Skip to Main Content
This is a free sample lesson. Sign up for Magoosh to get access to over 200 video lessons.

Grammar – Infinitive Phrases


Infinitives and Infinitive Phrases. First of all, the infinitive of any verb is the preposition to plus the infinitive form, the ordinary look it up in the dictionary form of the verb. Here is the example of several infinitives of several different verbs. An infinitive phrase is formed by taking an infinitive and adding the rest of a predicate to it.

So, for example, here are several infinitive phrases, some of them relatively short. This last one, which is kind of long, it's actually a quote from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. These are all examples of infinitive phrases. An infinitive or an infinitive phrase acts as a noun in a sentence.

For example, any infinitive or infinitive phrase can be the subject of a sentence. So this first sentence, a rather famous one, to err is human, to forgive, divine. It's a quote from Alexander Pope. We have a double-whammy here. We have an infinitive that's the subject in each one of the two parallel clauses. In the second sentence we have a very, very long infinitive phrase.

Everything in green, that entire part in green, is the subject of the sentence. An infinitive or infinitive phrase could even have its own subject. The subject of an infinitive follows the preposition, for. So, for example, for me to tell her about the affair would create a most awkward situation. Notice, first of all, the pronoun follows the preposition for it, the object of a preposition so it has to take objective form.

Even though it's the subject of an infinitive, it is not in subjective form, we don't use subjective form I, we use objective form me. So me is the subject of the infinitive and the entire part in green, that entire green phrase, that is the subject of the sentence over all, the entire infinitive phrase. In both sentences, the green is the subject of the sentence.

So an infinitive or infinitive phrase can be used for one of three things. It can be the subject of a sentence, we've seen examples in this video. It can be an infinitive of purpose. This will be discussed later in a video in the grammatical construction module. It can also be the direct object by idiom, of certain verbs. Not of every verb, but of very certain verbs, and this will be discussed later in the idiom videos.

Read full transcript