I know that we usually break sentences down into subject, verb, object. But the following sentence is causing me problems:

I want to give a present.

How do I parse this?

  • Is want the verb and give a present the object?
  • Is want to give the verb, and a present the object?
  • It has two verbs. "to give" is an infinitive. Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 13:37
  • 3
    "Want" is a verb, and "to give a present" is its complement, not object. "A present" is object of "give".
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 14:15
  • Please go to a dictionary and see how those verbs work before posting. Especially give.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 18:08

2 Answers 2


You have 2 verbs in the sentence. One modal and one infinitive.

"To want" is a modal verb. Modal verbs requires another verb in the sentence to be in infinitive.

"I"is the subject of the sentence.
"Want" is a modal verb.
"To give" is the infinitive verb.
"a present" is an object.

I want to give you a present.
I wish to take your present.
I ought to buy some presents

Some modals removes the "to" part from the infinitive:

I could give you a present.
I must take your present.
I may sell you present.


How do I parse a sentence with two verbs?

There are things called infinitives, gerunds, and participles - these use the same words as verbs, but have the function of nouns or modifiers. The category for these are verbals.

There's many words in English that can work outside of the function they are "supposed" to be (and many that can't). A lot of nouns can be "hacked" into working as verbs, and verbals are a "sanctioned" way for verbs to work other parts of speech.

I know that we usually break sentences down into subject, verb, object.

Objects are nouns - so verbals that work as nouns can appear where an object is expected.

I want to give a present.

To give is the object of want (What does "I" want? To give.)

Verbals are not functioning as verbs, but they can still take objects themselves like verbs. What they can't take are subjects.

So a present is an object of to give.

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