April 23, 2005
Introduction to the KISS Workbooks The KISS Homepage

Distinguishing Finite Verbs from Verbals
The “To” Test

     A finite verb phrase cannot begin with “to.” Thus in “Bob went to his room to do his homework,” “to do” is not a finite verb.  (Do not underline it twice.)

Bob went {to his room} to do his homework.

     One can, however, consider “to” plus a verb as part of a verb phrase if the phrase begins with a helping verb:

Sam had to leave early.
Sandra ought to go {to the game}.



     Technically, a verb phrase that begins with “to” is an infinitive. You will study infinitives in detail later. For now, your primary objective is not to underline them twice. You might note, however, that infinitives function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.
 
As Nouns: Subject: To play {at the beach} is fun (PN).
Direct Object: We like to play (DO) {at the beach}.
Predicate Noun: The best thing is to run (PN).
As Adjectives: That was a day (PN) to remember.
As Adverbs: They went {to the mall} to shop.

     Like all verbs, infinitives can have subjects and complements. In sentences like “To play at the beach is fun,” the subject of “To play” is understood to be anyone. In sentences such as “We like to play at the beach,” the subject is understood to be the same as the main subject -- “We like *us* to play at the beach.” If the subject of the infinitive is someone or something else, it must be included in the sentence -- “We like Bill to play with us at the beach.” In sentences like this, “Bill” is the subject of the infinitive “to play,” and the entire infinitive phrase is the direct object of “like.”
     After some verbs, the “to” is not used -- “Dad made me clean my room.” In this sentence, “me” is the subject of the infinitive “clean,” and “room” is the direct object of “clean.” Here again, the entire infinitive phrase is the direct object of “made.” Note that the subjects of infinitives are in objective case.