@Kalenda gives explanations and some examples of using the to-infinitive in the post: Can I start a sentence with To + verb?

To question one's existence would be natural

To start a sentence with an infinitive is bizarre

To talk to one's boss in the morning is every employee's desire

I wonder: Is the length of subjects before / complements etc after the 'be' critical here? Say,

To speak of ... [long subject] ... is ... long complement.

Is this good in English? I met examples when the first complement in To speak of ... is ... was very long.

  • Weighty subjects of any form are usually avoided in English. As are weighty complements. It's a matter of style (but bordering on idiomaticity) rather than grammaticality. May 19, 2018 at 12:07
  • You're worried of the length of complements! Which complements? What's actually your question? May 19, 2018 at 12:14
  • Just length. Here is an example: To speak of rigorous separation and a willingness to abandon part of what was hitherto one’s own but has become dangerous is to use the classic language of anxiety. The complement of To speak of ... here is quite long. Is this bad? And the same question is about what is after is here or in my main question. It has been marked there as long complement at the end of sentence.
    – user2626
    May 19, 2018 at 12:37
  • @user2626, it's really lengthy! Edwin Ashworth's comment above serves as an answer. It's always better to rephrase and reduce this kind of sentences. May 19, 2018 at 12:43
  • 1
    Generally, lengthy items are best located at the end of the clause where they are easier to process.
    – BillJ
    May 19, 2018 at 16:52

1 Answer 1


To be or not to be, that is the question.

You can certainly start a sentence with To + a verb, and it's not all that uncommon. It's often used as an abbreviated version of a sentence that begins with "If you want to ..." For example:

[If you want] To understand his mental state at the time of the murder, you must experience the pain he felt that morning.

[If you want] To find fire, look for smoke.

I don't believe the length of the subject has any impact on its use.

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