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Predicative constructions with the infinitive


§ 113. The infinitive is used in predicative constructions of three types: the objective with the infinitive construction, and the so-called for-to-infinitive construction *. Traditionally they are called the complex subject, the complex object, and the for-to-infinitive complex.

* It is possible, however, to distinguish one more infinitive construction generally called the subjective infinitive construction or the nominative infinitive construction. (See § 123 on the Subjective predicative construction).


In all these constructions the infinitive denotes an action ascribed to the person or non-person, though grammatically this relationship is not expressed in form: the doer of the action may be represented by a noun in the common case, a pronoun in the objective case (I saw him cross the street, it is for him to decide this) and the verbal element which is not in a finite form. Still, due to their semantics and because of the attached posi­tion the nominal and the verbal elements are understood as forming a complex with subject-predicate relationship.


The for-to-infinitive construction


§ 114. In the for-to-infinitive construction the infinitive (usually an infinitive phrase) is in predicate relation to a noun in the common case or a pronoun in the objective case introduced by the preposition for. The construction is used where the doer of the action (or the bearer of the state), expressed by the infinitive, is different from that of the finite verb (the predicate):


The doer of the action of the finite verb and of the infinitive is the same: The doer of the action of the finite verb and of the infinitive is not the same:
He longed to see the truth. - Он очень хотел узнать правду. All I want is to get out of here for good. - Единственное, чего я хочу, - это навсегда уехать отсюда. He longed for me to see the truth.- Он очень хотел, чтобы я узнал правду. All I want is for Jack to get out of here for good. - Единственное, чего я хочу, - это чтобы Джек навсегда уехал отсюда.


The for-to-infinitive construction has the same functions as a single infinitive, though with some restrictions.


1. Subject. The for-to-infinitive construction in the function of the subject usually occurs in sentences with the introductory it, though it is occasionally placed at the head of the sentence:


It was difficult for him to do anything else.

For me to hear him was disturbing.


2. Predicative. In this function the construction is mostly used with the link verb to be:

The best thing is for you to do it now.


3. Object. The construction functions as object of both verbs and adjectives:


a) She watched for the door to open.

I don’t think I should care for it to be known.


b) His family were anxious for him to do something.

I’m so glad for you to have come at last.


4. Attribute:


There was no need for him to be economical.


5. Adverbial modifier of purpose and consequence:


She paused for him to continue.

The wall was too high for anything to be visible.

He had said enough for me to get alarmed.


In all its uses this construction is generally rendered in Russian by a subordinate clause.


The objective with the infinitive construction


§ 115. In the objective with the infinitive construction the infinitive (usually an infinitive phrase) is in predicate relation to a noun in the common case or a pronoun in the objective case (hence the name of the construction). The whole construction forms a complex object of some verbs. It is rendered in Russian by an object clause.

The objective with the infinitive construction is used in the following cases:


1. After verbs of sense perception (to see, to hear, to feel, to watch, to observe, to notice and some others). In this case the only possible form of the infinitive is the non-perfect common aspect active voice form, used without the particle to:


No one has ever heard her cry.

I paused a moment and watched the tram-car stop.


The verb to listen to, though not a verb of sense perception, is used in the same way, with a bare infinitive:


He was listening attentively to the chairman speak.


If the verb to see or to notice is used with the meaning to realize, or the verb to hear with the meaning to learn, the objective with the infinitive construction cannot be used. Here only subordinate object clause is possible:


I saw that he did not know anything.   I hear you have dropped the idea of leaving him.     Не only had time to notice that the girl was unusually pretty. Я видел (понимал), что он ничего не знает.   Я слышала (узнала), что ты отказалась от мысли уйти от него.   Он только успел заметить (осознать), что девушка была необычайно хорошенькой.


2. After verbs of mental activity (to think, to believe, to consider, to expect, to understand, to suppose, to find and some others). Here the infinitive is used in any form, though the non-perfect forms are the most frequent (always with the particle to).


I know him to be an honest man.

