Verb Function 2 - Infinitive Phrase - "To" Phrase

Remember the definition of the infinitive form of a verb: the word you would ordinarily look up in the dictionary. Its bare form is just the word by itself: write. Its periphrastic form consists of the infinitive preceded by the preposition to: to write.

The bare infinitive appears in conjugations with the modal auxiliaries: I should write, I must write, I will write. The “to” form is needed for the modal ought: I ought to write.

But we’re not so interested in the use of infinitives to form certain conjugations. Instead, we want to see how they work on their own, as one of the three verbal phrases: infinitive, present participial, and past participial. The infinitive phrase gives us the ability to take a verb-like idea and use it as:

1. a noun
2. an adjective
3. an adverb

To increase the power of your prose, you must use infinitive phrases.

The Word to Introduces Infinitive Phrases

Just look at the four infinitive phrases in the preceding paragraph and the functions they perform:

Phrase Function
use of infinitives to form certain conjugations adjective modifying use
we want to see how they work noun, the direct object of want
the ability to take a verb-like idea adjective modifying ability
To increase the power of your prose, you
must use infinitive phrases.
adverb modifying must use


Notice in the four phrases above that the verbs are transitive. Thus, the phrases themselves have objects. (Remember the noun function—verbal object.)

Infinitive Phrases and Their Objects

to form certain conjugations

to see how they work (here the clause how they work acts as a noun)

to take a verb-like idea

to increase the power of your prose

Hard Copy

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Next: Infinitives Showing Tense and Voice

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