Is “to” in the following examples a preposition, or does it act as part of the verb (to obtain, to sign, to complete)? Many thanks!

▻ I finally managed to obtain a copy of the report.
▻ Both governments have agreed to sign the treaty.
▻ You're allowed half an hour to complete the test.


1 Answer 1


A preposition is always followed by a noun or a pronoun:

I went to the store.
I spoke to your father.

In some cases, the infinitive form of a verb acts as a noun:

From Daily Grammar:

To eat is fun. (subject)
I like to eat. (direct object)
A fun thing is to eat. (predicate nominative)
My hope, to travel, never happened. (appositive)
I want nothing but to save. (object of preposition)

In the last example sentence, the preposition is actually but (being used in the sense of except), which is then followed by the infinitive to save that's acting as a noun.

In the example sentences in the question, all three infinitive verbs are being used as verbs; they describe actual actions.

In short, all of the sentences are using to verbally, not prepositionally.

  • 1
    What does it mean to "use to verbally"? Why are you calling infinitives nouns? They never are. They are verbs. That's why you it’s possible for you to speak eloquently with an adverb, and why it is impossible for you to speak *eloquent with an adjective. Infinitive clauses are non-finite verbs. That doesn't mean they cannot serve in NP roles. But they're still verb clauses.
    – tchrist
    Aug 1, 2019 at 21:36
  • To say that prepositions are always followed by a noun or pronoun is simply untrue. They take a range of complements comparable to verbs including PPs e.g. I Stayed until after lunch. / AdvPs e.g. It won't last for long. / Clauses e.g. I left because I was tired.
    – BillJ
    Aug 2, 2019 at 6:59

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