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The Tongue Untied


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First and foremost, an infinitive is the form of the verb, but it is not a verb.

Second, an infinitive can be a noun, an adjective or an adverb.

And finally, it is always "to" plus a verb.

[In the following examples, the infinitive is bold and the verb is underlined.]

  1. Supporters of the Internet fail to mention that it contains a lot of trash packaged to look like reliable information.
    1. The subject is SUPPORTERS. The verb is FAIL. The infinitive TO MENTION is the object of the verb. Therefore, it is a noun.
  2. Students need to learn the parts of speech.
    1. The subject is STUDENTS. The verb is NEED. The infinitive TO LEARN is the object of the verb. Therefore, it is a noun.
  3. The ants have arrived to grab the leftovers from the picnic.
    1. The subject is ANTS. The verb is HAVE ARRIVED. The infinitive TO GRAB is an adverb explaining why or where they have arrived.
  4. That attorney has the right to represent you.
    1. The subject is ATTORNEY. The verb is HAS. RIGHT is the object of the verb and the infinitive TO REPRESENT is an adjective telling us what kind of right.
  5. Lawsuits are useful to punish corporations or to represent consumers.
    1. The subject is LAWYERS. The verb is ARE. USEFUL is type of adjective known as a predicate adjective and the infinitive TO PUNISH and TO REPRESENT are adverbs modifying that adjective.
  6. Farmers are splicing genes and manipulating seeds to create more robust plants.
    1. The subject is FARMERS. The verbs are ARE SPLICING and MANIPULATING. TO CREATE tells us why they are doing this. Therefore, it is an adverb.