function of the infinitive phrase in ‘try to do’


Senior Member
Hello, everyone,

He must try to do better (next time).”

Q1. While I’ve seen a few ways to parse the to infinitive phrase - ‘to do better’ as follows, which, do you think, is the predominant one in this current mainstream?

A) some say, this phrase is functioning as the direct object of the transitive verb ‘try’.

B) this phrase is a complement of head verb – ‘try’ under ‘complement pair forms a catenative construction’. (by 'A Students Introduction to English Grammar')

C) this phrase is the obligatory adjunct in the form of an infinitive clause under ‘catenative constructions’, which will be termed pseudo-coordination. That is, ‘He must try to do better.’ is similar to ‘He must try and do better.’ (by ‘A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language’)

Q2. Is there any possibility for you as natives to replace ‘to do better’ with ‘so as to do better’ or ‘in order to do better’?

Your replies would be really appreciated.
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "to do better (next time)" is an infinitive phrase. Here are some examples from Infinitive Phrase | What Is an Infinitive Phrase?
    • He helped to build the roof.
    • The officer returned to help the inspectors.
    • Let me show you the best way to fit a door quickly.
    • She tells you to dance like no one is watching.
    An infinitive phrase can play the role of a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. Here it acts adverbially as it tells you how to try.
    He must try to do better approximates to "he must make an effort in an attempt to do better"


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I don't know what the 'mainstream' view is of English grammar, but I get the feeling the mainstream is out of date compared to better analyses that have appeared in the last few decades. I am convinced by almost all of the analysis in Huddleston & Pullum's works, so it seems much better to me to have the idea of a 'catenative' verb construction than to call 'to' + verb phrase an 'object' just like a noun phrase is an object. But do most people who know a bit about grammar agree with this? If no, is it because they haven't heard of it, or they have but prefer a traditional analysis?