Noun Infinitive

Noun Infinitive :

The Infinitive Mood is not combined with any Subject and therefore it has no number and no person. This mood names the action without naming the doer.

The student will remember that Verbs in the Indicative, Subjunctive and Imperative Moods are called Finite. Because they are limited by the Number and Person of their subject.

What we have now to consider are those parts of a Verb which are not Finite which are the Infinitive, the Participle and the Gerund.

The forms of the Infinitive Mood are four in number :

1. Two relating to Present time
2. Two relating to Past time

Active Voice

1. Simple Present : To send
2. Present Continuous : To be sending
3. Past Perfect : To have sent
4. Past Perfect Continuous : To have been sending

Passive Voice

1. Simple Present : To be sent
2. Present Continuous : (Wanting)
3. Past Perfect : To have been sent
4. Past Perfect Continuous : (Wanting)

There is no Future form of the Infinitive Mood.

Omission of TO :

The word TO is usually the sign of the Infinitive Mood. But it is sometimes omitted.

(a) The TO is left out after the following Principal Verbs.

Hear, see, need, feel, dare, make, let, bid, watch, behold and know.

1. I heard him speak (to speak) on several subjects.
2. I saw him take (to take) aim with his rifle.
3. You need not send (to send) those books to me.
4. I feel the cold air strike (to strike) against my face.
5. He dared not say (to say) this to my face.
6. He made me come (to come) and sit (to sit) beside him.
7. I let him go (to go) back to his own house.
8. They bade me give (to give) them all my money.
9. We watched him go (to go) and return (to return).
10. We beheld the sun rise (to rise).
11. I have known him laugh (to laugh) for nothing.

The TO is not always omitted after DARE when this Verb is Affirmative.

1. He dares (has the courage) to go.
2. He dares to disobey me.

(b) The TO is left out after Auxiliary and Defective Verbs.

1. He shall go. = He is ordered to go.
2. I should go. = I ought to go.
3. I can or could go. = I am or was able to go.
4. I must go. = I am compelled to go.
5. I may go. = I am permitted to go.
6. I may go. = There is a possibility of my going.
7. I might go. = I was permitted to go.
8. I might go. = There is a possibility of my going.
9. I will go. = I am willing to go.
10. I would go. = I was willing to go.
11. I do go. = I go.
12. I did go. = I went.

(c) The TO is also left out after the Verb HAD in such phrases as….

1. had better…. You had better not remain here.
2. had rather…. I had rather take this than that.
3. had sooner…. I had sooner run than walk.
4. had as….I had as soon run as walk.

HAD is here used in a Subjunctive sense = would have.

1. I had better not remain here.

This means I would have (it) better not to remain here. That is….It would be better for me not to remain here.

(d) The TO is left out after the Conjunction than.

1. He is better able to walk than run = (than he is able to run).

2. I would rather die than suffer such disgrace.

(e) The TO is left out after the Preposition but provided it is preceded by the Verb do.

1. He did nothing but laugh (=to laugh).
2. He did all things but eat.

The Two Kinds of Infinitive

There are two kinds of Infinitives, the forms of which are identical, though their uses are so different as to represent different parts of speech.

1. The Noun Infinitive sometimes called the Simple Infinitive

2. The Gerundial Infinitive or Qualifying Infinitive

The Noun or Simple Infinitive may be used as….

(a) Subject to a Verb
(b) Object to a Verb
(c) Complement to a Verb
(d) Object to certain Prepositions

(a) Subject to a Verb

1. To err (=error) is human. To forgive (=forgiveness) is divine.
2. To walk along the road is to invite danger.
3. To sleep for long hours is to invite bad health.
4. To eat junk-food is to spoil our health.

(b) Object to a Verb

1. They expect to succeed (=success).
2. A good man does not fear to die = (death).
3. They invited me to come with them.
4. The school has asked the parents to bring their children to the function.

(c) Complement to a Verb

1. Her greatest pleasure is to dance.
2. To see him is to love him.
3. He appears to be a wise man.
4. He read books to improve his knowledge.

