Learn English – How to identify the role of an infinitive in a sentence

adverbsinfinitivesnounsparts-of-speechsyntactic-analysis

Infinitives may function as nouns, adjectives or adverbs. Since infinitives are derived from verbs, they do express actions or states of being.

However, there is some difficulty in identifying the particular role of the infinitive in a sentence. Is there a generic test available to determine whether each infinitive is serving as a noun, adjective, or adverb?

I will be taking the GMAT exam shortly, and this is an area that I am particularly weak in. It is necessary to identify the role of Infinitives in order to get answers right for questions related to Parallelism and Verb Tense.

Example:
"Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save." – Will Rogers

Best Answer

I am somewhat weak in this subject also; however, I have developed a test that might work for your purposes also. It is to replace the infinite with a noun, an adjective, and an adverb, and see which one sounds best. For example:

Noun: "Half our life is spent trying to find something hamburger with the time we have rushed through life trying to save." - Will Rogers

Adverb: "Half our life is spent trying to find something slowly with the time we have rushed through life trying to save." - Will Rogers

Adjective: "Half our life is spent trying to find something larger with the time we have rushed through life trying to save." - Will Rogers

It appears to me that the role of "to do" is that of an Adjective.