[Whom we expect] to be delivering the presentation is absent.

The desire to fight is [what we believe] to be planted in his mind.

I bracketed the words which I think are the noun clauses of the sentences,
but I am not sure if the infinitive clauses behind are also part of the noun clause.

If the infinitive clauses are part of the noun clauses, what are their functions?

Are the adjectival or adverbial in the example sentences?

  • What is the source of these quotes? They are correct on a purely technical level, but I cannot imagine why someone would write them this way. – Jesse Mar 21 '19 at 20:09

[1] *[Whom we expect to be delivering the presentation] is absent.

[2] The desire to fight is [what we believe to be planted in his mind].

The bracketed constituents are not noun clauses, but NPs (noun phrases) in fused relative constructions. The infinitivals are part of the NPs, where they function as catenative complements of the catenative verbs "expect" and "believe".

But "who(m)" does not occur in fused relatives other than as an alternant to "whomever" in the free choice construction, which is not the case here, and hence [1] is ungrammatical.

[2] by contrast is fine. The NP functions as predicative complement of "be" in its specifying sense. The bracketed NP is comparable to the thing which we believe to be planted in his mind.

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  • You're right. I was thinking of the first one as a sentence fragment, and forgot that it was presented as a complete sentence. – Colin Fine Mar 21 '19 at 23:57
  • Thank you, for the second sentence, can I understand the noun phrase as "we believe what to be planted in his mind", and what equals the desire to fight ? – jammy yang Mar 22 '19 at 15:03
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    Re your first question, you are half-right: "what" is simultaneously head of the noun phrase and object of "believe". But it doesn't mean "the desire to fight". Think of the NP as meaning "the thing which we believe to be planted in his mind", where "which" refers to "thing" and is object of "believe". – BillJ Mar 22 '19 at 15:52
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    Re your second question: the infinitival clause "to be noticed by others" is a purpose adjunct, cf. "He exaggerated what he saw in order to be noticed by others. – BillJ Mar 22 '19 at 15:56
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    @jammyyang Yes, you are right, but note that "thing" is only the understood subject of the infinitival clause. Syntactically it is object of "believe". – BillJ Mar 23 '19 at 7:31

No, what you have bracketed are not constituents of the sentence at all.

In the first one, Whom is a fused relative pronoun, introducing the clause "we expect t to be delivering the presentation" (where t is the 'trace' of the object moved to head position to be the relative pronoun).

Similarly, in the second, the clause introduced by the fused relative what is "we believe t to be planted in his mind".

These are quite complex structures, since there is an infinitive clause embedded in the relative clause.

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In your first sentence:

[Whom we expect to be delivering the presentation] is absent.

In the second

The desire to fight is [what we believe to be planted in his mind].

The noun clause includes everything that acts like a noun when considered together. "Whom we expect to be delivering the presentation" all relates to the subject of the sentence (the unnamed 'person whom').

In the second sentence the object of the sentence is a thing (a noun) represented by the words "what we believe to be planted in his mind". Every word in that clause relates to that 'thing'.

As Colin Fine said before me, these are complex sentences.

As you know, a noun clause will begin with a relative pronoun (which, who, what, etc) and must include a verb and a subject.

In each of your sentences 'the verb' is a more complex arrangement than a standard single word. They are verb phrases.

expect to be delivering

believe to be planted

As to the role the infinitive is playing - certain verbs can be followed by an infinitive construction to complete their meaning, and these are such cases. 'Expect' and 'believe' are often - perhaps usually - not enough to convey a full meaning on their own. So we can 'expect to ...' or 'believe to ...' something to add more information. More detail here. Add the passive voice on top of that, and you have 'expect to be delivering' and 'believe to be planted'.

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