(d) Object to the Prepositions named below

1. He was about (=near) to die (=death).
2. They desired nothing except or but to succeed (=success).
3. We expected him to score marks.
4. They are about to miss the bus.

The Gerundial or Qualifying Infinitive can be used…

(a) To qualify a Verb
(b) To qualify a Noun
(c) To qualify an Adjective
(d) To introduce a Parenthesis

(a) To qualify a Verb in the sense of purpose, cause or result…

1. He came to see (for the purpose of seeing) the sports. (Purpose)

2. He wept to see (because of seeing) that sight. (Cause)

3. He worked hard only to be (with the result of being) defeated at last. (Result)

4. They are prepared to see the event.

(b) To qualify a Noun in the sense of purpose….The Infinitive may be either attributive or predicative.

1. A house to let. (Attributive use)

2. This house is to let. (Predicative use and Complement to Verb)

3. Give him a chair to sit on. (Attributive use)

4. Your condition is to be pitied. (Predicative use)

Whenever the Verb is Intransitive (as SIT), it must always be followed preposition.

We cannot say a chair to sit.

(c) To qualify an Adjective in the sense of respect or purpose…

1. Quick to hear and slow to speak.

Quick in what respect or for what purpose? To hear

Slow in what respect or for what purpose? To speak

(d) To introduce a Parenthesis that is a phrase thrust into the middle of a sentence by way of comment on something said.

1. I am (to tell you the truth) quite tired of this work.

2. They were thunderstruck, so to speak, on hearing this news.

In (a) and (c) the Gerundial Infinitive does the work of an Adverb. In (b) it does the work of an Adjective. In (d) it is Absolute. The Absolute use need parenthetic. It may occur at the beginning or at the end of the sentence. (To tell you the truth, I am quite tired of this work.)

Example Sentences :

1. We saw the ship leave the docks at four o'clock.
2. We came to see it start.
3. We hope to see him back soon.
4. I was very happy to see you.
5. The boys dare not speak when the master tells them to be silent.
6. 1 shall be glad to see you whenever you care to come here.
7. I am to blame, not you.
8. Make the car run more noiselessly.
9. I am ashamed to say that he let the man go without paying him.
10. There are no houses to let in our street.


  1. The Noun
  2. Kinds of Nouns
  3. Kinds of Nouns in English
  4. Types of Nouns in English
  5. Correct Usage of Nouns
  6. Classification of Nouns
  7. Proper Nouns
  8. Common Nouns
  9. Abstract Nouns
  10. Collective Nouns
  11. Nouns of Multitude
  12. Material Nouns
  13. Compound Nouns
  14. Concrete Nouns
  15. Countable Nouns
  16. Uncountable Nouns
  17. Count Nouns
  18. Mass Nouns
  19. Pronouns
  20. Abstract Nouns formed from Adjectives
  21. Abstract Nouns formed from Common Nouns
  22. Abstract Nouns formed from Verbs
  23. Abstract Nouns of the same form as Verbs
  24. Absolute Phrases
  25. Noun and Gender
  26. Nouns and Gender
  27. Masculine Nouns and Feminine Nouns
  28. Masculine Nouns
  29. Feminine Nouns
  30. Ways of forming the feminine of nouns
  31. Exceptional Masculine Nouns and Feminine Nouns
  32. Exceptional Feminine Nouns
  33. Foreign Feminine Nouns
  34. Nouns in Common Gender
  35. Common Gender Nouns
  36. Neuter Pronouns
  37. Neuter Gender Nouns
  38. Gender of Personified Things
  39. Noun and Case
  40. Kinds of Cases in English
  41. Noun and Number
  42. Singular and Plural
  43. Singular Nouns and Plural Nouns
  44. Ways of forming plurals
  45. Formation of Plurals
  46. Compound Nouns and Plurals
  47. Noun Infinitive
  48. Noun to Verb
  49. The Noun
  50. Infinitives
  51. The Split Infinitive
  52. Noun Infinitive
  53. Simple Infinitive
  54. Gerundial Infinitive
  55. Qualifying Infinitive
  56. Two Kinds of Infinitive

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