1

I have lived my entire life in the United States, and to learn more about the life my parents had lived as children was an incredible experience.

However, I then asked, "What was an incredible experience?" I realized that there is no noun to define what the experience was. Therefore, would I have to replace "to learn" with the gerund "learning"? Or is the sentence above completely fine? If it is already correct, why?

I feel as if the "to learn more about the life..." does not suffice as a subject for the latter independent clause in the sentence.

  • 2
    Either one is OK. But infinitives are less common as subjects than gerunds are; rules like Extraposition often move subject infinitives to the end of the sentence because English likes infinitives at the end. – John Lawler May 9 '16 at 20:48
  • "Our mission is to boldly go where no man has gone before." Clearly "to … go" functions as a noun. – Scott May 9 '16 at 21:57
  • @Scott Noun is not a function; it's a word category (part of speech). Functions are 'subject', 'object' complement' etc. In Our mission is to boldly go ... , the sequence to boldly go ... is an infinitival clause as predicative complement of "is". Nothing whatsoever to do with 'noun'. – BillJ May 10 '16 at 7:21
3

The sentence

I have lived my entire life in the United States, and to learn more about the life my parents had lived as children was an incredible experience.

is fine. Replacing to learn with learning is OK too. To learn (an infinitive) and learning (a gerund) both work because both function as nouns.

An infinitive may function as a subject, direct object, subject complement, adjective, or adverb in a sentence. In the example you present, the infinitive functions as the subject of the second clause.

to learn more about the life my parents had lived as children was an incredible experience

may also be said as

it was an incredible experience

(although in the context of your full sentence, "I have lived my entire life in the United States" would be seen as the antecedent to it, so you can't use it in the sentence as it is currently written; however, the point is that, taking the second clause by itself, it could replace either to learn ... or learning...).

  • \ "I have lived my entire life in the United States, and so for me to learn more about the life my parents had lived as children was an inspiring experience." I deeply dislike the wholesale use of the word "incredible," which is as much a cliché as "world peace" is to a beauty pageant contestant. – Senex Ægypti Parvi May 9 '16 at 23:09
  • It's becoming more common every day. "Incredible" is, of course, one of Donald Trump's favorite adjectives. – user66965 May 9 '16 at 23:23
  • \ You got that right! I wonder if his father tried to get a refund on Donald's college tuition money. – Senex Ægypti Parvi May 10 '16 at 1:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.