§ 165.The infinitive and the ing-form have the same lexical
meaning as the finite forms of the corresponding verb.
But with regard to their grammatical categories the two ver-
bals correspond to the finite forms only partly.
1) The infinitive and the ing-form lack the forms of person
and number characteristic of the finite forms.
2) Mood can be expressed only by the finite forms.
It should be pointed out, however, that although the infinitive
has no special mood forms and cannot represent an action either
as a real fact or as something unreal, it may in some functions
express certain modal meanings — necessity, possibility, purpose:
e.g. a) necessity — I've got something dreadful to tell you.
b) possibility — I had nobody to talk to.
c) purpose — I'm going upstairs to pack my things.
The Perfect infinitive, in combination with some modal verbs,
may sometimes show that its action was not realized in the past.
e.g. They should have told him about it.
3) Like the finite forms, the infinitive and the ing-form have
active and passive forms, e.g. to take — to be taken, taking — be
Like the finite forms, the infinitive and the ing-form can ex-
press time, e.g. to take — to have taken, taking — having taken.
Yet, the two verbals differ considerably from finite verbs in
this respect. The finite forms generally express time absolutely.
i.e. they refer an action to the present, past or future (e.g. He
knows English. He knew English. He will know English). The ver-
bals express time relatively, i.e. in relation to the action of the
predicate verb in the sentence. The action expressed by the verbals
may be simultaneous with the action expressed by the predicate
verb (a), may precede (b) or follow it (c).1
e.g. a) He seemed to know all about it.
Roger was at home working on his speech.
b) He seemed to have guessed the truth.
Having looked at his watch he closed the book and put it
on the shelf.
c) He was ready to assist them.
One afternoon, about half past five, when Thomas was
counting on working for an hour or two more, the tele-
Besides, the simple forms of the verbals themselves are capa-
ble of expressing all kinds of time relations. The various time re-
lations they express depend on the lexical character of the verb
and on the context.
1 It is true that the finite forms may also express time relatively, but that occurs
only incertain sentence patterns.
The infinitive tends to express an action following that of the
predicate verb (a), but it may also denote an action simultaneous
with it (b). However, the simple form of the infinitive does not often
express an action that precedes the action of the predicate verb (c).
e.g. a) He felt a quick impulse to call the boy back.
b) She was admiring his ability to concentrate on any task.
c) Sylvia was glad to run across her old schoolmate.
The ing-form tends to express actions simultaneous with that
of the predicate verb (a). But it is also extensively used to express
priority (b) and, sometimes, an action following that of the predi-
cate verb (c).
e.g. a) This Saturday afternoon Henry, home from his office, sat
at his study table, drawing cats on the blotter, waiting
for his wife to come back from a lunch.
b) I remembered hearing my aunt telling me in my childhood
that great men never cared for flattery. 1
c) She insisted on coming with me but I finally managed to
talk her out of it.
The time relations expressed by the passive forms are the same
as those of the corresponding active forms.
On the whole it should be noted that it is the simple form of
the verbals that is in extensive use in English. The analytical ing-
forms are infrequent, but they are commonly used with modal
verbs (in some of their meanings),
e.g. He must be happy now.
He must be sleeping.
He must have misunderstood you.
He must have been waiting for you.
The experiment must be finished already.
The experiment must have been carried out by now.
In other cases the continuous infinitive is generally used only
to emphasize the idea of duration, of process and to make the
statement more vivid and expressive. A simple infinitive is often
possible in the same sentence.
1 Here the action of hearing precedes the action of the predicate verb remembered,
the use of the perfect Ing-form is an exception.
e.g. It was pleasant to bedriving the car again.
I'm not a man to be talkingof what does not concern me.
It would be possible to use the simple forms to drive and to
talk in the above examples.
The perfect infinitive is more or less frequent after verbs of
mental perception, the verbs to seem, to happen, to appear and a
few others. It shows that the action took place before the action of
the predicate verb.
e.g. Their marriage was supposed to have beena very happy one.
