Site-wide links


1. Learn how to identify infinitives and to distinguish between finite verb forms and infinitives. Learn how to identify structures containing passive verbs followed by infinitive clauses. For details on passive, see the SEA Site module on Passive Voice.

2. Review your course readings and other materials to determine the extent to which these materials contain infinitive structures. When you encounter an infinitive, note what the logical subject of the infinitive is. If the logical subject is frequently not a noun phrase that immediately precedes the infinitive or if the logical subject is not contained in the sentence, you should assume that the readings may be misinterpreted by students. In class, discuss readings that contain a lot of infinitive clauses and point out the logical subjects of the infinitives. To the extent that you are comfortable, explain some of the general principles regarding the interpretation of logical subjects that have been discussed in this module. Do not use grammatical terminology; just talk about who will presumably do the action expressed by the infinitive. Demonstrate to students how the logical subject will change when a sentence is changed from active to passive.

3. In written assignments and on quizzes, avoid the more problematic sentence structures containing infinitives where possible.

4. Do your own assessment of your students' abilities to correctly interpret the logical subjects of infinitives by developing a short test based on the readings and other materials used in your courses. Doing this within the context of your course content has several advantages:

a. It will allow you to consciously identify structures containing infinitive clauses that commonly occur in the readings associated with your courses.

b. It will strengthen your own knowledge and awareness of the nature of English structures that contain infinitives.

c. It will allow you to anticipate which structures from your readings students may be inclined to misinterpret.

d. It will allow you to observe firsthand how well your particular students are at interpreting the logical subjects of infinitives.

e. It will demonstrate how much variation there is in your classes in your students' abilities to interpret structures containing infinitives.

f. It will demonstrate the extent to which passive sentences pose a problem for your students in interpreting logical subjects.

g. It will indicate which kinds of structures you should avoid on quizzes or other assignments when you want to be certain that you are assessing content knowledge rather than English knowledge.

h. It will provide you with a set of sentence structures with which you can help to reinforce students' knowledge of English infinitive structures at the same time that you are discussing facts associated with the course content.

Assessing your students' abilities to interpret infinitive structures will also provide you with valuable information about their overall English language abilities. The reason for this is that success at interpreting the logical subjects of infinitives (especially in passive structures) generally correlates with overall success in English.