Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: To Learn To-Infinitives

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIn our previous posts, we have discussed two types of Verbals (a verb that acts as a different part of speech) – Gerunds and Participles. Today we will take a look at the third type – to-Infinitives

Note that the infinitive is the base form of a verb. The infinitive has two forms:

• the to-infinitive = to + base

• the zero infinitive = base

We will discuss the to-infinitive form, a verbal. It can work as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb

The to-infinitive form is used in many sentence constructions, often expressing the purpose of something or someone’s opinion about something. The to-infinitive is used following a large collection of different verbs as well such as afford, offer, refuse, prepare, undertake, proceed, propose, promise etc

The function of a to-infinitive in a sentence could be any of the following:

I. To show the purpose of an action: In this case “to” has the same meaning as “in order to” or “so as to”. It follows a verb in this case.

For Example: She has gone to complete her homework.

II. To indicate what something can or will be used for: It follows a noun or a pronoun in this case.

For Example: I don’t have anything to wear. This is the right thing to do.

III. After adjectives

For Example: I am happy to be here.

IV. The subject of the sentence

For Example: To visit Paris is my lifelong dream.

V. With adverbs: It is used with the adverbs too and enough to express the reasoning behind our satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The pattern is that too and enough are placed before or after the adjective, adverb, or noun that they modify in the same way they would be without the to-infinitive. We then follow them by the to-infinitive to explain the reason why the quantity is excessive, sufficient, or insufficient.

For Example: He has too many books to carry on his own.

VI. With question words: The verbs ask, decide, explain, forget, know, show, tell, & understand can be followed by a question word such as where, how, what, who, & when + the to-infinitive.

For Example: I am not sure how to use the new washing machine.

We are likely to see infinitive phrases in GMAT sentence correction questions. An infinitive phrase is made up of the infinitive verb with its object and modifiers.

Let’s take a look at how we could see an infinitive in a GMAT question.

Question: Twenty-two feet long and 10 feet in diameter, the AM-1 is one of the many new satellites that is a part of 15 years effort of subjecting the interactions of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces to detailed scrutiny from space.

(A) satellites that is a part of 15 years effort of subjecting the interactions of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces

(B) satellites, which is a part of a 15-year effort to subject how Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces interact

(C) satellites, part of 15 years effort of subjecting how Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces are interacting

(D) satellites that are part of an effort for 15 years that has subjected the interactions of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces

(E) satellites that are part of a 15-year effort to subject the interactions of Earth’s atmosphere, ocean, and land surfaces

Solution:

First let’s try to understand the basic structure of the sentence.

… AM-1 is one of the many new satellites “that/which clause”

“that/which clause” modifies the noun “satellites” in four of the given five options. Note that “satellites” is plural so we need to use the verb “are”. So options (A) and (B) are out.

(C) is also incorrect. It looks like “part of 15 years … from space” is a bad attempt at writing an absolute phrase. Absolute phrases modify the entire clause but here we need to modify “satellites” only. Satellites are a part of a 15 year effort to subject A to detailed scrutiny and hence we should use a that/which clause.

(D) is incorrect too. It uses another “that clause” – that has subjected the interactions …

This “that clause” modifies the noun “effort”, not “15 years”. The effort has subjected A to detailed scrutiny.

There is a better way of writing this sentence such that the “that clause” comes immediately after “effort”

(E) is correct. Note how it uses the infinitive form immediately after the noun “effort” to indicate how the effort is being used. It is being used to subject A to detailed scrutiny.

Hope now you will be able to recognise the different verbals and use them correctly.

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Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!