Simplifying Sentences with Infinitive Phrases

Infinitive phrases are slippery creatures; they can function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

Infinitives as Adverbs

Used as adverbs, infinitive phrases are sometimes called "infinitives of purpose", because their role is to explain the reason somebody is doing something:

Infinitives of purpose can always be cancelled. They can also be shifted around within a sentence.

Infinitives as Adjectives

Typcially, adjectives are placed before the noun they modify:

Infintives are different. Used as adjectives, they are placed after the noun they modify. This makes them a "funny" sort of adjective—not a typical adjective at all.

Adjectivial infinitives can always be cancelled.

Infinitives as Nouns

As nouns, infinitives can serve as subjects, objects, or complements.

Infinitives that functions as nouns cannot be cancelled (except in very rare cases).

Just for fun . . .

Consider the following sentence:



Laurence went to China to study Chinese.

intransitive (SV)


My uncle bought me a bicycle to ride.

ditransitive (SVOiOd)


My dream is to win a marathon.

equative (S=C)


Instructions for the Quiz

Find the base clause.

equative (S=C)

intransitive (SV)

transitive (SVO)

ditransitive (SVOiOd)

dummy subject (There is / It is)