Infinitives and Participles

Infinitives and Participles :

Two classes of verb-forms illustrate in a striking way the fact that the same word may belong to different parts of speech….for they really belong to two different parts of speech at one and the same time. These are the infinitive (which is both verb and noun) and the participle (which is both verb and adjective).

Examples of the infinitive may be seen in the following sentences.

To struggle was useless.

To escape is impossible.

To exercise regularly preserves the health.

TO STRUGGLE is clearly a noun for it is the subject of the sentence and the noun EFFORT or EXERTION might be put in the place of TO STRUGGLE. Similarly, the noun ESCAPE might be substituted for TO ESCAPE and, in the third sentence, REGULAR EXERCISE (a noun modified by an adjective) might be substituted for TO EXERCISE REGULARLY.

But these three forms (to struggle, to escape and to exercise) are also verbs, for they express action and one of them (to exercise) is modified by an adverb (regularly). Such forms, therefore, are noun-forms of the verb. They are classed with verbs and are called infinitives.

The infinitive is a verb-form which partakes of the nature of a noun. It is commonly preceded by the preposition TO which is called the sign of the infinitive.

The infinitive without TO is used in a great variety of verb-phrases.

I shall go.

John will win.

Mary may recite.

Jack can swim.

Such phrases will be studied in connection with the inflection of verbs.

Note : That (GO, WIN, RECITE and SWIM are infinitives) may be seen by comparing the following sentences.

I intend to go.

John is sure to win.

Mary is permitted to recite.

Jack is able to swim.

The following sentence contains two participles.

Shattered and slowly sinking, the frigate drifted out to sea.

In this sentence, we recognize shattered as a form of the verb shatter and sinking as a form of the verb sink. They both express action and sinking is modified by the adverb slowly. But shattered and sinking have also the nature of adjectives, for they are used to describe the noun frigate. Such words, then, are adjective forms of the verb. They are classed as verbs and are called participles…..because they share (or participate in) the nature of adjectives.

The participle is a verb-form which has no subject….but which partakes of the nature of an adjective and expresses action or state in such a way as to describe or limit a substantive.

A participle is said to belong to the substantive which it describes or limits.

The chief classes of participles are present participles and past participles so called from the time which they denote.

All present participles end in ING. Past participles have several different endings which will be studied in connection with the inflection of verbs.

Participles are used in a variety of verb-phrases.

Tom is coming.

Our boat was wrecked.

I have sent the money.

He has brought me a letter.

Your book is found.

They have sold their horses.

You have broken your watch.

The ship had struck on the reef.

Such phrases will be studied in connection with the inflection of verbs.

Note : The double nature of the infinitive (as both verb and noun) and the participle (as both verb and adjective) almost justifies one in classifying each as a distinct part of speech (so as to make ten parts of speech instead of eight). But it is more convenient to include them under the head of verbs, in accordance with the usual practice.

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