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Further Uses of Infinitiues, Participles and Verbal Nouns

Like be, the verb get may be used as an auxiliary verb to form passives.

  • Celtic got beaten by Rangers 6-0.
  • She got bitten by a dog.
  • Be careful or you’ll get hurt.
  • The thieves will get caught one of these days.

A similar construction to the one above, involving get along with an object and a past participle, means ‘to cause something to be done’:

  • When my watch broke, I got it repaired at the jeweller’s in the High Street.
  • We got double glazing fitted to all the windows in the house.
  • I’ll have to get that hedge cut down a bit — it’s far too high.

The verb have can be used instead of get.

  • There have been so many break-ins round here recently, we’ve had a burglar alarm fitted to the garage as well as the house.
  • The painters made such a bad job of hanging the wallpaper, we had to have it done again.
  • I’m not sure these figures are correct. We’d better have them checked.

Get and a to-infinitive can be used to mean ‘to make or cause someone to do something’ or ‘to arrange for someone to do something’.

  • I wasn’t sure about the figures so I got John to check them again.
  • The painters made such a bad job of hanging the wallpaper, we got them to do it again.
  • Since the electrician was fitting a light in the garage, I just got him to fit one in the garden hut as well.
  • I’m too busy to talk to him right now. Get him to call back later.

Again have can be used instead of get, but note that have is followed by a bare infinitive rather than a to-infinitive:

  • I wasn’t sure about the figures so I had John check them.
  • Her homework was full of spelling errors and corrections, so her father had her write it out again.

The verb make can also be used in this sense, also followed by a bare infinitive. To make someone do something may mean ‘to force them to do it’:

  • Her homework was full of spelling errors and corrections, so her father made her write it out again.
  • The police have ways of making criminals confess.

To make someone do something may mean ‘to do something that causes someone to do it’:

  • I like talking to Mary. She makes me laugh. (= she says things that I find amusing)
  • How can I make him understand that I love him?

To have something happen to you means you experience it or that it happens to you.

  • He had his car stolen at the weekend. (= His car was stolen at the weekend)
  • She had her arm broken in three places when a drunk driver knocked her off her bike.
  • We had our roof blown off last night in the storm.

This construction most often refers to something unexpected or unpleasant, and beyond the control of the person the action happens to.

Another construction consisting of get and a participle has the meaning ‘to succeed in doing something’ or ‘to manage to do it’.

In this sense, get may be followed by either a past or a present participle.

  • If everyone lends a hand, we’ll soon get the job done.
  • Sometimes I think I’ll never get this book finished.
  • The clock had stopped but I managed to get it working again.
  • I don’t know how to get this lawnmower started. Do you know how to get it going?

In sentences such as these, the past participle is used when the action being described is going to stop or to be completed (that is, the job will be done, the book will be finished and the lawnmower will have started), whereas the present participle is used to describe an action that is about to begin and which will continue after it has begun (that is, the clock will start to work and will continue to work and the lawnmower will start to go and will continue to go).

To get something done can also mean simply ‘to finish doing it’:

  • We’ll need to get this job finished before we start on the next one.

When a lexical verb is followed by a direct object that names the person or thing who is to perform the action of the following verb, then the following verb is usually an infinitive.

  • She begged them to set her son free.
  • He asked her not to tell anyone what she had seen.
  • They don’t allow people to smoke in theatres now.
  • She persuaded her captors to let her go.
  • He forced the dog to let go of the stick.
  • They’ve invited us to spend the weekend at their cottage in the country.
  • Remind me to send off that cheque tonight.
  • expect you to have finished that report by tomorrow.

When a lexical verb does not have a direct object that names the person or thing performing the action of the following verb, then the action of the second verb is being performed by the subject of the first verb.

The second verb may be either a verbal noun or an infinitive.

  • I’ve stopped eating chocolate.
  • My mother likes gardening.
  • My daughter wants to be a doctor.
  • Don’t try to do everything yourself.
  • She’s started biting (OR started to bite) her nails.

Some verbs can only be followed by a verbal noun:

  • I don’t mind coming with you.
  • Practise throwing the ball to one another.
  • Have you finished reading that paper?
  • They don’t allow smoking in theatres.
  • The job involves counting the money and taking it to the bank.

Other verbs in this group are: acknowledge, admit, advise, anticipate, avoid, consider, contemplate, delay, deny, detest, discuss, dislike, encourage, entail, fancy, give up, imagine, imply, involve, miss, permit, postpone, put off, quit, recommend, risk, skip, stand and suggest.

Come and go are also followed by verbal nouns:

  • We’re going shopping. Do you want to come shopping with us?

Certain other verbal expressions are also followed by a verbal noun, for example, can’t help (see page 137) and feel like:

  • can’t help thinking we’ve done the wrong thing.
  • I often feel like screaming out loud.

Prepositions are also generally followed by verbal nouns:

  • She was accused of stealing money from her employer.
  • He can’t cope with being under pressure all the time at work.
  • I’ll keep on writing books till the day I die.
  • I often dream about living on a desert island.
  • I reckon he’s chickened out of coming with us.
  • To what extent was he Justified in seeing me as a threat?
  • I intend to abstain from voting.

