auxiliary verb + bare infinitive

< Previous | Next >

firee818

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,
The bare infinitive is also used after the auxiliary verbs will, would, shall, should, may, might, can, could and must.

e.g. (1)He can speak five languages. (NOT He can to speak five languages.)

can=auxiliary verb
speak=bare infinitive

My question is, what role does 'speak'(bare infinitive) play in sentence (1) above?

Does 'speak' act as a object? Because 'speak' is a bare infinitive and should not play the role as a verb in sentence (1).

Thanks for the quick reply.
 
  • Randisi.

    Senior Member
    American English; USA
    A bare infinitive is a verb.

    "Speak" is the main verb of that sentence. It is just formed as the bare infinitive, not the normal infinitive.
     

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    A bare infinitive is a verb.

    "Speak" is the main verb of that sentence. It is just formed as the bare infinitive, not the normal infinitive.
    Isn't bare infinitive also a form of infinitive?
    When a verb is functioning as an infinitive, whether it is 'to-infinitive' or 'bare infinitive, it will function as a noun, a complement, an adjective or an adverb, and lose its characteristic as a verb.

    e.g. (2) We saw Mari go out. (Not we saw Mari to go out)
    saw=special verb
    Mari=object (noun)
    go=bare infinitive acting as object complement.

    The Infinitive
    Please clarify, thank you.
     
    Last edited:

    Randisi.

    Senior Member
    American English; USA
    Well I'm no specialist in linguististics. But I've always been taught that "can", etc. are auxiliary verbs helping the main verb, which is formed as a bare infinitive.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It is just a fact that certain auxiliary verbs work in this way. You have to learn which ones.

    Some of those verbs are: must, should, will. There are others.

    For example

    He can speak five languages. ('can' is an auxiliary verb that takes a bare infinitive)

    He is able to speak five languages. ('to be able to' is not an auxiliary verb and takes an ordinary infinitive)

    He must speak better. ('must' is auxiliary that takes a bare infinitive)

    He has to speak better. ('to have' is an auxiliary that takes a full infinitive.

    NOTE
    In general the bare-infinitive verbs do not conjugate in the normal way (for the third person)
    I will, you will, he will.
    I must, you must, he must.
    I should, you should, he should.
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    (1)He can speak five languages.
    As I see it, modal verbs modify (create a mode of) the main verb - here it is "speak".

    In Old and Middle English, because "can" (cunnan) was a "full verb" and used to form such constructions as (and other Germanic languages still are) "He can five languages" in which "can" takes on the meaning of "knows; has the ability of; is acquainted with", in Modern English it cannot.

    The use of can as a full verb lasted until about the 16th century (and at least another century elapsed in which "can" could be inflected (thou canst) until it then took on its present modal form.

    If you really want to know the fine detail of how the modal verb construction <modal> + <bare infinitive> came about, I can offer:
    The Syntactic Evolution of Modal Verbs in the History of English
    http://www-sop.inria.fr/marelle/tralics/thesis/thesis.htm
     
    Last edited:

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    AE (US English)
    OP calls the verb "can" an "auxilliary verb". In English "auxilliary" means "helper; assistant".

    An auxilliary verb is a verb that is combined with another verb -- together they form "the verb" of the sentence. The auxilliary verb is not the "only verb in the sentence".
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish/AE
    Hi,
    The bare infinitive is also used after the auxiliary verbs will, would, shall, should, may, might, can, could and must.

    e.g. (1)He can speak five languages. (NOT He can to speak five languages.)

    can=auxiliary verb
    speak=bare infinitive

    My question is, what role does 'speak'(bare infinitive) play in sentence (1) above?

    Does 'speak' act as a object? Because 'speak' is a bare infinitive and should not play the role as a verb in sentence (1).

    Thanks for the quick reply.
    The bare infinitive "speak" is the main verb of the sentence. When you have a verb string, the last verb will always be the main verb. The main verb/bare infinitive "speak" is a non-finite verb, which means that this verb lacks tense. And since modal verbs also lack tense, then the implication is that in this sentence there is no tense. But that's ok. The modal verb "can" can only appear in present time, so we immediately recognize that this sentence applies to the present time. By contrast, modal "could" can appear in both present and past times, so "He could speak five languages" is ambiguous; without further context, we can't tell if "could" refers to the past or to the present.

    By the way, the bare infinitive "speak" takes the noun phrase "five languages" as direct object, which means that "speak" is a verb.

    Isn't bare infinitive also a form of infinitive?
    When a verb is functioning as an infinitive, whether it is 'to-infinitive' or 'bare infinitive, it will function as a noun, a complement, an adjective or an adverb, and lose its characteristic as a verb.

    e.g. (2) We saw Mari go out. (Not we saw Mari to go out)
    saw=special verb
    Mari=object (noun)
    go=bare infinitive acting as object complement.

    The Infinitive
    Please clarify, thank you.
    Basic English rule: only one tensed verb per clause. In "We saw Mary go out" the tensed verb is "saw" (which marks past tense), and so "go appears untensed (but referring to "past time"). The "to-infinitive" is prospective in nature (it points toward the future), whereas the bare infinitive is concurrent in nature (happening at the same time). We need the bare infinitive because "saw" and "go" happened at the same time in past time.

    In you introduce a second clause (for example a that-clause), then "go" becomes a tensed verb (remember, one tensed verb per clause; if we have two clauses, then we have two tensed verbs, in bold): We saw that Mary went out.
     

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The bare infinitive "speak" is the main verb of the sentence. When you have a verb string, the last verb will always be the main verb. The main verb/bare infinitive "speak" is a non-finite verb, which means that this verb lacks tense. And since modal verbs also lack tense, then the implication is that in this sentence there is no tense. But that's ok. The modal verb "can" can only appear in present time, so we immediately recognize that this sentence applies to the present time. By contrast, modal "could" can appear in both present and past times, so "He could speak five languages" is ambiguous; without further context, we can't tell if "could" refers to the past or to the present.

    By the way, the bare infinitive "speak" takes the noun phrase "five languages" as direct object, which means that "speak" is a verb.



    Basic English rule: only one tensed verb per clause. In "We saw Mary go out" the tensed verb is "saw" (which marks past tense), and so "go appears untensed (but referring to "past time"). The "to-infinitive" is prospective in nature (it points toward the future), whereas the bare infinitive is concurrent in nature (happening at the same time). We need the bare infinitive because "saw" and "go" happened at the same time in past time.

    In you introduce a second clause (for example a that-clause), then "go" becomes a tensed verb (remember, one tensed verb per clause; if we have two clauses, then we have two tensed verbs, in bold): We saw that Mary went out.
    Thanks for the detail reply.
    However, you didn't explain why 'speak' in sentence (1) which is bare infinitive, is functioning as a main verb,
    whereas 'go' in sentence (2) in sentence (2) which is also bare infinitive, is functioning as a object complement.

    Isn't both bare infinitive or to-infinitive are functioning as nouns complements, adjectives or adverbs?
    Why 'speak' in sentence (1) is behaving as main verb which is exceptional to the rule?
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish/AE
    Thanks for the detail reply.
    However, you didn't explain why 'speak' in sentence (1) which is bare infinitive, is functioning as a main verb,
    whereas 'go' in sentence (2) in sentence (2) which is also bare infinitive, is functioning as a object complement.

    Isn't both bare infinitive or to-infinitive are functioning as nouns complements, adjectives or adverbs?
    Why 'speak' in sentence (1) is behaving as main verb which is exceptional to the rule?
    The infinitive, with or without "to," is always a verb. That's what the word is. More precisely, it's a non-finite verb because it lacks tense. Because they are verbs, there will always be a subject associated with infinitives. And keep in mind: it is the clause in which the infinitive appears that will function in a particular way (subject, direct object, etc.).

