THE INFINITIVE

THE INFINITIVE

The forms of infinitives:

  1. Examples of infinitive forms:
Present infinitive To work, to do
Present continuous infinitive To be working, to be doing
Perfect infinitive To have worked, to have done
Perfect continuous infinitive To have been working, to have been doing
Present infinitive passive To be done
Perfect infinitive passive To have been done

 

  1. The full infinitive consist of two words, to + verb, as shown above. But after certain verbs and expressions we use the form without to. i.e. the ‘bare infinitive’.

You had better say nothing.

 

  1. It is not normally advisable to put any words between the to and the verb, split infinitives.

 

  1. To avoid repetition, and infinitive is sometimes represented by its to:

Do you smoke?—No, but I used to (smoke).

Uses of infinitive :

  1. The infinitive may be used alone, we began to walk, or as part of an infinitive phrase, We began to walk down the road.
  2. The infinitive may be the subject of a sentence.
  3. The infinitive may be the complement of a verb:

His plan is to keep the affair secret.

  1. The infinitive may be the object or part of the object of a verb. It can follow the verb directly: He wants to pay, or follow verb + how, what etc. Or follow verb + object: He wants me to pay.
  2. be + infinitive can express commands or instructions.
  3. The infinitive can express purpose.
  4. The infinitive can be used after certain adjectives:

Angru, glad, happy, sorry

Fortunate, likely, lucky.

  1. The infinitive can connect two clauses.
  2. The infinitive can sometimes replace relative clauses.
  3. The infinitive can be used after certain nouns.
  4. The infinitive can be used with too/enough and certain adjectives/adverbs.
  5. An infinitive phrase such as to tell the truth, to cut a long story short can be placed at the beginning or end of a sentence.

The infinitive as subject.

  1. An infinitive or an infinitive phrase can be the subject of the verbs appear, be, seem. The infinitive can be placed first:

To compromise appears advisable.

To lean out of the window is dangerous.

To save money now seems impossible.

  1. But it is more usual to place the pronoun it first, and move the infinitive or infinitive phrase to the end of the sentence:

It appears advisable to compromise.

It is dangerous to lean out of the window.

It seemd impossible to save money.

It here is known as the introductory it. Note its use with interrogatives :

Would it be safe to camp here?

Wouldn’t it be better to go on?

The it construction is necessary here. Would + to camp and wouldn’t + to go on wouldnot be possible.

  1. Usually infinitive constructions of this type consist of it + be + adjective + infinitive.

But sometimes a noun can be used instead of an adjective:

It would be a crime/a mistake/a pity to cut down any more trees.

It is an offence to drop litter in the street.

  1. Cost/take + object can also be used:

It would cost millions/take years to rebuild the castle.

  1. The gerund can be used instead of the infinitive when the action is being considered in a general sense, but it is always safe to use an infinitive. When we wish to refer to one particular action we must use the infinitive:

He said, ‘Do come’. It was impossible to refuse.

But It is not always easy to refuse invitations can be replaced by Refusing invitations is not always easy. Here the action is considered in a general sense, and either gerund or infinitive is possible.

  1. An it + infinitive construction may be preceded by believe / consider / discover / expect / find / think (that) and wonder (if):

He thought (that) it would be safer to go by train.

After find used in this way we can omit that + the verb be, i.e. we can say :

He found (that) it was easy to earn extra money or

He found it easy to earn extra money.

He will find (that) it is hard to make friends or

He will find it hard to make friends.

This is sometimes also possible with think:

He thought it safer to go.

After other verbs, however, the student is advised not to omit the be, (For similar gerund constructions).

  1. The perfect infinitive can also be used as the subject of a sentence:

To have made the same mistake twice was unforgivable.

