In the following sentence, to be answered belongs to which verb tense?

What we mentioned just now is, by the way, a very important question to be answered – it is like an “acid test” for any astrological doctrine.


K.S. Krishnamurti in “Hindu Astrology vs Western Astrology”


1 Answer 1


No inflection means no tense

Like person and number, the tense of a verb is a simple matter of morphological inflection. But to be answered is an uninflected to-infinitive. It is not a finite verb at all, but a nonfinite one.

That means that the verb be is not tensed at all here, and so it has no tense whatsoever, just like it similarly has no inflection for person or number.

The verb be is here used in its base, uninflected form. To be tensed, it would need to be inflected for person, number, and time, and so be one of am, art, is, are, was, wert, were instead of just plain be.

Here is the table showing how these vary with be:

Example Tense Person Number
to be happy none! none! none!
being happy none! none! none!
I am happy present first singular
Thou art happy present second singular
He/she/it is happy present third singular
We/you/they are happy present first/second/third plural
I/he was happy past first/third singular
Thou wert happy past second singular
We/you/they were happy past first/second/third plural

In all but a few remaining dialects of English, the thou forms are now archaic. They are today found mainly in older literature from the Early Modern English period or in more recent works emulating the same such as prayers, hymns, and poetry, or in dialogue representing speakers from that historical period.

That means the answer to your question is "None", or "it's not".

  • @Lambie Explain the meaning of what particular thing?
    – tchrist
    Jul 3, 2022 at 16:46
  • @Lambie "Passive infinitive" is not a tense. He asked for the tense. There is none. Compare to be spectacled and to be happy: no tense whatsoever.
    – tchrist
    Jul 3, 2022 at 16:48

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