A sense of timing is one of the things I seem to havelearned
The Perfect Continuous infinitive is mainly found after the
same verbs as the Perfect infinitive. It shows that the action of
the infinitive began before the time indicated by the finite verb
and is still going on.
e.g. She was believed to have been feelingunwell for some time.
They seemed to have beengetting on a bit better.
The forms of the two verbals are summed up in the following
|Simple||to take||to be taken|
|Perfect||to have taken||to have been taken|
|Continuous||to be taking||—|
|Perfect Continuous||to have been taking||—|
|Perfect||having taken||having been taken|
§ 166.The infinitive and the ing-iorm, like the finite forms,
are always associated with a subject but the way their subject is
expressed differs greatly from that of the finite forms.
Since the finite forms have the function of the predicate in the
sentence, their subject is always the grammatical subject of the
sentence. But the subject of the verbals may be expressed differ-
In a number of functions the subject of the verbals is the
same as the subject of the sentence and, consequently, of the fi-
e.g. He struggled to findthe first words of his story.
Shewasn't used to beingmiserable without doingsomething
But in certain other functions the subject of the verbal is fre-
quently expressed by some secondary parts of the sentence.
e.g. He gave herpermission to leave.
Seeingyou there, by the door, made me remember what I
had to do.
For the most part she was silent, the effort of speaking was
too much for her.
Moreover, the subject of the infinitive and the ing-form may be
found in a neighbouring clause or even in a different sentence.
e.g. She told himwhat a wonderful place it was to takeher to.
There was a vast useless stretch of time to fill. Ioccupied
my mind with the memories of my childhood.
Startingthis relationship seems to me one of the better
things you've ever done, however it ends.
"You won't do the same thing again, will you?" "I can't ex-
plain, but having done it just once is enough."
In all the above cases the relation between the action of the
verbal and its subject becomes clear from the context as the sub-
ject is not expressed by any grammatical means.
Occasionally the subject of the verbal is not indicated at all —
it is not found either in the sentence itself or in a wider context.
In this case it is understood as any or every person or as an indefi-
nite number of unidentified persons.
e.g. Knowledge is not something toboast about.
Writinggood prose is not easy.
Finally, a verbal may have a subject of its own, specially ex-
pressed in the sentence. The way the subject is expressed is differ-
ent in this case for the infinitive and for the ing-form.
The subject of the infinitive is expressed by a noun or an in-
definite pronoun in the common case or by a personal pronoun in
the objective case. It precedes the infinitive and the whole con-
struction is introduced by the preposition for.
e.g. I'm not going to make a spectacle of myself for people to talk
For a bachelor to havesuch well-trained servants was a prov-
ocation to the women of the district.
It was rare for him togo outto dinner.
He was too embarrassed forus to askhim about anything.
This kind of construction is called the for-phrase.
The subject of the ing-form may be expressed in four different
ways: by means of a possessive pronoun (a), a personal pronoun in
the objective case (b), a noun in the genitive case (c) and a noun or
an indefinite pronoun in the common case (d).
e.g. a) I appreciate your comingto my defense.
b) I just couldn't complain about him and be the cause of him
c) Doyou recall Richard's doingthat?
d) She was worried by astranger staring at her from a dark
The ing-form with its subject is called the ing-complex.
But the four complexes differ with regard to the frequency of
their occurrence and their stylistic colouring.
Possessive pronouns are in current use, whereas the use of per-
sonal pronouns in the objective case is less frequent and distinctly
colloquial. Conversely, we generally find nouns in the common case
while nouns in the genitive case are by far less common and main-
ly typical of literary style.
Note. Note the pattern in which the subject of the ing-form is introduced by
e.g. We spoke about there being no one at the moment for him to turn to for help'
Verbals, like the finite forms, can be used in the active and in
the passive. Accordingly, their subject may be either the doer
(agent) of the action expressed by the verbal or may undergo this
action, be acted upon.
e.g. I have not come here to be insultedbut to talkto you as a
I watched her for a little while without beingseen.
