Infinitive Phrases

In the vast world of English language, mastering certain grammatical structures is essential to express oneself clearly and effectively. One of these essential structures is the Infinitive Phrase. This article will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of infinitive phrases, their different functions, and various examples to further enhance your grammatical knowledge. As you delve deeper into the topic, it will strengthen your foundation in English language and improve your skills in both written and spoken communication. So, let's begin the journey to explore the intriguing world of infinitive phrases and unravel their countless applications in the English language.

Infinitive Phrases Infinitive Phrases

Create learning materials about Infinitive Phrases with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Contents
Table of contents

    Introduction to Infinitive Phrases

    Infinitive phrases are an essential aspect of the English language, and understanding their function can significantly enhance your language skills. Infinitive phrases are formed using the infinitive verb (to + base form of the verb) and can include other words that provide additional information. In this article, you will learn about the definition, structure, and examples of infinitive phrases, which will help you identify and use them correctly in your writing and communication.

    Infinitive Phrases Definition and Structure

    An infinitive phrase is a group of words consisting of an infinitive verb and additional words related to the action or state that the verb expresses. Infinitive phrases typically function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs within a sentence.

    Infinitive phrases can have various structures, depending on the context and complexity of the sentence. Here are some common components you may find in an infinitive phrase:

    • Infinitive verb: The base of the phrase, which includes "to" followed by the base form of the verb (e.g., to learn, to eat, to play).
    • Direct object: A noun or pronoun that receives the action of the verb (e.g., to eat cake, to play football).
    • Adjectives or adverbs: These words modify the verb or the direct object, providing additional information about the action (e.g., to eat chocolate cake, to play footballwell).
    • Prepositional phrases: These phrases provide context or further detail about the action (e.g., to learn about history, to go to London).

    It is essential to distinguish between the basic infinitive verb and the entire infinitive phrase because the latter can perform different functions within a sentence.

    The infinitive verb alone can serve as a verb in a sentence, whereas the infinitive phrase as a whole can function as a noun, adjective, or adverb. Understanding this distinction is crucial for constructing accurate and coherent English sentences.

    Infinitive Phrases Examples

    Now that you have learned about the definition and structure of infinitive phrases let's look at some examples to help you get a better understanding of their usage in sentences.

    Infinitive Phrase as a Noun:

        To swim in the ocean is her greatest desire.
        (The infinitive phrase "to swim in the ocean" serves as the subject of the sentence.)
        

    Infinitive Phrase as an Adjective:

        She needs a place to study in peace.
        (The infinitive phrase "to study in peace" modifies the noun "place.")
        

    Infinitive Phrase as an Adverb:

        They went to the park to enjoy the fresh air.
        (The infinitive phrase "to enjoy the fresh air" modifies the verb "went.")
        

    By correctly identifying and using infinitive phrases in your sentences, you can improve the clarity and precision of your English communication. As you practice identifying and incorporating these phrases, you will become more comfortable with their usage and structures, leading to enhanced language skills.

    Infinitive Phrases in Different Functions

    Infinitive phrases, as previously mentioned, can serve various functions within a sentence. They can act as adjectives, subjects, or adverbs, providing essential information and clarifying the purpose of other words in the sentence. In this section, you will explore these three functions in more detail, including examples to better understand their usage and application

    Infinitive Phrases As Adjectives

    When an infinitive phrase functions as an adjective, it modifies a noun or pronoun by providing more information about it. This function helps create a clearer and more accurate description of the noun or pronoun. Characteristics of infinitive phrases as adjectives include:

    • They are placed directly after the noun or pronoun they modify
    • They often involve a relationship between two entities; the noun they modify and the action expressed by the verb

    To recognise when an infinitive phrase is functioning as an adjective, ask yourself whether the phrase is providing more information about a specific noun or pronoun in the sentence. If so, then it is acting as an adjective.

    Examples of Infinitive Phrases As Adjectives

    Here are several examples illustrating the use of infinitive phrases as adjectives in sentences. Note how each phrase provides additional information about the nouns or pronouns they modify.