Similarly with it first:

It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

The infinitive as object or complement of the verb

 

  1. The most useful verbs which can be followed directly by the infinitive are:
Agree Be determined Pretend
Aim Endeavour Proceed
Appear Fail Promise
Arrange Forget Prove
Ask Guarantee Refuse
attempt Happen Remember
Bother (negative) Hesitate Resolve
Care (negative) Hope Seem
Choose Learn Swear
Claim Long Tend
Condescend Manage Threaten
Consent Neglect Trouble (negative)
Decide Offer Try (= attempt)
Decline Plan Undertake
Demand Prepare Volunteer
Determine Be prepared vow

 

Auxiliary Verbs

be Dare Have Must Ought Will
Can Do May Need Shall used

(For verbs taking object + infinitive, for verbs taking infinitive or gerund).

 

  1. The following phrases can also be followed by an infinitive:
Be about It + occur + to + object
Be able + afford (negative or interrogative)
Do one’s best/ Set out
Do what one can Take the trouble
Make an/every effort Turn out (= prove to be)
Make up one’s mind (= decide)  

 

  1. Examples of A and B

She agreed to pay £50.

Two men failed to return from the expedition.

I managed to put the fire out.

They are preparing (= geting ready) to evacuate the area.

We are not prepared (= willing) to wait any longer.

The tenants refused to leave.   Prices always tend to go up.

She volunteered to help with Meals on wheels.

He is just about to leave. (on the point of leaving).

We can’t afford to live in the centre.

He didn’t bother/trouble to answer personally.

Apposite of the above:

He took the trouble to answer personally.

 

  1. Starred verbs or expressions can also be used with a that-clause :

I promise to wait = I promise that I will wait.

He pretended to be angry = He pretended that he was angry.

It + occur + to + object + that is used in the affirmative, negative and interrogative. Note the difference in meaning between this form and occur + infinitive:

It occured to me that he was trying to conceal something. (The idea came to me).

It didn’t occur to me to ask him for proof of his identity. (I didn’t think of asking. So I didn’t ask).

Appear, happen, seem, turn out, when used with a that construction, require an introductory it:

It turned out that his ‘country cottage’ was an enormous bungalow.

Compare with the infinitive construction :

His ‘country cottage’ turned out to be an enormous bungalow.

  1. A verb + infinitive does not necessarily have the same meaning as the same verb used with a that-clause. With learn, forget, occur and remember the meaning will be different:

He learnt to look after himself.

He learnt (= was told) that it would cost £100.

He forgot to leave the car keys on the table. (He didn’t leave them).

He forgot that his brother wanted to use the car.

Remember could be used similarly with the opposite meaning:

Agree/decide + infinitive expresses an intention to act.

Agree that…….expresses an opinion.

Decide that……expresses a conlusion or a decision not necessarily leading to action.

  1. Verbs with two stars take an infinitive or a thatshould construction. Thatshould is particularly useful in the passive.

They decided/agreed to devide the profits equally.

They decided that the profits should be devided equally.

I arranged to meet/for Tom to meet them.

I arranged that Tom should meet them.

I arranged that they should be met.

  1. The continuous infinitive is often used after appear, happen, pretend, seem:

I happened to be looking out of the window when they arrived.

He seem to be following us.

It is also possible after agree, arrange, decide, determine, hope, manage, plan and the auxiliary verbs.

  1. The perfect infinitive is possible after appear, hope, pretend, seem and the auxiliary verbs.

 

VERB + HOW/WHAT/WHEN/WHERE/WHICH/WHY + INFINITIVE.

  1. The verbs most frequently used in this way are ask, decide, discover, find out, forget, know, learn, remember, see (= understand/perceive), show + object, think, understand, want to know, wonder:

He discovered how to open the safe.

I found out where to buy fruit cheaply.

I didn’t know when to switch the machine off.

I showed her which button to press.

She couldn’t think what to say.

(Note that this construction is not usual after think in the simple present or past, but can be used after other tenses of think, or after think as a second verb, as in the last example above).

  1. Whether + infinitive can be used similarly after wnt to know, wonder:

I wonder/wondered whether to write or phone.

And after decide, know, remember, think when these verbs follow a negative or interrogative verb:

You needn’t decide yet whether to study arts or science.

He couldn’t remember whether to turn left or right.

  1. Ask, decide, forget, learn, remember can also be followed directly by the infinitive. But the meaning is not necessarily the same.

Learn how + infinitive = ‘acquire a skill’:

She learnt how to make lace.

