28 Oct 2014

An infinite phrase (3)

An infinite phrase acts as: a noun (often the subject of a sentence), an adjective or an adverb. I talked about infinite phrases acting as objects in two previous posts; today I want to concentrate on an infinite phrase acting as an adjective or an adverb.

There is one thing I will add about an infinite phrase acting as a delayed subject in sentences starting with 'it' or 'there', which are called dummy element (operator, subject). They have only grammatical role in a sentence and are added as the English language demands a subject in every sentence. Dummy has no lexicological meaning in such sentences.

It took us a long time to understand this problem.
Infinitive phrase - the delayed subject of the sentence. Compare:
To understand this problem it took us a long time.

It was absolutely disgraceful to stand there like kids at school and to listen to his pompous harangue.
To stand there like kids at school and to listen to his pompous harangue was absolutely disgraceful.

Infinitive phrase as an adjective and an adverb
Adjectives modify nouns/pronounce and answer the questions: which one? or what kind?
Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs and clauses. They answer: how? when? where? how much and why. An adverbial infinite phrase usually answers the question why something was done.

I need more money to travel all over the world. (what money? - money for travelling)
I sold my house to travel all over the world. (why did I sell the house? - to travel)

Peter, a penchant for the English language, enrolled on a course at university to improve his grammar skills. To improve the grammar skills - explains why he enrolled on a course - an adverbial infinite phrase.

To improve his grammar skills, Peter, a penchant of the English language, enrolled on a course at university.

An adverbial infinite phrase introducing a main clause requires a comma after it, as in our sentence above. We know many adverbial infinite phrases like: 'to tell the true', truth to tell', 'to be honest' etc, which may be placed at the beginning, at the end and even in a sentence. When such a phrase is used in a sentence as an interrupter, two commas are required, before and at the end of it.

Peter, to be honest, does not like cats.

A few exemplary sentences from 'Woman in black' by Susan Hill:
'...he gestured to indicate the dramatic suddenness of his frets.
(why did he gesture? - adverb)

'I expect to go out to see something of the marshes later.’
I expect - what? to go out - an object (infinite phrase as a noun)
To go out - why? to see something - an adverbial infinite phrase.
Something - what kind of? - of the marshes - an adjectival prepositional phrase.
Later - when? an adjective.

‘You are almost making me anxious to get back to that London particular!’
To get back - to make me what? object of making.
To that London particular - where? an adverbial prepositional phrase.

BTW, a London particular means a fog or a fog/smog which used to have blanketed London.

The deeper I go into sentence structure, the more I understand the imperative of knowing the basic grammar before!


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