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What are Infinitive Phrases with Examples

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Before you understand an infinitive phrase and how we do you form and use infinitive phrases. First, you need to know what an infinitive is?

What is an Infinitive?

An infinitive is the first form of a verb (also called the base form) usually preceded by ‘to’ is called an infinitive. The infinitives are used as a noun or a modifier (adjective or Adverb) in a sentence. The following are examples of infinitives.

to walk, to go, to sleep, to be.

Give the baby a pacifier to chew.
I think the man wants something to eat.

Remember not to confuse an infinitive to + verb with a prepositional phrase that starts with to but is followed by a noun or pronoun (i.e., to + noun or pronoun) and may have some modifiers as well.

What are Infinitive Phrases?

A group of two or more words that contain an infinitive and its complements or modifiers that do the work of a single infinitive is called an infinitive phrase—the infinitive phrase work as a noun or an adjective or Adverb in a sentence.

The complements followed by the infinitive in an infinitive phrase are most commonly direct objects. 
The formula for an infinitive phrase when followed by complements 

Infinitive + Complements = Infinitive Phrase 

The formula for an infinitive phrase when followed by modifiers (Adverb or adjective)

Infinitive + Modifier = Infinitive Phrase 

Infinitive Phrases Examples

  • I want to travel with them.
  • To wash her hand repeatedly is her compulsion.
  • He hasn’t decided to sell me the new camera.
  • They continued to work until midnight.
  • My friend hopes to visit us next summer. 
  • His plan is to hire a mechanic when he moves to the new house.
  • My father would prefer not to tell them anything.
  • She promised faithfully to buy me a gift
  • I had just started the bike to go his home when he arrived. 

Types of Modifiers Used with Infinitive in Phrases?

Some of the essential modifiers or complements used with infinitives to make infinitive phrases are direct objects, adjectives, and adverbs. 

The infinitive phrases have the following structures.
Infinitive + Direct Object

The complement or modifier can be a direct object in an infinitive phrase. For example

He wants to buy a new watch.

(Here, in this sentence, the infinitive “to buy” is followed by the complement “a new phone,” which is the direct object. Both the words infinitive + complement make an infinitive phrase)

The woman helped to cook the meal.
(“to cook” is an infinitive followed by the complement “the meal.” Both make an infinitive phrase)

Infinitive + Adverb
The infinitive may be followed by an adverb that makes an infinitive phrase.

I’ll try hard to come tomorrow.
(The infinitive “to come” is followed by the adverb “tomorrow” that make the infinitive phrase)

Infinitive + Adjective
This library is the place to study the best books.
(In the phrase the modifier “the best books” does the work of an adjective) 

Infinitive + Direct Object + Adverb
He needs some help to write the essay quickly.
(Here, the infinitive is followed by direct object “the essay” and then the adverb “quickly”)

What is the Function of an Infinitive Phrase?

Just like a single infinitive (to + base form of a verb), infinitive phrases also act like a noun, or an adjective, or an adverb in a sentence. Such infinitive phrases can be the subject or object of the given verb.

Infinitive Phrases as Nouns 

The infinitive phrases work as a noun in a sentence can be either the subject or object of the verb in that sentence. In the following sentences, infinitive phrases are the objects of the verb.

  • I like to teach needy students.
  • He is trying to get the first seat.
  • Their effort is to spread the news.
  • The children want to eat a burger every day. 
  • The professor likes to get to the university early.
  • He forces the child to sleep early. 
  • They called the girl to dance in front of the guest.
(In this sentence, the infinitive phrase is the direct object that follows an indirect object, “the girl”)

In the following sentences, infinitive phrases act as nouns are subjects of the verbs.

  • To break the door requires a massive hammer.
  • To hold the first seat is my dream.
  • To see her father, Sana left for the airport.

Infinitive Phrases as Adjectives

In the following examples of sentences, all the infinitive phrases work as adjectives. 

  • The boy they wanted to arrest yesterday is my neighbor.
(The infinitive phrase “to arrest yesterday” modifies the noun boy; therefore, it does the work of an adjective.)

  • The teacher to learn English from is Niharika.
  • He needs more money to buy new clothes.
  • The best academy to learn math is Khan Academy academy. 
  • The place to visit in summer is London.
  • He may know a way to fix the issue
(The infinitive phrase “to fix the issue” modifies the noun way.)

Infinitive Phrases as Adverbs

In the following examples, infinitive phrases do the work of an adverb. They may modify adjectives, verbs, or other adverbs in these sentences.

  • My brother is ill to go to the park tonight. 
(The infinitive phrase does the work of an adverb, i.e., modifies the adjective ill.)
  • He leaves for the office early today to attend the annual meeting.
(Here, the infinitive phrase is “to attend the annual meeting” that modifying the verb “leaves”)
  • To enter the stadium, you need to have a ticket.
(The phrase answers the question ‘why.’ It does the work of an adverb)
  • I am trying hard to make my neighbors happy
(The infinitive phrase describes the Adverb hard)
  • I will be happy to meet him here.
  • We went to the school to see our best teacher.
  • The police entered the house to arrest the man.

How to Make Infinitive Phrases Using Bare Infinitive?

A bare infinitive is a verb’s base form that acts as an infinitive but isn’t preceded by “to.” The bare infinitive may follow other verbs in a sentence. 

The following are some examples of infinitive phrases made using the bare infinitive.

  • You must go to school regularly.
  • I should leave this place immediately.
  • He might like the gift.
  • I saw the girl wash his mother’s clothes in the evening.
In this sentence, the verb follows the infinitive is ‘saw,’ and the direct object is ‘the girl.’

In the infinitive phrase, the bare infinitive is ‘wash,’ and ‘his mother’ is the direct object of the bare infinitive.

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