Though if the skill is a fairly usual one, the how is normally dropped:

She learnt to drive a car.

Learn + infinitive (without how) can have another meaning:

She learnt to trust nobody =

She found from experience that it was better to trust nobody.

Note also:

I decide to do it = I said to myself, ‘I’ll do it’.

I decide how to do it = I said to myself, ‘I’ll do it this way’.

I remembered to get a ticket. (I got a ticket).

I remembered where to get a ticket. (I remembered that the tickets ould be obtained from the Festival Office).

 

THE INFINITIVE AFTER VERB OR VERB + OBJECT.

  1. The most important verbs which can be used in either of these ways are ask, beg, expect, would hate, help, intend, like (= think wise or right), would like (= enjoy), would love, mean, prefer, want, wish:

He likes to eat well.

He likes his staff to eat well.

I want to ride. I want you to ride too.

  1. Ask and beg.

Ask + infinitive has a different meaning from ask + object + infinitive:

I asked to speak to Mrs Jones =

I said, ‘Could I speak to Mrs Jones? ‘but

I asked Bill to speak to her =

I said, ‘Bill, would you speak to her?’

With beg there is s similar difference, though beg is not often followed directly by the infinitive:

I begged (to be allowed) to go = I said, ‘Please let me go.

I begged him to go = I said, ‘Please go.

Ask and beg can be followed by thatshould.

  1. Expect + infinitive and expect + object+ infinitive can have the same meaning:

I expect to arrive tomorrow =

I think it is likely that I will arrive tomorrow,

I expect him to arrive tomorrow =

I think it is likely that he will arrive tomorrow.

But very often expect + object + infinitive conveys the idea of duty:

He expects his wife to bring him breakfast in bed at weekends. (He thinks it is her duty to do this).

Expect can also be followed by that + subject + verb. Here there is no idea of duty.

  1. For examples of care, hate, like, love and prefer used with infinitives or gerund.

Intend, mean, want can also be followed by gerunds.

 

THE INFINITIVE AFTER VERB + OBJECT.

  1. A.    The most important of these are:

 

Advise Forbid Make (b) Show how
Allow Force Oblige Teach/teach how
Bribe Hear (b) Order Tell/tell how
Command Implorer Permit Tempt
Compel Induce Persuade Train
Enable Instruct Remind Urge
Encourage Invite Request Warn
Entitle Let (b) See (b) Watch (b)
Feel (b)      

(b) here means ‘bare infinitive’.

Advise, allow and permit can also be used with gerunds. (For verbs of knowing and thinking).

 

  1. B.     Examples of verb + object + infinitive:

These glasses will enable you to see in the dark.

She encouraged me to try again.

They forbade her to leave the house or

She was forbidden to leave the house. (more usual).

Nothing would induce me to do business with them.

They persuaded us to go with them.

They are training these dogs to sniff out drugs.

 

  1. C.    Show/teach/tell + how

Show used with an infinitive requires how:

He showed me how to change a fuse.

Tell how + infinitive = ‘instruct’:

He told me how to replace a fuse. (He gave me the necessary information or instruction).

But tell + object + infinitive = ‘order’:

He told me to change the fuse. = He said, ‘Change the fuse.’

Teach how:

We can teach someone (how) to swim, dance, type, ride etc,:

He taught me how to light a fire without matches.

How is possible, but when the skill is a fairly usual one the how is normally dropped: He taught me to ride.

Teach + object + infinitive (without how) can also mean to teach or train someone to behave in a certain way:

He taught me to obey all commands without asking questions.

 

  1. D.    Remind, show, teach, tell can also be followed by that:

He reminded me that the road was dangerous.

He showed me that it was quite easy.

Note that tell + that does not have the same meaning as tell + infinitive:

He told (= ordered) me to go.

He told (= informed) me that I was late.

 

  1. E.     Request can also be followed by that + should. This construction is chiefly used in the passive:

He requested that the matter should be kept secret.

 

THE INFINITIVE AFTER VERBS OF KNOWING AND THINKING ETC.