She believed him to have left for San Francisco.

I believed her to be knitting in the next room.

I should expect my devoted friend to be devoted to me.


3. After verbs of emotion (to like, to love, to hate, to dislike and some others). Here non-perfect, common aspect forms of the “to”- infinitive are the most usual.


I always liked him to sing.

She hated her son to be separated from her.

I’d love you to come with me too.

I hated him to have been sent away.


4. After verbs of wish and intention (to want, to wish, to desire, to intend, to mean and some others). After these verbs only non-perfect common aspect forms of the infinitive with the particle to are used:


He only wished you to be near him.

I don’t want him to be punished.


5. After verbs of declaring (to declare, to pronounce):


I declare you to be out of your mind.

He reported the boat to have been seen not far away.


6. After verbs of inducement (to have, to make, to get, to order, to tell, to ask, etc.) of which the first two take a bare infinitive. In the construction some of them acquire a different meaning: make - заставить, get - добить­ся, have - заставить (сказать, чтобы...)


I can’t get him to do it properly.

She made me obey her.


7. The objective with the infinitive construction also occurs after certain verbs requiring a prepositional object, for example to count (up)on, to rely (up) on, to look for, to listen to, to wait for:


I rely on you to come in time.

Can’t I count upon you to help me?


The gerund


§ 116. The gerund is a non-finite form of the verb with some noun features. It is formed by adding the suffix -ing to the stem of the verb.

The grammatical meaning of the gerund is that of a process. Thus to some extent it competes with nouns of verbal origin, e.g. translating -translation, describing - description, arriving - arrival, perceiving - perception, helping - help. Nouns, however, tend to convey the fact or the result of an action, which in certain circumstances may be something material, whereas gerunds convey the idea of action or process itself.


Show me your translation: it is neatly done, and there, are no mistakes in it.

You will enrich your vocabulary by translating from English into Russian and vice versa.


If the meaning of the gerund is nearly the same as that of the noun, the former emphasizes the process, and the latter - the fact:


Thank you for helping me.

Thank you for your help.


It is natural that the verbal character of the gerund is more prominent in transitive verbs, owing to their combinability and their passive forms.

Morphologically the verbal character of the gerund is manifested in the categories of voice and perfect (see table V) and syntactically in its combinability. Thus the gerund may combine: a) with a noun or pronoun as direct, indirect or prepositional object, depending on the verb it is formed from; b) with an adjective or a noun as a predicative; c) with an infinitive.

Gerunds can be modified by adverbs and prepositional phrases function­ing as adverbial modifiers.


Gerund Finite verb
I remember your telling me the story five years ago.   It’s no use arguing about trifles.   John dreams of becoming a sailor.   There is some chance of his being able to join us.   We enjoyed walking slowly along the silent streets. You told me the story five years ago.   I never argue about trifles.   John became a sailor.   We hope he will be able to join us.   We walked slowly along the silent streets.


The nominal character of the gerund reveals itself syntactically, mainly in its syntactical function, partly in its combinability.


Like a noun, it can function as subject, object, or predicative.


Seeing you is always a pleasure. (subject)

I remember seeing you somewhere. (object)

I am thinking of seeing the film again. (prepositional object)

Peter’s hobby is seeing all new films. (predicative)


When it is an attribute or an adverbial modifier, a gerund, like a noun is preceded by a preposition.


There is a chance of catching the train.

Don’t forget to call me up before leaving London.

I reached my goal in spite of there being every reason against it.


The fact that the gerund can associate with a preposition is a sure sign of noun features.

Like a noun, but unlike the other non-finites, it can combine with a possessive pronoun and a noun in the genitive case denoting the doer of the action expressed by the gerund.


Excuse my interrupting you.

I insist on John’s staying with us.


It combines with the negative pronoun no in the idiomatic construction of the type: There is no getting out of it.


The grammatical categories of the gerund


§ 117. As already stated the gerund has only two grammatical categories, those of voice and perfect.


Table V


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