Adjectives + Infinitive that-Clause Preposition Constructions

By | March 11, 2019

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Adjectives + infinitives

(A)  Some of the most useful of these adjectives are given below, grouped roughly according to meaning or type. Some adjectives with several meanings may appear in more than one group.

Starred adjectives can also be used with that-clauses. Sometimes that. . . should is more usual.

In sections B-E, with the exception of B2, the constructions are introduced by it. (For introductory it, If it + be . . . is

 preceded by find/think/believe etc. that it is sometimes possible to omit that and the verb be:

He found that it was impossible to study at home =

  • He found it impossible to study at home.

(B ) it + be + adjective (+ of + object) + infinitive is used chiefly with adjectives concerning:

(a)character: brave, careless, cowardly, cruel, generous, good/ nice (= kind), mean, rude, selfish, wicked, wrong (morally) etc., and fair*/just*/right* with negative or interrogative verbs, or

(b) sense: clever, foolish, idiotic*, intelligent, sensible, silly, stupid.

absurd*, ludicrous*, ridiculous* and unreasonable* are sometimes also possible.

  • It was kind of you to help hint. (You helped him. This was kind.)
  • It was stupid (of them) to leave their bicycles outside.

of + object can be omitted after group (b) adjectives, and sometimes after group (a) adjectives, except good and nice. (Omission of + object would change the meaning of good and nice. See E.)

Pronoun + be + adjective + noun + infinitive is also possible with the above adjectives and with a number of others including:

 astonishing*, curious*, extraordinary*, funny’ (= strange*), odd’, queer*, surprising* etc. and pointless, useful, useless

  • It was a sensible precaution to take.
  • That was a wicked thing to say.

Comments of this type can sometimes be expressed as exclamations:

  • What a funny way to park an ear!
  • What an odd time to choose!

The adjective is sometimes omitted in expressions of disapproval:

  • What a (silly) way to bring up a child!
  • What a time to choose!

Example with a that-clause:

  • It is strange/odd/surprising that he hasn’t answered.

(C) it + be + adjective + infinitive is possible with advisable*, inadvisable*, better*, best, desirable*, essential*, good (= advisable), important*, necessary*, unnecessary*, vital* and with only + fair */just*/right*:

  • Wouldn’t it be better to wait? — No, it’s essential to book in advance.

 for + object can be added except after good (where it would change the meaning; see E below) and after just:

  • It won’t be necessary for him to report to the police.
  • It is only fair for him to have a chance.

 inessential and unimportant are not normally used, but not essential is possible.

(d) it + be + adjective (+ for + object) + infinitive is possible with convenient*, dangerous, difficult, easy, hard*, possible*, impossible, safe, unsafe.

Would it be convenient (for you) to see Mr. X now?

  • It was dangerous (for women) to go out alone after dark.
  • We found it almost impossible to buy petrol. (See A above.)

 The above adjectives, with the exception of possible, can also be used in the noun + be + adjective + infinitive construction:

  • This cake is easy to make.
  • The instructions were hard to follow.
  • This car isn’t safe to drive.

(E)  it + be + adjective/participle + infinitive is also possible with adjectives and participles which show the feelings or reactions of the person concerned:

agreeable              dreadful*             lovely*                   terrible*

awful*                   goods/nice*         marvellous*          wonderful*

delightful*            (= pleasant)         splendid*              etc.

disagreeable        horrible*               strange*

 And with the present participles of:

 alarm*              bewilder           discourage*        excite*           

surprise*           amaze*             bore                    disgust *             

frighten             terrify                amuses              depress*           

embarrass        horrify*            upset                   annoy*         

disappoint*      encourage*       interest*             etc.

astonish*

fun ( = an exciting experience) and a relief can be used similarly.

  • It’s awful to be alone in such a place.
  •  It’s boring to do the same thing every day.
  •  It was depressing to find the house empty.
  • It would be Jun/exciting/interesting to canoe down the ricer.
  •  It teas a relief to take off mu) wet boots.

for + object is quite common after lovely, interesting, marvellous, nice, wonderful and possible after the other adjectives:

  • It’s interesting (for children) to see a house being built.
  • It was marvellous (for the boys) to have a garden to play in.

Note that for + object placed after good restricts the meaning of good to healthy/beneficial: It’s good for you to take regular exercise. (good + infinitive can have this meaning but can also mean pleasant/kind/advisable. 

 it + be + adjective + noun + infinitive is also possible with the above adjectives/participles:

  • It was an exciting ceremony to watch.
  • It was a horrible place to live (in).

(F) Somewhat similar meanings can be expressed by a subject + adjective + infinitive with angry*, delighted*, dismayed*, glad*, happy*, pleased*, relieved*, sad*, sorry* and the past participles of the verbs in E above: I’m delighted to see you.

The most useful infinitives here are to find/learn/hear/see, but glad/happy/sad/sorry are also often followed by to say/tell/inform and sometimes by other infinitives:

  • He was glad to leave school.
  • She was dismayed to find the door locked.

(G) Subject + be + adjective/participle + infinitive with: able/unable; apt, inclined, liable, prone; prepared, not prepared (= ready/willing/unwilling), reluctant; prompt, quick, slow:

We are all apt to make mistakes when we by to hurry.

  • I am inclined to believe him.
  • I am prepared/ready to help him.
  • He was most reluctant to lend us the money.
  • He was slow to realize that times had changed =
  • He realized only slowly that times had changed.

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