  1. A.    Assume, believe, consider, feel, know, suppose, understand can be followed by object + to be:

I consider him to be the best candidate.

But it is much more common to use that + an ordinary tense:

I consider that he is the best candidate.

With think, estimate, and presume the object +infinitive. Construction is extremely rare, a that-clause being normally used instead:

I think that he is the best player.

It is estimated that this vase is 2,000 years old.

 

  1. B.      When, however, these verbs are used in the passive they are more often followed by an infinitive that by the that construction:

He is known to be honest = it is known that he is honest.

He is thought to be the best player = it is thought that he is to be the best player.

This vase is estimated to be 2,000 years old.

 

  1. C.    Note, however, that suppose when used in the passive often conveys an idea of duty:

You are supposed to know the laws of your own country =

It is your duty to know/You are expected to know the laws of your own country.

 

  1. D.    The continuous infinitive can also be used:

He is thought to be hiding in the wood. (People think he is hiding).

He is supposed to be washing the car. (He should be washing it).

 

  1. E.     When the thought concerns a previous action we use the perfect infinitive:

They are believed to have landed in America. (It is believed that they landed).

Suppose + perfect infinitive may or may not convey an idea of duty. They are supposed to have discovered America means ‘It is thought that they did’. But You are supposed to have read the instructions would normally mean ‘You should have read them’.

 

THE BARE INFINITIVE AFTER VERBS AND EXPRESSIONS

  1. A.    Can, do, may, must, shall, will:

They could do it today.            I may as well start at once.

He will probably object.

 

  1. B.     Need and dare, except when they are conjugated with do/did or will/would:

You needn’t say anything but you don’t/won’t need to say anything.

I dared not wake him but I didn’t/wouldn’t dare (to) wake him.

In theory the to is required in the last example but in practice it is often omitted. The theory is that if dare and used are treated as auxiliaries, they take the bare infinitive like most auxiliaries. If they are treated as ordinary verbs, with do/did etc., they take the full infinitive like ordinary verbs.

 

  1. C.    Feel, hear, see and watch:

I heard him lock the door.                   I saw/watched him drive off.

But see and hear in the passive take the full infinitive:

He was seen to enter the office.           He was heard to say that…

But feel, hear, see and watch are more often used with present participle:

I heard them shouting.

 

  1. D.    Let take the bare infinitive in both active and passive. But let in the passive is often replaced by another verb: They let me know…would be replaced in the passive by I was told…and They let him see the documents by He was allowed to see them.

The infinitive/infinitive phrase after let is sometimes dropped to avoid repetition:

She wants to go out to work but he won’t let her (go out to work).

Let is used without an object in the expression:

Live and let live.         

  1. E.     make

make in the active takes the bare infinitive:

he made me move my car.

But in the passive it takes the full infinitive:

I was made to move my car.

Sometimes the infinitive after make (active) is dropped to avoid repetition.

Why did you tell him? – He made me (tell him)!

An infinitive after make (passive) can be represented by its to:

I was made to (tell him).

 

  1. F.     Would rather/sooner, rather/sooner than:

Shall we go today? – I’d rather wait till tomorrow.

Rathet/Sooner than risk a bad crossing, he postponed his journey.

 

  1. G.    Had better:

‘You had better start at once, ‘he said.

 

  1. H.    Help may be followed by a full or bare infinitive:

He helped as (to) push it.

 

  1. I.       If two infinitives are joined by and, the to of the second infinitive is normally dropped:

I intend to sit in the garden and write letters.

I want you to stand beside me and hold the torch.

 

  1. J.      But and except take the bare infinitive when they follow do + anything / nothing / everything:

He does nothing but complain.          My dog does everything but speak.

Can’t you do anything but ask silly questions?

There’s nothing to do but wait.

 

  1. K.    The to is optional in sentences such as:

The only thing to do/we can do is (to) write to him or

All we can do is (to) write to him.

 

THE INFINITIVE REPRESENTED BY ITS TO:

An infinitive can be represented by to alone to avoid repetition. This is chiefly done after such verbs as hate, hope, intend, would like/love, make (passive), mean, plan, try, want, after the auxiliaries have, need, ought, and with used to, be able to and the be going to form:

Would you like to come with me? – Yes, I’d love to.