Some verbs can only be followed by an infinitive:

  • He had agreed to meet us but he failed to turn up.
  • But you promised to help us! Why are you refusing to help us now?
  • She seems to know what she is doing.
  • I don’t want to go to the cinema.
  • He threatened to kill her if she ever gave away their secret.

Other verbs in this group are: afford, aim, appear, arrange, ask, aspire, attempt, beg, claim, come, consent, decide, decline, desire, expect, helphesitate, hope, learn, long, manage, offer, prepare, pretend, profess, seek, strive, struggle, undertake, venture and wish.

A few verbs can be followed by either a verbal noun or an infinitive:

  • The little boy started crying (OR started to cry).
  • She loves dancing (OR loves to dance).
  • hate telling lies (OR hate to tell lies).

To ‘like to do something’ may be used in the sense of doing something because you think it is a good or sensible thing to do, whether or not you enjoy it:

  • like to visit my mother at least once a week. (= I visit her at least once a week because I think I should)
  • like to weigh myself every morning, even though I hate seeing how fat I am. (= I weigh myself every morning because I think it is a sensible thing to do, even though! don t enjoy doing it)

To ‘like doing something’ cannot be used in this sense: to like doing something always means to enjoy doing it.

Other verbs in this category are: begin, cease, continue, intend, loathe and prefer; also the phrase can’t bear.

Note that in combination with the modal verb would, the verbs hate, like, loathe, love and prefer must be followed by a to-infinitive:

  • Would you like to go to the zoo this afternoon, or would you prefer to go to the pictures?
  • I’d love to see the animals in the zoo.

After begin and start, verbs that denote being aware or becoming aware of something, such as realize, see and understand, are only used in the to-infinitive form:

  • was starting to see that they were not being entirely honest with me.
  • She began to realize what a fool she had been.

Note the correct constructions to use with the verb prefer when making comparisons with to and rather than. To is used with verbal nouns:

  • I prefer sailing to swimming.
  • My mother prefers working in her garden to sitting watching television.

Rather than is preceded by a to-infinitive and usually followed by a bare infinitive:

  • For those who prefer to play rather than sunbathe, there are some excellent sports facilities in the hotel.
  • A true sportsman would prefer to lose rather than win unfairly.
  • Most of the older residents preferred to stay rather than move out.
  • Many employees may prefer to leave rather than complain.

Less commonly, rather than may be followed by a to-infinitive or a verbal noun:

  • The children may prefer to sit rather than to stand or to walk.
  • I have no patience with dreamers who prefer to theorize rather than to live life to the full.
  • I prefer to leave my video-recorder running for hours unattended rather than spending the time to set it for the programmes I want to see.
  • Some employees prefer to take the time off as unpaid leave rather than using it up as part of their annual holidays.

Some verbs can be followed by either a verbal noun or an infinitive, but unlike the verbs in group above, the two constructions have different meanings:

  • He stopped to drink some coffee. (= he stopped in order to drink some coffee)
  • He stopped drinking coffee months ago. (= he no longer drinks coffee)
  • The Prime Minister first explained what was wrong with the education system, then went on to say what the government was going to do about it. (= after explaining what was wrong, he then said what the government was going to do)
  • The government may go on telling us that the economy is OK but no-one will believe them. (= they may continue to tell us they may tell us again and again …)
  • When she throws the ball to you, try to hit it as hard as you can. (= … make an effort to nit it as hard as you can)
  • If your computer doesn’t work, try hitting it. (= hit the computer and see what happens, see whether hitting it makes the computer work)
  • He remembered to post the letter this morning. (= he remembered this morning that he had to post the letter, and he did post it)
  • He remembers posting the letter this morning. (= he posted the letter this morning and he knows that he did because he can remember that he posted it)
  • He forgot to post the letter this morning. (= he didn’t post the letter)
  • Surely he hasn’t forgotten posting the letter last night? (= does he not remember that he posted the letter last night?)
  • I mean to come back next week. (= I intend to come back next week)
  • Going to the early showing of the film would mean leaving the house by five o’clock at the latest. (= it would require us to leave the house by five o’clock)
  • regret to inform you that the king is dead. (= I am sorry that I now have to tell you that the king is dead.) (This is a rather formal expression, used especially when giving someone bad news.)
  • regret informing fam of our plan. (= I am sorry that I told him about our plan.) (The verbal noun is used when what is regretted is something that the speaker has done in the past.)

With verbs of hearing, seeing and feeling, the second verb may be an infinitive or a present participle.

  • heard him laugh {OR heard him laughing).
  • We watched the birds fly (OR flying) over our house.

Other common verbs in this group are feel, hear, listen to, notice and observe.

There is a slight difference in meaning between the infinitive and the present participle. The infinitive is used to describe a completed action, something you have watched, listened to, etc until it is over:

  • heard the band play a well-known Irish lament.
  • felt something crawl over my hand and then up my sleeve.
  • saw the painter fall off the ladder.

present participle, on the other hand, is used when you are referring to seeing, hearing, etc only part of an action or activity rather than the whole of it or right to the end of it:

  • heard a band playing a well-known Irish lament, but I didn’t have time to stop and listen to it.
  • I felt something crawling over my hand and brushed it off onto the floor.
  • I saw the painter falling off the ladder.

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