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INFINITIVE. The NON-FINITE VERB that has the uninflected form of the verb: be, say, dig, make. The term may be used alone (the BARE INFINITIVE: I made him tell the truth) or preceded by to (the to-infinitive: I asked him to tell the truth). The bare infinitive is commonly used after a modal auxiliary verb (be after the modal may in We may be late) and after the auxiliary do (I did answer your letter, They don't know the difference). It is also found in the complementation of a small number of main verbs such a have, let, make, see and hear (I had Tom paint the fence; The soldiers let us pass; They heard us leave). In some instances, either type of infinitive may be used: Steven helped Susan (to) teach the children good manners; What Sidney did was (to) help Justin with his homework. The to-infinitive has a wider distribution as the verb in an infinitive construction: (1) It may be subject (To meet you was a great pleasure), though a variant with postponed subject is more usual (It was a great pleasure to meet you). (2) It may be the object in various types of verb complementation: I hope to see Judith and Percy soon; I asked John and Joyce to come to my party; Jeffrey and Rosalind want me to be there. (3) It may be introduced by a wh-word: Anton and Stella asked me what to advise their elder son. (4) It may function in various semantic classes of adverbial: To set the alarm, press four digits; He grew up to be a fine man; To be frank, the meeting was boring. See SPLIT INFINITIVE, USAGE.

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in·fin·i·tive / inˈfinitiv/ • n. the basic form of a verb, without an inflection binding it to a particular subject or tense (e.g., see in we came to see, let him see). • adj. having or involving such a form. DERIVATIVES: in·fin·i·ti·val / -finiˈtīvəl/ adj. in·fin·i·ti·val·ly / -ˌfiniˈtīvəlē/ adv.