Did you get a ticket? – No, I tried to, but there weren’t any left.

Why did you take a taxi? – I had to (take one). I was late.

Do you ride? – Not now but I used to.

He wanted to go but he wasn’t able to.

Have you fed the dog? – No, but I’m just going to.

 

SPLIT INFINITIVES

It used to be considered bad style to split an infinitive (i.e. to put a word between the to and the verb), but there is now a more relaxed attitude to this.

Really is often placed after the to in colloquial English:

It would take ages to really master this subject.

Instead of…really to master, which sounds rather formal.

Some other degree adverbs such as completely, entirely, (un)duly can be treated similarly, i.e. we can say:

(a)    To completely cover the floor instead of

(b)   To cover the floor completely

(a)    To unduly alarm people instead of

(b)   To alarm people unduly.

But it is safer to keep to the conventional order, as in (b) above.

 

THE INFINITIVE USED AS A CONNECTIVE LINK

  1. The infinitive is used after only to express a disappointing sequel:

He hurried to the house only to find that it was empty =

He hurried to the house and was disappointed when he found that it was empty.

He survived the crash only to die in the desert =

He survived the crash but died in the desert.

  1. The infinitive can also be used as a connective link without only, and without any idea of misfortune:

He returned home to learn that his daugther had just become engaged.

But this use is mainly confined to such verbs as find, hear, learn, see, be told etc., as otherwise there might be confusion between an infinitive used connectively and an infinitive of purpose.

 

THE INFINITIVE USED TO REPLACE A RELATIVE CLAUSE.

  1. The infinitive can be used after the first, the second etc., the last, the only and sometimes after superlatives:

He loves parties; he is always the first to come and the last to leave.

(the first who comes and the last who leaves)

She was the only one to survive the crash. (the only one who survived).

Infinitive used in this way replace subject pronoun + verb. Compare with infinitive used to replace object pronoun + verb, as in B below.

 

Note that the infinitive here has an active meaning. When a passive sense is required a passive infinitive is used:

He is the second man to be killed in this way. (the second man who was killed).

The best play to be performed that year (the best play that was performed that year).

Compare this with:

The best play to perform (the best play for you to perform/the play you should perform).

  1. The infinitive can be placed after noun/pronoun to show how they can be used or what is to be done with them, or sometimes to express the subject’s wishes:
    1. I have letters to write. (that I must write).

Does he get enough to eat?

Heve you anything to say? (that you want to say).

AT THE CUSTOMS: I have nothing to declare. (that I need to declare).

A house to let (a house that the owner wants to let).

Similarly with infinitives + preposition :

Someone to talk to A case to keep my records in
Cushions to sit on A glass to drink out of
A tool to open it with A table to write on

 

  1. Use of passive infinitive :

There is plenty to do =

(a)    Plenty of things we can do, i.e. amusements, or

(b)   Plenty of work we must do.

In the there + be + noun/pronoun + infinitive construction, when there is an idea of duty, as in (b) above, a passive infinitive is possible:

There is a lot to be done.

But the active infinitive is more usual.

 

THE INFINITIVE AFTER CERTAIN NOUNS

A number of nouns can be followed directly by the infinitive. Some of the most useful are:

Ability Demand Failure Request
Ambition Desire Offer Scheme
Anxiety Determination Plan Wilingness
Attempt Eagerness Promise Wish
Decision Effort refusal  

 

His ability to get on with people is his chief asset.

He made an attempt/effort to stand up.

Failure to obey the regulations may result in disqualification.

Their offer/plan/promise to rebuild the town was not taken seriously.

She was annoyed by his unwillingness to do his share of the work.

 

THE INFINITIVE AFTER TOO, ENOUGH AND SO…AS

  1. A.    Too + adjective/adverb + infinitive
  2. Too + adjective + infinitive

(a)    The infinitive can refer to the subject of the sentence. It then has an active meaning:

You are too young to understand. (you are so young that you cannot understand).

He was too drunk to drive home. (he was so drunk that he couldn’t drive home).

