Types of non-finite verb

English has three kinds of nonfinite verbs:

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  • Infinitives
  • Gerund
  • Participle


Infinitive is a grammatical term referring to certain verb forms existing in many languages. As with many linguistic concepts, there isn’t a single definition to all languages. The word is derived from Late Latin infinitivus, a derivative of infinitus meaning “infinite”. Their most often use is verbs. It is developed from their verbal noun which in course of time became verbalized .In modern English infinitive like the participle and gerund has a double nature ,nominal and verbal. It is the non-finite form of the verb, which combines the properties of the verb with those of the noun, serving as the verbal name of the process. The English infinitive exists in two presentation forms: with the particle to (this form is called “the to-infinitive”) or without the particle to (“the bare infinitive”).

The particle to can be separated from the infinitive, forming the so-called “split infinitive”, The infinitive is capable of expressing the categorical meanings of aspect and voice.


In Modern English the infinitive is used with the particle to. In Old English it was a preposition used with the infinitive in the dative case to indicate purpose. Still there are cases of so-called bare infinitive is used.

1 After auxiliary verbs.

e.g. We shall go there at once.

2 After modal verbs except the verb ought.

e.g. If one cannot have what one loves, one must love what one has.(Wilson)

3 After a verb to let.

e.g. Let us be the best friends in the world.(Dickens)

4 After the verb to make.

e.g. What makes you think so?(Carter)

5 After the expressions, had better, would rather, would sooner, cannot but, nothing but,

e.g. You had better go to bed and leave the patient to me.(Shaw)

6 As a modifier of a noun or adjective. This may relate to the meaning of the noun or adjective (“a request to see someone”; “keen to get on”), or it may form a type of non-finite relative clause, like in “the man to save us”; “the method to use”; “nice to listen to”.

7 In elliptical questions (direct or indirect): “I don’t know where to go.” After why the bare infinitive is used: “Why reveal it?”

8 The infinitive is also the usual dictionary form or citation form of a verb. The form listed in dictionaries is the bare infinitive, although the to-infinitive is often used in referring to verbs or in defining other verbs:


The infinitive can be used in different syntactic functions.

  1. The infinitive as a subject.

e.g. To doubt, under the circumstances, is almost to insult.(Ch.Bronte)

  1. The infinitive as a predicative.

e.g. My intention is to get into parliament.(Trollope)

  1. The infinitive as an object.

e.g. Leilahad learned to dance at boarding school.(Mansfield)

4 The infinitive as part of a complex object.

e.g. I never saw you act this way before.(Dreiser)

4 The infinitive as an attribute.

e.g. I have nobody to say a kind word to me.

5 The infinitive as an adverbial modifier of purpose, result, comparison and manner.

e.g. Laws were not made to be broken, laws were made to stay within.(Heym)

e.g. His eyes were sharp enough to look after his own interest.(Heym)

e.g. She nervously moved her hand towards his lips as if to stop him…(Dickens)

6 The infinitive as parenthesis.

e.g. He was rude to say the least of it.(Dreiser)

Infinitive constructions

The infinitive may be found in the following predicative constructions:

  1. The Objective Infinitive Construction.
  2. The Subjective Infinitive Construction.
  3. The For-to-Infinitive Construction.

The Objective Infinitive Construction.

It is a construction in which the infinitive stands in predicate relation to a noun in the Common Case or a personal pronoun in the Objective Case .It is also known as Complex Object.

e.g. Mary’s parents want her to become a doctor.

  1. a) The Objective Infinitive construction is used after the verbs denoting sense such as to hear, to see, to watch, to feel, to notice. After these verbs the infinitive is used without the particle to.

e.g. We saw the students leave the lecture-room.

  1. b) The Objective-with-the-Infinitive Construction is used after verbs denoting mental activity, such as to know, to think to consider, to believe, to suppose, to imagine, to find, to feel etc.

After these verbs to be is generally used.

e.g. I know you to be the most honest, spotless creature that ever lived.(Hardy)

  1. c) After verbs of mental activity the Perfect Infinitive is used but seldom.

e.g. The doctor found his heart to have stopped two hours before.

  1. d) The Objective-with-the-Infinitive Construction is used after verbs denoting wish and intention.

To want, to wish, to desire, to mean, to intend.

e.g. I want you to come and dine with me.(Dickens)

  1. e) The Objective-with-the-Infinitive Construction is used after verbs denoting feeling and emotions.

To like, to dislike, to love, to hate etc.

e.g. I dislike you to talk like that.

  1. f) The Objective-with-the-Infinitive Construction is used after verbs denoting order and permission. To order, to allow, to suffer, to have.

e.g. She had never allowed the name of John to pass her lips.

  1. g) It is widely used with the prepositions for, on, upon.

e.g. I rely on you to come in time.

  1. The Subjective Infinitive Construction.

It is a construction in which the infinitive stands in predicate relation to a noun in the Common Case or a personal pronoun in the Nominative Case. The Subjective Infinitive construction is used with the following groups of verbs in the Passive Voice.

  1. a) verbs denoting sense perception: to see, to hear

e.g. The boat was seen to disappear in the distance.

  1. b) verbs denoting mental activity: to think, to know, to consider, to expect, to suppose.

e.g. Mrs. Daves was known to be a kind and honest woman.

  1. c) the verbs to say, to report.

e.g. He is said to live a lonely life.

  1. d) The Subjective Infinitive Construction is also used with the verbs to seem, to appear, to happen, to prove, to turn out…used in the Active Voice.

e.g. I happened to be out when she called.

  1. e) The Subjective Infinitive Construction is also found with the word groups to be sure, to be certain, to be likely.

e.g. He is certain to take part in the conference.

  1. f) It is used with the following pairs of synonyms to seem, to appear, to happen, to chance, to prove, to turn out.

e.g. They seemed to have quite forgotten him already.(Hardy)

  1. The for-to-Infinitive Construction.

The for-to-Infinitive Construction is a construction in which the infinitive is in predicate relation to a noun or pronoun preceded by the preposition for. The construction has different function in the sentence.

e.g. For me to tell him the news would be rather hard.(subject)

He asked for the papers to be typed by 5 o’clock.(object)

That was for him to find out. (Predicative)

There was really nothing for him to do but what he had done. (Attribute)(Hardy)

He stepped aside for me to pass. (Adverbial modifier of purpose)