I'm confused by this sentence:

"Lakesha hopes to win the approval of her mother by switching her major from fine arts to med."

I think that in this case hope is intransitive, and I think the part "to win....mother" is working as an adverbial infinitive phrase. Is it the object?

  • 1
    Hope is transitive, conferring Lakesha's desire to the object "to win...."
    – deadrat
    Oct 16, 2015 at 6:20

4 Answers 4


Traditionally grammars see infinitives after verbs as objects, that is infinitive verbs are regarded as transitive verbs. Most dictionaries have infinitive verbs in the section transitive.

One might consider whether a third category infinitive verbs beside transitive and intransitive wouldn't be better. The set-up of dictionary entries would be clearer.


Theoretically yes. The thing she is "hoping" for is that. You can replace that entire phrase with the word "this" which is a substitution test found in the recent English Syntax book by Dominique Sportiche. However, linguists from that same book would also argue that it's a prepositional phrase.

  • Is the prepositional phrase adverbial in the example? Oct 16, 2015 at 7:16
  • I've actually made a mistake. It's an infinitive verb phrase and not a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition and a determiner phrase. So no it's not an adverbial phrase. Oct 16, 2015 at 10:09

According to the syntactical analysis theory by Sportiche, the phrase you're referring to is a "negative tense phrase" represented in linguistics as this -TP and so that branches off to two parts as it's made up of two parts, a T which is the word "to" and a VP which is everything else and the VP phrase branches off into two parts, a V which is "win" and the other branch is the DP(determiner phrase) which is made up of two more brackish, one which is the Det(the) and the other branch from that one is the NP(noun phrase)...


"to win ..." is a prepositional phrase. "She hoped for it." The "for" is deleted before the nominalized sentence with "to win", which is object of the preposition "for". The prepositional phrase "(for) to win ..." is not an adverbial, but rather a prepositional complement to "hope".

This is parallel to "decide on" "decide to", which was discussed by Chomsky in Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, and it was analyzed by Rosenbaum in The Grammar of English Predicate Complement Constructions. After "decide", the preposition "on" is deleted before a nominalized sentence, unless that nominal is replaced by a pronoun or "this/that". "She hoped to win, and he hoped for that, also."

  • "To win" cannot be a prepositional phrase because there must be a determiner phrase or noun phrase immediately after the preposition, which there isn't. There is a verb. Chomsky is great but some of his theories are outdated. Oct 16, 2015 at 21:09
  • @DannyRodriguez There is a noun phrase immediately after the preposition "for". "to win" is a nominalized sentence; nominalized sentences are noun phrases. That is what nominalization means -- you make something into a noun phrase, so it can stand as subject, object, or object of preposition. The "to" in "to win" is not a preposition (if that's what you mean) -- it marks the infinitive, traditionally, and is part of the for-to complementizer (in transformational grammar).
    – Greg Lee
    Oct 16, 2015 at 22:14
  • Are you saying that the word "for" is omitted from the sentence before the "to win..." Phrase? Oct 17, 2015 at 9:25
  • @DannyRodriguez Yes, that's what I'm saying. I don't know what "Phrase?" means.
    – Greg Lee
    Oct 17, 2015 at 16:51

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