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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Infinitives as verbs?    

Infinitives as verbs?


Infinitives as verbs?
We feel a bit confused...can an infinitive be a verb. We al know that they are nouns but, when answering an exercise we found in a book. THe answer key said it is a verb.  the sentence reads as follows.

He wanted to finish his work.

why is to finish not a noun? There was a second sentence that says:

Susan wanted to talk to Rita.

where also to talk is not a noun, but a verb. Why, why, why..???

The grammar explanation says that all infinitives following a verb are NOUNS not verbs. is the book wrong? Can anyone help please!

16 Feb 2013      



16 Feb 2013     

United States

Actually, it is a verb, just not the verb of the sentence. It is a verb behaving as a noun, since it is the object of "wanted". He wanted something - what did he want? - He wanted to finish his work.
I hope this helps.

16 Feb 2013     

Lovely Lana

Infinitive is a verb form. In your sentence: ´He wanted to finish his work ´ to finish is an infinitive used as an object, as Bruce said.
In the book they probably mean that all infinitives used after verbs have the function of a noun.
What book is it that you´re using?

16 Feb 2013     

United Kingdom

Interesting that this sort of question should arise at all. It ´s possible that it stems from the occasional classification in some grammars of the infinitive as a ´verbal ´ noun (to err is human etc) which can be in a subject/object position like a ´real ´ noun. As Bruce and Lana have pointed out, there is no doubt that the ´infinitive ´ is the plain form of the verb. Unfortunately, confusion is introduced because the word ´noun ´ (a category), instead of ´subject ´ or ´object ´ (functions), often creeps in when constructions containing this form are being parsed. Moreover, this only ´works ´ with the to + infinitive, not the bare infinitive, which doesn ´t help; for example, ´finish ´ is an infinitive without any ´noun ´ properties in sentences such as he should finish his work - it ´s a complement of the auxiliary and couldn ´t be considered a noun by any stretch of the imagination - even by the author of Elida ´s book.

17 Feb 2013     


Lovely Lana, I´m using OXFORD GRAMMAR PRACTICE intermediate.

I had just taugh the lesson of infinitives and gerunds acting as nouns, and this is an excerse on parts of speech.  I understand what the book is doing now. Thank you very much for you invaluable input. I am aware that the infinitive is the plain form of a verb.  Our confusion was due to the fact that the exercise is asking to determine whether the word(s) underlined are nous, verbs, adjectives, etc... and I´ve realized now what it’s really asking. 

So thank you all for taking the time.

18 Feb 2013