Passive infinitive masterclass

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passive infinitive in English
passive infinitive in English

This lesson helps us understand what a passive infinitive (an infinitive in the passive voice) is, how to form it, and when to use it in a sentence.

What is a passive infinitive in English?

A passive infinitive is an infinitive in the passive voice. An infinitive is a non-finite verb that functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb. It starts with the particle ‘to’ and is followed by a base form of verb (V1). Note that this is a structure of an infinitive in the active voice. In the passive voice, the particle is followed by ‘be’.

passive infinitive in English
passive infinitive in English

Active infinitive vs passive infinitive

An infinitive in the active voice focuses on the doer (performer) of the action. Whereas, a passive infinitive focuses on the receiver of the action.

VerbsActive infinitive (focusing on the doer)Passive infinitive (focusing on the doer)
LIKE
I like to help people.

Explanation: The infinitive focuses on the doer of the action, which is the subject (I) here. The subject is the doer of the infinitive (help). The subject likes to perform an action.

I like to be helped sometimes.

Explanation: The subject, here, is not the doer of the infinitive. The doer (subject) of the main verb (like) and the infinitive (help) are different. I (the subject) like an action that people perform on me: an action that I receive.
WANT
We want to punish him.

Explanation: Notice that the doer of the main verb (want) and the infinitive (punish) are same. The subject wants an action that is acted upon them.
We want to be punished by him.

Explanation: This is a passive infinitive, the action is in the infinitive phrase is not performed by the subject; it is received by them.
ASK
She asked me to arrest the man.

Explanation: Notice that the object (me) is the doer of the infinitive (arrest). He is the performing the action of the infinitive as we are focusing on him doing the action.

She asked me to be arrested.

Explanation: Here, that the object (me) is the receiver of the infinitive (arrest). He (the object) is not performing the action of the infinitive as we are focusing on him receiving the action. He is being arrested by someone.
active infinitive vs passive infinitive

Not all forms of infinitives can be used in the passive voice

An infinitive has 4 forms in English:

  1. Simple infinitive
  2. Simple continuous infinitive
  3. Perfect infinitive
  4. Perfect continuous infinitive

All infinitive forms can be used in the active voice, but only simple infinitive and perfect infinitive can be used in both the active voice and the passive voice.

Infinitive formActive voiceExamplesPassive voiceExamples
Simple infinitiveTo + V1
1. I like to teach kids.
2. We want to hire you.
To + be + V3
1. I like to be taught by you.
2. We want to be hired.
Continuous infinitiveTo + be + V1+ing
1. You seem to be dating Riya.
2. I am happy to be working with you.
N.AN.A
Perfect infinitiveTo + have + V3
1. You seem to have made a mistake here.
2. I feel terrible to have fired him.
To + have + been + V31. You seem to have been beaten brutally lately.
2. I feel ashamed to have been beaten by that kid.
Perfect continuous infinitiveTo + have + been + V1+ing
1. You seem to have been doing this for a long time.
2. I am glad to have been meditating.
N.AN.A

Passive infinitive (simple)

A passive infinitive in the simple form is an infinitive that refers to the present time or the same time the main verb of the sentence refers to.

Examples:

  1. We just want to be loved.
  2. All she wanted was to be appreciated by the management.
  3. We need this task to be finished by Sunday.
  4. No one likes to be insulted.
  5. To be thrown out of your own house is heartbreaking.
  6. She was mad not to be invited to the party.
  7. It feels good to be loved by everyone.

Passive infinitive (perfect)

A passive infinitive in the perfect form is an infinitive that refers to a past time. Note that the time it refers to is always prior to the time the main verb of the sentence refers to.

Examples:

  1. I am glad to have been challenged by someone good.
  2. You seem to have been hurt too much by people.
  3. I was never happy to have been given that task.
  4. She is pretending to have been offered the job.
  5. He was excited to have been called for the debate.

Passive infinitive (modal verbs)

The verb form that comes after a modal auxiliary verb is considered an infinitive by many grammarians: bare or zero infinitive. The bare infinitive coming after a modal verb can be in both active voice and passive voice.

Structures:

Active (simple infinitive): Subject + modal verb + base form of verb (infinitive)
Active (simple continuous infinitive): Subject + modal verb + be + present participle
Active (perfect infinitive): Subject + modal verb + have + past participle
Active (perfect continuous infinitive): Subject + modal verb + have + been + present participle

Passive (simple infinitive): Subject + modal verb + be + past participle
Passive (perfect infinitive): Subject + modal verb + have + been + past participle

AV: I should pay him more.
PV: I should be paid more.

AV: She could kill him.
PV: She could be killed.

AV: I may have offered her a job at the party.
PV: I may have been offered a job at the party.

AV: We must have sleeping at that time.
AV: You must be kidding.

Examples of passive infinitives (bare):

  1. I may be fired soon .
  2. She would be killed if I shared this piece of information with anyone.
  3. You could be questioned for this.
  4. You might have been offered a better job.
  5. I could have been stabbed there. They had sharp knives in their hands.
  6. She would have been invited to the function is she had not misbehaved with us.

PRACTICE QUIZ!

Fill in the blanks with using a passive infinitive.

  1. I hate ___ names. (call)
  2. I am not sad ___ (judge). We do what we want to do.
  3. I wanted ___ in that situation. I was alone. (help)
  4. He is glad ___ by us. (select)
  5. No one is interested ____ by you. (touch)
  6. Some of us need __ how to do this. (teach)
  7. You seem ___ a lot. (beat)
  8. She appeared ___ . Her face looked red. (slap)

We, now, know what a passive infinitive is and how to use it correctly. Feel free to share your question, doubt, or feedback in the comment section, and also, share the post with people that need it.

For one-on-one classes, contact me at englishwithashish@gmail.com.

FAQs

What is a passive infinitive?

A passive infinitive is an infinitive in the passive voice. It focuses on the receiver of the action (infinitive). There are two types of passive infinitives: simple passive infinitive (to + be + past participle) and perfect passive infinitive (to + have + been + past participle)

Examples:
1. I like to be tested sometimes.
2. I feel embarrassed to have been beaten by that kid.

What is the passive infinitive example?

Examples of passive infinitives:
1. I would like to be invited to the party. (simple passive infinitive)
2. We wanted to be appreciated for our work. (simple passive infinitive)
3. She appears to have been beaten badly. (perfect passive infinitive)

How do you use passive infinitives?

Infinitives are used in the passive voice when the focus is on the receiver of the action (infinitive), not the doer of it. It is formed using (to + be + past participle) and perfect passive infinitive (to + have + been + past participle).
Verbs that are transitive are used in the passive voice, which most verbs are. Intransitive verbs are not used (usually) in the passive voice.

What is the difference between active and passive infinitive forms?

An infinitive in the active voice focuses on the doer of the action (infinitive) and an infinitive in the passive voice (passive infinitive) focuses on the receiver of the action (infinitive).
Ex – I want to help her. (an action that I do)
Ex – I want to be helped. (an action that I receive)

How do you write a perfect passive infinitive?

A perfect passive infinitive (a perfect infinitive in the passive voice) is formed in the following way: to + have + been + past participle.
Ex – I am glad to have been selected for this project.
Ex – You seem to have been beaten badly.

How do you identify a passive infinitive?

A passive infinitive can be identified by the way it looks: (to + be + past participle) and perfect passive infinitive (to + have + been + past participle).

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