(b)   The infinitive can also refer to the object of a verb. It then has a passive meaning:

The plate was so hot that we couldn’t touch it.

Could be expressed:

The plate was too hot to touch. (too hot to be touched).

Note that it, the object of touch in the first sentence, disappears in the infinitive construction, because the infinitive, though active in form, is passive in meaning.

Sometimes either an active or a passive infinitive may be used:

This parcel is too heavy to send/to be sent by post.

But this is not always possible, so students are advised to stick to the active infinitive.

For + noun/pronoun can be placed before the infinitive in this construction:

The case was too heavy (for a child) to carry =

The case was too heavy to be carried by a child.

(c)    The infinitive can refer similarly to the object of a preposition:

The grass was so wet that we couldn’t sit on it.

The grass was too wet (for us) to sit on.

The light is so weak that we cannot read by it.

The light is too weak to read by.

 

  1. Too + adjective + a + noun + infinitive

He was too shrewd a businessman to accept the first offer =

As a businessman he was too shrewd to accept the first offer.

He is too experienced a conductor to mind what the critics say =

As a conductor he is too experienced to mind what the critics say.

The infinitive here always refers to the subject of the sentence as in 1 above. A passive infinitive is also possible:

He was too experienced a conductor to be worried by what the critics said.

 

  1. Too + adverb + infinitive

It is too soon (for me) to say whether the scheme will succeed or not.

He spoke too quickly for me to understand. (for me is necessary here).

She works too slowly to be much use to me.

 

  1. Adjective/adverb + enough + infinitive
  2. Adjective + enough + infinitive \

(a)    As with the too construction, the infinitive can refer to the subject of the verb:

She is old enough to travel by herself.

He was tall enough to see over the heads of the other people.

(b)   Or it can refer to the object of a verb:

The case is light enough for me to carry =

The case is so light that I can carry it.

After a few minutes the coffee was cool enough (for us) to drink.

 

(c)    It can refer to the object of a preposition:

The ice was thick enough to walk on.

The light was strong enough to read by.

 

  1. Enough may be used as pronoun or adjective:

He doesn’t earn enough (money) to live on.

We haven’t enough time to do it properly.

She had enough sense to turn off the gas.

Have + enough + abstract noun here is sometimes replaceable by have + the + noun:

She had the sense to turn off the gas.

He had the courage to admit his mistake.

I hadn’t the patience to listen to any more.

But the is optional before time here:

We haven’t (the) time to do it properly.

 

  1. Adverb + enough + infinitive:

He didn’t jump high enough to win a prize.

He spoke slowly enough for everyone to understand.

 

  1. So + adjective + as + infinitive:

He was so foolish as to leave his car unlocked.

This is an alternative to the enough construction in B1 above, but note that He was foolish enough to leave his car unlocked can mean either that he did it or that he was capable of doing it, but He was so foolish as to leave etc. Implies that he actually did so.  

The so…as construction is not very often used as shown above, but it is quite common as a request form:

Would you be so good as to forward my letters? =

Would you be good enough to forward my letters?

There is no difference in meaning here between the two forms. It is important not to forget the as.

 

INTRODUCTORY OR FINAL INFINITIVE PHRASE

Certain infinitive phrases can be placed at the beginning or sometimes at the end of a sentence and are then similar to sentence adverbs:

To be perfectly frank, you’re a bad driver.

To be honest, I just don’t like him.

To be fair (to him), he wasn’t entirely to blame.

To cut a long story short, we said ‘No!’

To tell you the truth, I’ve never met him or

I’ve never met him, to tell you the truth.

 

THE CONTINUOUS INFINITIVE

  1. Form

To be + present participle: He seems to be following us.

  1. Use

The continuous infinitive can be used:

  1. After the auxiliary verbs:

They’ll be wondering where you are.

He may/might be watching TV. – He can’t/couldn’t be watching TV.

There are no programmes today because of the strike.

(negative deduction)

He must be coming by bus. (deduction)

You shouldn’t be reading a novel. You should be reading a textbook.