    a) He can speak many languages
    b) We saw Mary go out

    "Speak" and "go" are verbs (non-finite verbs). In (a), "speak" is the main verb of the sentence. In (b), "go" (the verb in the phrasal verb "go out") is the verb in the clause "Mary go out" and it is the clause "Mary go out" that functions as direct object of "saw." When the subject of the infinitive is the same subject of the main verb, the subject of the infinitive gets deleted: I want to sing. We teach that "to sing" is the direct object of "want." More precisely, it's the clause in which "to sing" appears that functions as direct object. With the full clause, the sentence becomes I want for me to sing. When using pronouns, the subject of an infinitive is an object or possessive pronoun (me to sing), which is introduced in the sentence with "for" (for me to sing). Because the subject of the infinitive is the same subject of the main verb, "for me" gets deleted, and that's how we get "I want to sing."

    I think you are calling "go" in (b) an "object complement" because you think that the object is "Mary" and that makes "go" an object complement. But "go" is a verb (non-finite) and "Mary" is its subject. Again, it is the clause "Mary go out" that functions as direct object. If you are going to use the term "object complement," use it when there is no infinitive involved, and when there's an adjective that completes the meaning of the direct object. For example, I make Mary happy, where the adjective "happy" describes and therefore completes the meaning of the direct object "Mary."
     

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The infinitive, with or without "to," is always a verb. That's what the word is. More precisely, it's a non-finite verb because it lacks tense. Because they are verbs, there will always be a subject associated with infinitives. And keep in mind: it is the clause in which the infinitive appears that will function in a particular way (subject, direct object, etc.).
    Could you give an example for the blue-highlighted.

    I want to sing. We teach that "to sing" is the direct object of "want." More precisely, it's the clause in which "to sing" appears that functions as direct object. With the full clause, the sentence becomes I want for me to sing.
    Hi, for the sentence 'I want for me to sing', why the full clause add in 'for me', but not others?

    When using pronouns, the subject of an infinitive is an object or possessive pronoun (me to sing), which is introduced in the sentence with "for" (for me to sing). Because the subject of the infinitive is the same subject of the main verb, "for me" gets deleted, and that's how we get "I want to sing."
    I could not understand why the subject = me to sing.
    Isn't it is
    "for me", because the subject of the main verb is "I".

    I hope you can clear out my doubt on this. Thank you
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish/AE
    Because they are verbs, there will always be a subject associated with infinitives.
    Could you give an example for the blue-highlighted.
    To know her is to love her

    You can add a subject to the infinitive, because the infinitive is a verb. Remember that the subject takes the form of "for + object or possessive pronoun:"

    For me to know her is for me to love her

    or
    For us to know her is for us to love her

    Non-finite verbs can appear without subject, and the subject is often omitted if it's understood or not needed, which is why we simply say "To know her is to love her."

    Hi, for the sentence 'I want for me to sing', why the full clause add in 'for me', but not others?

    I could not understand why the subject = me to sing.
    Isn't it is "for me", because the subject of the main verb is "I".

    I hope you can clear out my doubt on this. Thank you
    I want to sing
    When the subject of "want" is the same as the subject of "to sing," the subject of the infinitive is deleted. That's why we don't say "I want for me to sing."

    I want (for) him to sing

    With different subjects, we need to add the subject of the infinitive ("him"). "Him" is introduced with "for," but when infinitive clause appears in object position, we delete "for."
    When the infinitive clause appears as subject, we keep "for:"
    For him to sing is unfair.
     
    Last edited:

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    To know her is to love her

    I want to sing

    When the subject of "want" is the same as the subject of "to sing," the subject of the infinitive is deleted. That's why we don't say "I want for me to sing."

    I want (for) him to sing

    With different subjects, we need to add the subject of the infinitive ("me"). "Me" is introduced with "for," but when infinitive clause appears in object position, we delete "for."
    When the infinitive clause appears as subject, we keep "for:"
    For him to sing is unfair.
    Thank you.
    By the way, is the red-highlighted "me" is "him"?
     

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The infinitive, with or without "to," is always a verb. That's what the word is. More precisely, it's a non-finite verb because it lacks tense. Because they are verbs, there will always be a subject associated with infinitives. And keep in mind: it is the clause in which the infinitive appears that will function in a particular way (subject, direct object, etc.).