    Example 1:

        She bought a book to improve her vocabulary.
        (The infinitive phrase "to improve her vocabulary" modifies the noun "book.")
        

    Example 2:

        He needs a partner to practice dancing.
        (The infinitive phrase "to practice dancing" modifies the noun "partner.")
        

    Example 3:

        They found a place to relax after work.
        (The infinitive phrase "to relax after work" modifies the noun "place.")
        

    Infinitive Phrases As Subjects

    Infinitive phrases can also function as subjects in a sentence. When used in this way, they describe the action or state that the sentence focuses on or discusses. They often appear at the beginning of the sentence and are followed by a verb. Some characteristics of infinitive phrases as subjects include:

    • They usually appear before the verb in the sentence
    • They can often be replaced by gerund phrases, which also function as subjects

    To identify infinitive phrases as subjects, ask yourself whether the phrase is describing the primary action or state being discussed in the sentence. If so, then it is functioning as a subject.

    Examples of Infinitive Phrases As Subjects

    Here are some examples demonstrating the usage of infinitive phrases as subjects in sentences. Observe how each phrase serves as the primary focus of the sentence, describing the action or state being discussed.

    Example 1:

        To see the northern lights is fascinating.
        (The infinitive phrase "to see the northern lights" is the subject of the sentence, describing the fascinating experience.)
        

    Example 2:

        To travel around the world is a lifetime goal for many people.
        (The infinitive phrase "to travel around the world" is the subject of the sentence, describing a common goal.)
        

    Example 3:

        To understand advanced mathematics requires persistence and patience.
        (The infinitive phrase "to understand advanced mathematics" is the subject of the sentence, describing a challenging process.)
        

    Infinitive Phrases As Adverbs

    Lastly, infinitive phrases can function as adverbs. When used in this manner, they modify verbs, adjectives, or entire clauses by providing more information about the action or state being described. Common characteristics of infinitive phrases as adverbs include:

    • They usually provide a reason or purpose for the action expressed by the verb
    • They are often introduced by words like "to", "in order to", or "so as to"

    To detect whether an infinitive phrase is functioning as an adverb, consider if it provides more information about the verb, adjective, or clause it modifies. If so, then it is acting as an adverb.

    Examples of Infinitive Phrases As Adverbs

    Here are some examples highlighting the use of infinitive phrases as adverbs in sentences. Notice how each phrase modifies the verb, adjective, or clause by providing more information about the action or state being described.

    Example 1:

        They moved to the countryside to live a healthier lifestyle.
        (The infinitive phrase "to live a healthier lifestyle" modifies the verb "moved," providing the reason for the action.)
        

    Example 2:

        Sarah is studying hard to pass the final exam.
        (The infinitive phrase "to pass the final exam" modifies the verb "is studying," providing the purpose for Sarah's studying efforts.)
        

    Example 3:

        He wore the costume to impress the judges.
        (The infinitive phrase "to impress the judges" modifies the verb "wore," explaining the intention behind wearing the costume.)
        

    By understanding and integrating infinitive phrases in various functions, you will be able to create more precise and impactful sentences in your English communication. Practise identifying and using infinitive phrases as adjectives, subjects, and adverbs to enhance your language skills.

    Understanding the Functions of Infinitive Phrases

    By now, you have a basic understanding of infinitive phrases and how they can be used as adjectives, subjects, and adverbs within sentences. In this section, you will delve deeper into the common functions of these phrases and look at examples to see how they work in various contexts. Developing this understanding of infinitive phrases will allow you to write and communicate in English more effectively and accurately.

    Common Functions of Infinitive Phrases

    Infinitive phrases can perform a range of functions in English sentences. As previously discussed, they can act as adjectives, subjects, or adverbs. However, there are many specific ways in which these functions can be applied in various contexts, such as expressing purpose, results, or even hypothetical situations. In this section, you will explore some of the more common and versatile applications of infinitive phrases in sentences.

