first, sorry for my poor English and I hope you can understand what I'm asking. It seems a subject of an infinitive phrase usually appears to be the same as that of a sentence.

For example

"I went to get help and by the time I got back he had stopped breathing." from lexico

"Sadly, she didn't live to see her grandchildren" from cambridge dictionary

but there are other cases like

when a subject of a sentence is an object of an infinitive phrase and a subject of it doesn't appear in the sentence:

"The plant is relatively easy to identify." from oxford learner's dictionary

"The sauce takes 25 minutes to prepare and cook." from collins dictionary

when a subject of a sentence is not a subject or an object of an infinitive phrase:

"The show may sound like one for the tourists, but passports are not required to get a ticket at the Olympia box office." from lexico

"A lot of patience is required to look after a disabled child." from longman dictionary

" It's too hot to go for a bike ride." from longman dictionary

when an object of a sentence is a subject of an infinitive phrase:

"The same lawyers told him to bring charges to a civil court and the sports court of arbitrage." from lexico

"Do you want me to take you to the airport?" from cambridge dictionary

So what makes it happen? Am I right to understand that context decides a subject and an object of an infinitive phrase when it is omitted? or is there any grammar rule about this?


1 Answer 1


There are two ways of identifying the understood subject: syntactic and non-syntactic.

In the former case, the subject can be identified by looking at a linguistic antecedent that appears in some particular function in the matrix (overall) construction, such as subject or object of a preposition. In the case of non-syntactic determination the meaning depends on other factors. It may be someone or something mentioned earlier in the discourse, or perhaps it applies quite generally. Compare:

[1] Ed promised [to resign from the board].

[2] It is unwise [to go swimming straight after a meal].

In [1] Ed did the promising, he is the subject of the verb "promise", and this is enough to tell us that "Ed" is also the subject of the verb "resign".

In [2], however, there is non-syntactic determination. The meaning depends heavily on inference. The salient interpretation is that it applies quite generally: "It is unwise for anyone to go swimming straight after a meal".

Objects are generally overt, but sometimes they are missing and have to be recovered from an antecedent expression. For example:

[3] You can inspect the house in a few days time.

[4] The house will be ready [for you to inspect ___] in a few fays time.

In [3] the object of "inspect" is clearly stated as "the house". But in [4] the object (shown as ___) is missing. However, it is recoverable from earlier in the sentence, where it is obvious that what you will be inspecting is the house.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .