Intuitively, tell is a verb, but a verb that comes after a modal auxiliary is usually a bare infinitive, meaning it is a verbal and doesn't function as an 'actual' verb. Would it be correct to describe 'tell' as an adverb modifying will?

  • What if it was: “I will tell him if I see him.” ?
    – Jim
    Dec 28, 2020 at 3:03
  • As a beginning learner of grammar, I do not see the difference. Would you care to enlighten me on how posing the sentence in such a way would make my sentence easier to analyse? Dec 28, 2020 at 3:08
  • "I will tell him" is simple future, and tell is the verb. We have a separate site called English Language Learners for those learning English. This might he better asked there. Dec 28, 2020 at 3:29
  • The reason I asked this question is because the reference material I'm using, the Farlex Grammar Book, mentions that the future tense is will + the bare infinitive. Is the bare infinitive and the base form of a verb interchangeable? I understand that an infinitive is a verbal that acts as a noun, adjective, or an adverb. Is my reference material incorrect? Dec 28, 2020 at 4:01
  • 1
    Dump your reference material!. It is totally wrong. Verbs don't act as nouns, or any other parts of speech -- they act as verbs. Infinitival clauses use the plain (or base) form of the verb. It's as simple as that.
    – BillJ
    Dec 28, 2020 at 8:31

1 Answer 1


No, that's not correct. "Tell" is a verb that serves as head of the VP "tell him", which in turns functions as a complement of "will".

"Tell" is in the form of bare infinitive, a form of verb that has no tense or aspect inflection and is not preceded by "to".

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