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Section 11.3.6.1

Infinitives

The infinitive is a nonfinite verb that consists ofthe infinitive marker to followed by the baseform of the verb.


When NASA first organized the Viking Lander missions to Mars, one of themost vexing problems its scientists faced was devising and agreeing upon teststo detect life.

--Kai Wu, "Artificial Life," SciTech Magazine


The infinitive functions in the following ways:

  • To express the purpose of an action

  • In less than 50 years, early solar power pioneers developed an impressivearray of innovative techniques for capturing solar radiation and using itto produce the steam that powered the machines of thatera.

    --Charles Smith, "Revisiting Solar Power's Past," Technology Review(modified)


  • As the complement of certain verbs, including many verbs describing speech, thought, preferences, or beginnings as well as verbs of obligation (e.g., have to), ability (e.g., be able to), or causation (e.g., get to)

  • In 1968 John Conway, an Oxford professor, decided totest if cellular automata could form the basis of computers.

    --Kai Wu, "Artificial Life," SciTech Magazine (modified)


  • As the complement of the verbs seem and appear

  • Along the fringes of the Everglades, fresh and salt water mix to producea kind of primordial soup that at times seems to boil withspawning fish.

    --Norman Boucher, "Back To the Everglades," Technology Review(modified)


  • As the complement of certain adjectives including many adjectives formed from past participles of verbs

  • Flowways and canals will prove just as effective in sustaining dynamichydrology as the untouched plains of sawgrass and pond apple they are designedto replace.

    --Norman Boucher, "Back To the Everglades," Technology Review(modified)


  • As the complement of adjectives or nouns modified by the adverbs too and enough


    A 30-mile-by-100 mile area called the Blake Ridge off the North Carolinacoast holds enough gas to supply all the needs of the UnitedStates for 100 years.

    --David Graham, "Harvesting Natural Gas from the Ocean Floor," Technology Review


  • As the complement of the interrogative words how and whether

  • The difficulty lies in determining how to engineer thosecharacteristics back into the system.

    --Norman Boucher, "Back to the Everglades," TechnologyReview


  • As the subject of a sentence whose main verb is a form of be, especially if the infinitive expresses an intention or a purpose.

  • To predict waterflow reliably is necessary for large-scale agriculture and suburbs.

    --Norman Boucher, "Back to the Everglades," Technology Review(modified)


Avoid splitting an infinitive by placing an intervening word between theinfinitive marker to and the verb unless any other placement of theintervening word would sound awkward.


Weak

In the late 1940's von Neumann foreshadowed the discovery of DNA in statingthat any organism had to most definitely have the instructionsdictating its behavior and reproduction, along with a copy in some form of thosesame instructions passed on to descendants.

Improved

In the late 1940's von Neumann foreshadowed the discovery of DNA in statingthat any organism most definitely had to have the instructionsdictating its behavior and reproduction, along with a copy in some form of thosesame instructions passed on to descendants.

--Kai Wu, "Artificial Life," SciTech Magazine (modified)

Weak

One of the people willing rigorously to study cellularautomata phenomena was Stephen Wolfram, creator of the now famous Mathematicaprogram.

Improved

One of the people willing to rigorously study cellularautomata phenomena was Stephen Wolfram, creator of the now famous Mathematicaprogram.

--Kai Wu, "Artificial Life," SciTech Magazine


You can emphasize that the action described by the infinitive occurred in thepast or was completed by adding the auxiliaryhave after the infinitive marker to.


The reaction appears to have finishedalready.

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