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This question was given to a friend of mine:

"at the moment, I peered at the water and made the decision to plunge in"
How many verbs are there?

She said three (peered,made, plunge in) and I would agree with her, anyway the teacher said two.

We don't know why the teacher said so, anyway I think it is because "to plunge in" is used as an object in this sentence: "I made the decision to plunge in"

is that correct? Or the teacher is wrong?

  • "At the moment... I peered" is ungrammatical, BTW. At that moment would work, but not "at the moment", which means "now", that is, "even now, as I'm saying this". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 5 '14 at 15:23
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    I made a copy paste..seemed strange to me as well :D – user2358943 Oct 5 '14 at 15:30
  • Actually the question is vague and unclear. An infinitive is a verb form and the answer three verbs is correct. If the teacher wanted to know what function the infinitive has in the sentence he should ask: what is the function of the infinitive. – rogermue Jan 28 '15 at 19:24
  • I agree that the example sentence is ungrammatical, but "At the moment" doesn't always mean "now". For instance: "At the moment that I peered at the water, I made the decision to plunge in." – Adam Apr 28 '15 at 21:51
  • There's no doubt that it can be considered an object. The question is whether it ends up being a good idea to do so―does this hypothesis have much explanatory value? Is it parsimonious? Probably not... – snailcar Apr 29 '15 at 1:03
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An infinitive is a verb form, no matter what function it has in a sentence. So I would not agree with the view of the teacher.

Can the infinitive be considered an object?

Some grammars have the view that the structure verb + infinitive is a verb + an infinitive object. Dictionaries mostly have verb + infinitive in the section transitive verb. It would be better if dictionaries introduced a new category "infinitive verbs". Simply because the structures vb + noun and vb + inf are two totally different structures as to sentence building and it would help to find infinitive verbs in dictionaries.

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This verb phrase ( "decided" or "made the decision" ) requires an infinitive form to complete the predication.

I decided to leave.

I made the decision to leave.

Sometimes this part of the predication is known as the predicate object. But that is simply the terminology used by someone somewhere whose job it was to describe language and to find apt language for describing language.

A "decision" refers to action one will take or not take. That action is expressed in English using the infinitive form of the verb.

I decided {to take some action}.

I decided {not to take some action}.

The actual phrase that goes inside the braces {} can be considered an object. But that is just a label.

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    You can also decide things like where that painting should go...or a court case (if you're a judge)...or, grammatically, nothing at all -- "I decided" is a complete and valid sentence. – cHao Oct 6 '14 at 1:22
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I think that I evaluate the sentence in the same way that the teacher does. If so, then you have correctly identified which of those three options the teacher does not count as a verb. However, my explanation is a little different than yours.

"To plunge in" is an infinitive phrase. An infinitive is formed from a verb, but it doesn't count as a verb in use.

You called it an object. Infinitive phrases can be objects. This infinitive phrase is not an object in this sentence. Instead, this infinitive phrase acts like an adjective. It modifies the noun "decision".

So, anyway, I think it is because "to plunge in" is used as a modifier in this sentence. Just as you understand that objects are not verbs, I understand that modifiers are not verbs.

You were certainly on the right track.

  • Saying a verb stops being a verb because it is used as an object or as a modifier makes no sense. By that logic, a noun should also no longer be a noun if it is used as a modifier, as an object, as a subject. If I use a knife to cut something, it is still a knife. A verb is a verb, and if I use it, it is still a verb. – oerkelens Jan 29 '15 at 10:00
  • Close. A modifier formed from a noun is no longer a noun. By this logic, although both "toy" and "box" are nouns on their own, the "toy" of the phrase "a toy box" is an adjective. However, nouns remain nouns when employed as subjects, object or complements. – Gary Botnovcan Feb 22 '15 at 18:36
  • Toy in toy box is not an adjective. One giveaway is that you cannot say *the box is toy, which works fine with adjectives (the box is blue). Attributively used nouns are not adjectives, although many old grammar books and teachers have told us so. – oerkelens Feb 23 '15 at 9:40
  • I'm sorry. I see that I was far from clear. I don't mean to argue with my own voice that attributives are best described as adjectives or that verbals are best described as non-verbs. I meant to propose that that's the way the teacher in question would describe them. You and I are free to reject the old grammar book that this class still uses, but the student in question (and countless others like her) still needs to generate answers which match that book's key. Simply claiming that the key is wrong won't serve that end. – Gary Botnovcan Feb 23 '15 at 15:31

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