    To know her is to love her

    You can add a subject to the infinitive, because the infinitive is a verb. Remember that the subject takes the form of "for + object or possessive pronoun:"

    For me to know her is for me to love her

    or
    For us to know her is for us to love her

    Non-finite verbs can appear without subject, and the subject is often omitted if it's understood or not needed, which is why we simply say "To know her is to love her."
    Hi SevenDays,
    I still have one part can't understand.
    Since infinitive is always a verb (red-highlighted), there will be a subject associated with infinitives.

    e.g. To know her is to love her.

    Why I have read in some reference books stating that "To know' can be acting as a subject for the above sentence.

    Thank you so much so replying
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    There are three verbs there: 'know' and 'is' and 'love'. The subject of 'is' is the phrase 'to know her'. The subject of 'know' and 'love' is not expressed, so we understand it as general: 'someone/anyone'. We could add this subject. The subject of an infinitive clause has 'for' in front of it, so if we add the subject of 'know' overtly, it would be 'For someone to know her is to love her'. (We could similarly add the subject of 'love', but it would sound bad because it is repetitive.)
     

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    There are three verbs there: 'know' and 'is' and 'love'. The subject of 'is' is the phrase 'to know her'. The subject of 'know' and 'love' is not expressed, so we understand it as general: 'someone/anyone'. We could add this subject. The subject of an infinitive clause has 'for' in front of it, so if we add the subject of 'know' overtly, it would be 'For someone to know her is to love her'. (We could similarly add the subject of 'love', but it would sound bad because it is repetitive.)
    If we just ignore the subject of 'know' and 'love', could we use "to know' (infinitive) to become the subject of the sentence?
     
    Last edited:

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Of a sentence, but not of that sentence. Perhaps: To know is to understand.

    Basically, the subject of a verb is the words before the verb. (Of course, sometimes you also have things like adverbs in front of it. Let's ignore those.) So 'to know her' is the subject of 'is' in 'To know her is to love her'. 'Is' is the main verb of that sentence, so we also say 'to know her' is the subject of the sentence.

    Potentially, every verb in a sentence can have a subject. 'Know' is in the sentence, but is not the main verb. Still, we can give it a subject: 'For someone to know her is to love her.' Now 'someone' is the subject of 'know'. ('For' and 'to' are markers of the infinitive structure; they're not part of the subject.) In this longer sentence, the subject of 'is' is longer: 'For someone to know her is to love her.'
     

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Of a sentence, but not of that sentence. Perhaps: To know is to understand.

    Basically, the subject of a verb is the words before the verb. (Of course, sometimes you also have things like adverbs in front of it. Let's ignore those.) So 'to know her' is the subject of 'is' in 'To know her is to love her'. 'Is' is the main verb of that sentence, so we also say 'to know her' is the subject of the sentence.

    Potentially, every verb in a sentence can have a subject. 'Know' is in the sentence, but is not the main verb. Still, we can give it a subject: 'For someone to know her is to love her.' Now 'someone' is the subject of 'know'. ('For' and 'to' are markers of the infinitive structure; they're not part of the subject.) In this longer sentence, the subject of 'is' is longer: 'For someone to know her is to love her.'
    1). To know(infinitive act as subject) is to understand.
    2). For someone to know(infinitive is a verb) her is to love her.

    For sentence (1), to know(infinitive) is the subject of the sentence, for sentence (2), to know(infinitive) is a verb, is it mean that infinitive can be a verb/noun/adjective/adverb/complement, depend on the circumstances?
     

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    To know her is to love her

    You can add a subject to the infinitive, because the infinitive is a verb. Remember that the subject takes the form of "for + object or possessive pronoun:"

    For me to know her is for me to love her

    or
    For us to know her is for us to love her

    Non-finite verbs can appear without subject, and the subject is often omitted if it's understood or not needed, which is why we simply say "To know her is to love her."



    I want to sing
    When the subject of "want" is the same as the subject of "to sing," the subject of the infinitive is deleted. That's why we don't say "I want for me to sing."

