I waited for him to arrive.

In this quotation, what is the function of 'to arrive'? I know that to-infinitives are verbs; however, I wish to understand its functionality in this specific sentence. Is it modifying 'him' like an adjective?

As per a previous question, I also know that a to-infintive can function as a catenative complement; however, I'm not sure if the same applies when prepositional phrases are added to the mix.

  • The verb - "wait" doesn't take a infinitive clause as complement. It licenses a Preposition Phras - "for him". The infinitive clause - "to arrive" is a modifier in Noun Phrase structure. The noun phrase is "him to arrive". The preparation phrase is "for + noun phrase". Oct 6, 2021 at 7:08
  • Syntactically, him to arrive is a kind of noun phrase, referring to the "event" of him arriving. Perhaps easier to see if you compare I paid for him to drink last night and I paid for him drinking last night (both can be valid ways of saying the same thing). We wouldn't actually say I waited for him arriving (if we wanted a more obviously "nouny" object, it would be I waited for his arrival), but imho it's not inherently ungrammatical (or certainly not seriously so). Oct 11, 2021 at 14:08

2 Answers 2


"Arrive" is a verb, not an adjective. Only verbs have a to-infinitive form.

You will often see a 'to infintive' after another verb that is followed by 'for' - in this case "waited" is the other verb.

  • I have a question. In the sentence(I wait for him to arrive), what do I wait? Is it him or his arriving?
    – bak1936
    Oct 6, 2021 at 2:56
  • @bak1936 his arrival. You are waiting for a person to do an action.
    – Astralbee
    Oct 6, 2021 at 6:24
  • For clarification, I know that 'arrive' is a verb. However, a to-infinitive can act like an adjective. Here's a good example: 'I wanted a bite to eat.' We could replace 'to eat' with a relative clause: 'I wanted a bite that I could eat.'
    – MJ Ada
    Oct 6, 2021 at 18:02
  • @MJAda that's not a good example, as 'eat' is a verb in both cases.
    – Astralbee
    Oct 7, 2021 at 7:55
  • Yes, 'eat' is a verb. But the relative clause is functioning like an adjective, and so is the infinitive.
    – MJ Ada
    Oct 8, 2021 at 8:25

Having found a resource that addresses this question, I am going to provide an answer myself:

'for him' is a prepositional phrase that adverbially modifies the verb 'waited'.

'to arrive' is an infinitive that acts independently from the prepositional phrase. It is a catenative complement of the verb 'waited'.

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