    Generally, infinitive phrases can be used to convey the following functions:

    • Purpose: Infinitive phrases can indicate the reason or intention behind an action, providing a clearer explanation for why something is happening.
    • Result: Infinitive phrases can express the consequence of an action in a sentence, showing what has occurred as a direct outcome of the action described.
    • Hypothetical situations: Infinitive phrases can be used to discuss hypothetical or imagined situations, allowing for flexibility and creativity in constructing sentences.

    Recognising how infinitive phrases can serve these different functions, and understanding the underlying principles behind each function, ensures that you can correctly employ these versatile language elements in your writing and speech.

    Infinitive Phrases Examples in Various Functions

    In this section, you will examine examples of infinitive phrases as they apply to different functions in sentences, as well as explanations for how each example demonstrates the specific function involved. This exploration will help build a solid foundation in language skills and allow you to use infinitive phrases more effectively in your own communication

    Purpose:

        Bill went to university to study engineering.
        (The infinitive phrase "to study engineering" explains the purpose of Bill going to university.)
        

    Result:

        The heavy rain caused the roads to flood.
        (The infinitive phrase "to flood" demonstrates the outcome or result of the heavy rain.)
        

    Hypothetical situations:

        If they were to win the lottery, they would travel the world.
        (The infinitive phrase "to win the lottery" discusses a hypothetical or imagined situation.)
        

    By examining these examples, you can gain a better understanding of how infinitive phrases can function in different contexts within sentences. This knowledge will enable you to create more precise and meaningful sentences as you continue to develop your English language skills.

    Infinitive Phrases - Key takeaways

    • Infinitive Phrases Definition: A group of words consisting of an infinitive verb and additional words related to the action or state the verb expresses, typically functioning as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs within a sentence.

    • Infinitive Phrases Examples: "To swim in the ocean" (as a noun), "to study in peace" (as an adjective), "to enjoy the fresh air" (as an adverb).

    • Infinitive Phrases As Adjectives: Modify a noun or pronoun, placed directly after the noun or pronoun they modify, and often involve a relationship between two entities.

    • Infinitive Phrases As Subjects: Describe the action or state being discussed, typically appear before the verb in the sentence, and can often be replaced by gerund phrases.

    • Infinitive Phrases As Adverbs: Modify verbs, adjectives, or entire clauses, usually provide a reason or purpose for the action expressed, and are often introduced by words like "to", "in order to", or "so as to".

    Frequently Asked Questions about Infinitive Phrases
    What is the purpose of infinitive phrases?
    The purpose of infinitive phrases is to express action or state in its basic form, often functioning as a noun, adjective, or adverb. They typically include the word 'to' followed by a verb, and provide additional information, clarify relationships between ideas, or indicate purpose or intention.
    What is the meaning of an infinitive phrase?
    An infinitive phrase is a group of words that includes an infinitive verb (to + base form of the verb) and its related words, such as objects or modifiers. It functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb within a sentence, providing additional information or describing an action.
    How does an infinitive phrase end?
    An infinitive phrase ends when the function it serves within a sentence is complete. This usually occurs after the infinitive verb and any accompanying objects, modifiers or other words directly linked to the verb's action are expressed, thus conveying the intended meaning.
    How do you identify an infinitive phrase?
    To identify an infinitive phrase, look for a verb in its base form preceded by the word "to," such as "to run" or "to eat." Infinitive phrases can also include additional modifiers, objects, or complements related to the verb, like "to buy a new book" or "to help her with homework."
    What is an example of an infinitive phrase?
    An example of an infinitive phrase is 'to eat breakfast'. In this phrase, 'to eat' is the infinitive verb, and 'breakfast' is the object, together forming an infinitive phrase expressing a purpose or intention.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is an infinitive phrase?

    What does an infinitive verb consist of?

    What roles can an infinitive phrase perform within a sentence?

    Next
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Infinitive Phrases Teachers

    • 11 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App