 

  1. After appear, happend, pretend, seem:

He appears/seems to be living in the area =

It appears/seems that he is living in the area.

He appeared/seemed to be living in the are =

It appeared/seemed that he was living in the area.

I happened to be standing next to him when he collapsed.

It happened that I was standing next to him when he collapsed.

He pretended to be looking for a book =

He pretended that he was looking for a book.

 

  1. After hope and promise and, but less usually, after agree, arrange, decide, determine/be determined, plan, undertake:

I hope/hoped to be earning my living in a year’s time =

I hope I will/I hoped I would be earning etc.

Determine/be determined, plan could replace hope above with slight changes of meaning:

I promised to be waiting at the door when he came out.

Agree, arrange, decide, determine/be determined, plan, undertake could be used instead of promise above with slight change of meaning.

  1. After believe, consider, suppose, think etc. In the passive:

He is believed to be living in Mexico.

 

THE PERFECT INFINITIVE

  1. A.    Form

To have + past participle: to have worked, to have spoken.

  1. B.     Use with auxiliary verbs
  2. 1.      With was/were to express an unfulfiled plan or arrangement:

The house was to have been ready today. (but it isn’t).

  1. 2.      With should, would might and could to form the perfect conditional;

If I had seen her I should have invited her.

  1. 3.      With should or ought to express unfulfiled obligation; or, in the negative. A wrong or foolish action:

He should have helped her. (but he didn’t).

I shouldn’t/oughtn’t to have lied to him. (but I did).

  1. 4.      With should/would like to express an unfulfiled wish:

He would like to have seen it. (but it was not possible) or

He would have liked to see it.

i.e. we can put either verb into the perfect infinitive without changing the meaning.

  1. 5.      With could to express past unused ability or past possibility:

I could have made a lot of money. (but I didn’t).

He could/might have phoned her. (perhaps he (has) phoned).

  1. 6.      With might/could to indicate that the speaker feels upset or indignant at the non-performance of an action:

He might/could have told me! =

I am annoyed that he didn’t tell me.

  1. 7.      With may/might in speculations about past actions:

He may/might have left =

It is possible that he (has) left.

You might/could have been killed!

  1. 8.      With can’t/couldn’t to express negative deduction:

He can’t/couldn’t have moved the piano himself.

We knew he couldn’t have paid for it, because he had no money.

  1. 9.      With must to express affirmative deduction:

He must have come this way; here are his footprints.

  1. 10.  With needn’t to express an unnecessary past action :

You needn’t have hurried. Now we are too early.

You needn’t have cooked it. We could have eaten it raw.

 

  1. C.    With certain other verbs.
  2. 1.      With appear, happen, pretend, seem.

Note the difference between present and perfect infinitives here:

Present infinitive:

He seems to be a great athlete = It seems that he is…

He seemed to be a great athlete = It seemed that he was…

Perfect infinitive:

He seems to have been…= It seems that he was…

He seemed to have been…= It seemed that he had been…

i.e. the action of the perfect infinitive is an earlier action; it happens before the time of the main verb. Other examples:

I happened to have driven that kind of car before =

It happened that I had driven that kind of car before.

He pretended to have read the book =

He pretended that he had read it.

  1. 2.      With the following verbs in the passive voice. Acknowledge, believe, consider, find, know, report, say, suppose, think, understand:

He is understood to have left the country.

  1. 3.      The perfect infinitive is possible but less usual with claim, expect, hope, promise:

He expects/hopes to have finished by June =

He expects/hopes that he will have finished by June.

 

THE PERFECT INFINITIVE CONTINUOUS

  1. Form

To have been + present participle:

He seems to have been spying for both sides.

  1. Use

It is used chiefly after auxiliary verbs and after appear and seem, but it can also be used after happen, pretend and the passive of believe, know, report, say, understand:

He says he was talking to Tom. – He couldn’t have been talking to Tom. Tom wasn’t there.

I was following Peter closely. – You shouldn’t have been following him closely; you should have left a good space between the two cars.

He appears to have been waiting a long time =

It appears that he has been waiting a long time.

He pretended to have been studying =

He pretended that he had been studying.

 

 

 

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