Heleft us without saying good-bye.
The two different kinds of subject may be called the active
subjectand the passive subjectof the infinitive or of the ing-
§ 167.With regard to their meaning and function, the infini-
tive and the ing-form, like the finite forms, can be classed into
1) They can serve as notional verbs.
e.g. It amused him to tease the girl.
He went downstairs, holdingon the banister.
2) They may also serve as structural words. Some of them,
mainly the verb to be, may be used as link-verbs.
e.g. He is said tobe a good chap.
Tom said something about it being pretty late.
The verb to have may be used as a modal verb.
e.g. Well, I'm sorry to haveto tell you that.
He looked at his wrist-watch and talked about having to
make a few calls before the visitor arrived.
The infinitive and the ing-form may also be used as auxiliary
verbs to build up analytical forms, e.g. to be taking, to have tak-
en, to have been taking, etc., having taken, being taken, etc.
Both verbals are widely used as second (or third) components
of analytical finite forms.
e-g. She will be there.
She is working.
She has been reading.
§ 168.The syntactic functions of the verbals and those of the
finite forms do not coincide and therein lies the main difference
The finite forms, as has been said, have one function in the
sentence — that of the predicate. The verbals may perform a vari-
ety of functions. The most striking feature of the infinitive and
the ing-form is that they have functions typical of different parts
of speech. Sometimes they have noun functions (e.g. the function
of the subject or the object).
e.g. To know allabout English is one thing; to knowEnglish is
Everything you've planned to dois sensible.
Readingwith us is the thing that we cannot do without.
If this is what you intend askingme, stop wastingyour time.
The infinitive and the ing-form may also have adjective func-
tions (e.g. the function of an attribute).
e.g. He was not a man to dorash things.
Singing people, arm in arm, filled the street.
The two verbals can also perform adverbial functions (e.g. the
function of an adverbial modifier of purpose, consequence, time,
e.g. I came here todiscuss matters with you.
I had only to hear her voice to knowwhat she felt.
After hesitatinga moment or two, Jim knocked on the door.
You begin learning a language by listeningto the new sounds.
The infinitive and the ing-form may also have purely verbal
functions. This occurs in two different cases:
a) In certain sentence patterns they may serve as the predicate
of the sentence.
e.g. Why not gowith me?
What about havinga look at my new house?
b) As is well known, in the absolute majority of English sen-
tences the predicate is expressed by a finite verb. But the infini-
tive and the ing-form may serve to express a second action, accom-
panying the action expressed by the predicate verb.
e.g. I woke to findMaud cooking a meal (=and found).
He took a seat next to mine, watchingmy face with close at-
tention (=and watched).
The infinitive and the ing-form may also serve as parenthesis,
i.e. have the function performed by attitudinal adverbs.
e.g. To tellthe truth, I'm beginning to find her a bore.
Frankly speaking, I'm at a loss.
§ 169.In some of their functions the infinitive and the ing-
form are lexically dependent. That means that their use is required
by definite verbs, nouns and adjectives. For example, the verb to
want requires an infinitive as object (e.g. He wanted to seethem
at once.) while to avoid requires an ing-form in this function (e.g.
For some time she avoided even mentioning their names.). The
same is true of the adjectives ready and busy that require an infin-
itive and an ing-form respectively. (Cf. He was ready to doany-
thing for her. She was busy packingher things.)
Besides, the infinitive and the ing-form are in some functions
also structurally dependent, i.e. they occur in quite definite sen-
tence patterns. For example, the infinitive or the ing-form are
found after a number of definite verbs, nouns and adjectives only
in sentences with it as a formal subject.
e.g. It was a relief to bein the car again.
"It's no use going onlike that," he said in an angry tone.
§ 170.Although the syntactic functions of the infinitive and
the ing-form differ from those of the finite forms, the two verbals
can be modified by the same secondary parts of the sentence as
the predicate verb.
e-g. He told me about it himself.
He wanted to tell me about it himself.
He insisted on telling me about it himself.