A. She is likely/sure/certain to start her new project.

She may start her new project.

Are the senses and the roles of the to inf. the same as 'start her new project' of 'may', complementing the (modal) verbs and indicating the action of the subject? Do we speak them in the same sense? If we classify the main verb of modal verbs ad the complement of the modal verbs, do we also classify the inf. above as the complements of the 'be + adj.'s? Or is the to-inf. just an object?

B. I'm dying/willing/curious/anxious/eager to eat that cake.

I'm dying/willing/curious/anxious/eager for that cake.

Do we speak the to inf.s above in the same sense as the 'for~'s? Do they mean the same, expressing the subject's wish, desire, or plan as adverbials?

C. I hoped for some money./I hoped to take the train.

I begged for more candy./I begged to go to the movies.

I longed for an A./I long to get an A.

I volunteered for the job./I volunteered to help the kids.

I was aiming for the trophy./I was aiming to receive the trophy.

Do these to inf. express desire/intention as adverbials, same as the 'for+N's? Or, are they just objects?

  • 2
    Sure, likely, and certain are also modal predicates (though not modal auxiliary verbs), because they express modal semantics, in this case Epistemic modality. Long (v), volunteer, beg, hope, and aim express Deontic modality. In each case, the infinitive clause is a complement of the predicate, usually with to. Though it's not an adverbial -- it's usually a noun phrase object when it's a verbal complement. – John Lawler Sep 7 '20 at 22:08
  • Thank you, sir. Then, how about the one at Question B? And do Americans really think the to-infinitives after likely/sure/certain and hope/.../aim as noun phrases? – Kim Hui-jeong Sep 8 '20 at 20:31
  • Any verb that means want, in one mode or another, really means want to have; and when we use a noun phrase (instead of a clause) as object for these verbs, they all mean want (or whatever) to have that noun phrase. So dying, willing, curious, anxious, and eager can take NP object with for, too. – John Lawler Sep 8 '20 at 21:05
  • Forgive me, sir. I've been trying to diagnose such to-infinitives but couldn't. I guess I have to ask you questions some more. – Kim Hui-jeong Sep 9 '20 at 1:44
  • appear/seem/prove/happen/chance/turn out/have + to inf. – Kim Hui-jeong Sep 9 '20 at 1:45

hope/willingness/reluctance/anxiety/attempt + to-V

I see that this to-V is a noun complement, since the nouns' adj./v. forms take their noun complements. But...

  1. opportunity/chance(s)/possibility/capacity/power + for N/to-V

    Is the to-V of opportunity/../power an adjective clause that tells us what the nouns are for?

  2. 'effort' + to-V/for N

    Is the to-V of 'effort' an adjective clause that tells us the intention of the agent of 'effort'?

  3. tendency+ to-V (which is the verbal complement of 'tend')

    Is the to-V of 'tendency' not a noun phrase but just a verbal complement?

  4. obligation/duty/responsibility + to-V

    Is the to-V of obligation/duty/responsibility an adjective phrase that shows the fixed necessity of the agent's action?

My diagnoses of 1., 2., and 4. are on the ground that there are the usages of to infinitives as adjective phrases or adverbials that show the meanings but in just a slightly different way.

Sorry for bothering you so much, sir, but I'm having a hard time studying and diagnosing these to-Vs. There are no textbooks for learners' giving the information. (well, at least of the ones in South Korea.) I'm very thankful for your help.

  • 1
    You should not limit yourself to textbooks. Study the literature; read answers here. Learn how to think and talk about English syntax before you attempt to build your own version. NP complement clauses are usually related to verbal complements, and have the same range of semantic uses; (1) and (4) are modal -- (1) is epistemic, and (4) is deontic -- while (2) and (3) are essentially aspects. Complement clauses look like noun phrases from above, and clauses from below; they are actually both. Depends on where you're metaphorically standing. And this is irregular behavior. Let's stop here. – John Lawler Sep 12 '20 at 13:34
  • 1
    @John Lawler 'they are actually both'. "Let's stop here" looks hopeful. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 14 '20 at 11:33

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