    I want (for) him to sing

    With different subjects, we need to add the subject of the infinitive ("him"). "Him" is introduced with "for," but when infinitive clause appears in object position, we delete "for."
    When the infinitive clause appears as subject, we keep "for:"
    For him to sing is unfair.

    Hi,
    e.g. To learn Korean is difficult;

    Is it mean that that above sentence also does not have subject?

    So to add the subject to the infinitive, we can add 'For someone' and the sentence become:
    For someone to learn Korean is difficult.

    In that case, how are we going to reconcile the fact that infinitive can be acting as a noun (subject) i.e. 'To learn Korean' is acting as a subject of the sentence?
     
    Last edited:

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish/AE
    Hi,
    e.g. To learn Korean is difficult;

    Is it mean that that above sentence also does not have subject?

    So to add the subject to the infinitive, we can add 'For someone' and the sentence become:
    For someone to learn Korean is difficult.

    In that case, how are we going to reconcile the fact that infinitive can be acting as a noun (subject) i.e. 'To learn Korean' is acting as a subject of the sentence?
    There's really nothing to reconcile. "Subject" is a "function." Several things in grammar can function as "subject." Here, in both cases

    (a) To learn Korean is difficult
    (b) For someone to learn Korean is difficult

    you have a "to-infinitive" functioning as subject. The only difference is that "to learn" in (a) doesn't have a subject of its own, but "to learn" in (b) has "for someone" as subject. Either way, with or without a subject of its own, the infinitive functions as subject of the sentence. So, don't get the two things mixed up. One thing is whether the infinitive has a subject or not; another thing, entirely different, is how the infinitive functions in the sentence.
     

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    There's really nothing to reconcile. "Subject" is a "function." Several things in grammar can function as "subject." Here, in both cases

    (a) To learn Korean is difficult
    (b) For someone to learn Korean is difficult

    you have a "to-infinitive" functioning as subject. The only difference is that "to learn" in (a) doesn't have a subject of its own, but "to learn" in (b) has "for someone" as subject. Either way, with or without a subject of its own, the infinitive functions as subject of the sentence. So, don't get the two things mixed up. One thing is whether the infinitive has a subject or not; another thing, entirely different, is how the infinitive functions in the sentence.
    Your explanation is indeed very clear and precise.
    Thank you so much.
     

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese

    I want to sing.


    We teach that "to sing" is the direct object of "want." More precisely, it's the clause in which "to sing" appears that functions as direct object. With the full clause, the sentence becomes I want for me to sing. When using pronouns, the subject of an infinitive is an object or possessive pronoun (me to sing), which is introduced in the sentence with "for" (for me to sing). Because the subject of the infinitive is the same subject of the main verb, "for me" gets deleted, and that's how we get "I want to sing."
    May I know what is the structure of the infinitive clause if it has two to-infinitives in the clause?
    Are the verbs of the two to-infinitives acting as the verbs of the direct object in the infinitive clause itself?

    e.g. I want to learn to play the piano.

    Are 'learn' and 'play' acting as the verbs of the direct object 'piano' in the infinitive clause itself? =>subject (for me) + verb (learn) + verb (play) + object(piano)


    Thank you so much for replying
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    May I know what is the structure of the infinitive clause if it has two to-infinitives in the clause?
    Are the verbs of the two to-infinitives acting as the verbs of the direct object in the infinitive clause itself?

    e.g. I want to learn to play the piano.

    Are 'learn' and 'play' acting as the verbs of the direct object 'piano' in the infinitive clause itself? =>subject (for me) + verb (learn) + verb (play) + object(piano)


    Thank you so much for replying
    "The piano" is the direct object of "play" only. The whole nonfinite clause "to play the piano" complements "learn", and the larger nonfinite clause "to learn to play the piano" complements "want".
     

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    T
    "The piano" is the direct object of "play" only. The whole nonfinite clause "to play the piano" complements "learn", and the larger nonfinite clause "to learn to play the piano" complements "want".
    Great explanation, it helps me a lot.
    Thank you so much for replying.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top