infini-
and its subject can be introduced by the preposition of.

e.g. "It's kind ofyou to come,"she said.
It was inconsiderate of her to askthat.

He thought it was wrong of him togo offforever and leave
his mother all on her own.

(For comparison with the ing-form see §§ 219 and 239.)

§ 191.The infinitive as object of an adjective is sometimes
found in a sentence pattern with it as a formal object of some
verbs. They are commonly the verbs to feel, to find, to make and to

e.g. I find it difficult to believethat anyone can be that lazy.

Yet I found it necessary to tellhim that I had been in touch

with Mont.

I had thought it impolite to smokea cigar in her presence.
He felt it natural to accepthospitality.
His anger made it impossible for us to continuethe conversation.

For the means of expressing the subject of the action denoted
by the infinitive see "Verbs", § 166. (For comparison with the ing
form see §§219 and 220.)


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