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Infinitives as adjectives
  • Infinitives preceded by te to or om te for.COMP to can be used in positions in which adjectives are found, such as present and past participles. They only occur with specific readings in the constructions in which they can occur. Their use is, furthermore, idiomatically restricted.
  • They assign the same thematic role as that which an active verb assigns to its direct object in a sentence in the active voice.
  • There are lexical restrictions on the use of past participles in the various key constructions.


    Infinitives in Afrikaans have three possible structures:

    1. Bare infinitive, i.e. without any particles, and corresponding to the indicative form, as in glo believe
    2. The te infinitive, i.e. without the particle om for.COMP, corresponding to the Dutch affix -en, as in te glo to believe
    3. Full infinitive, i.e. with both om + te for.COMP to, as in om te glo to believe

    Infinitives in Afrikaans have three possible structures.

    Bare infinitive
    • Bare infinitives may occur as nominal structures (i.e. not adjectivally), such as Sien is glo. see is believe Seeing is believing., although it is also grammatical to expand it to the full infinitive, preceded by om + te, as in Om te sien is om te glo. To see is to believe.
    • As main verbs, bare infinitives co-occur with auxiliaries, such as modal, for example Ek kan dit glo. I can.AUX.MOD it believe I can believe it.

    The te infinitive

    The te infinitive can be used adjectivally, and particularly in the predicate position. As such, it combines with adjectives, expressing modalities such as

    • Ability:
      Dit is te verstane (verstaan·e) dat jy bekommerd is.
      it be.PRS PTCL.INF understand·for.COMP that.COMP you concerned be.INF
      It can be understood that you are concerned.
      It is understandable that you are concerned.

      Note the hyper-correct suffix -e, based on the Dutch infinitive verstaan as indicative form.

    • Expected activity:
      die te stigte (stig(t)·e) vereniging
      the PTCL.INF form·PTCL.INF association
      the association to be formed

      The correspondence to the Dutch infinitive stichten form, establish should be noted here.

    • Conditionality:
      Dit is te sê as jy kom.
      this is to say if you come
      This in on condition that you do come.
    • Deontic modality:
      Dit is aan hom te dank·e dat ek hier is.
      it is to him to thank·INF that.COMP I here am
      He should be thanked that I am here. It is thanks to him that I am here.

    The full infinitive

    The full infinitive (with om + te) combines with various adjectives, expressing the modalities illustrated in the examples of the te infinitives, and may project a wide spectrum of verb types, such as transitive, intransitive and copula constructions:

    Die watervlak is besig om te styg.
    the water level is busy for.COMP PTCL.INF rise.INF
    The water level is rising.
    Sy is gretig om betrokke te raak.
    she is eager for.COMP involve PTCL.INF become.INF
    She is eager to get involved.
    Hy is huiwerig om die kans te waag.
    he is hesitant for.COMP the chance PTCL.INF venture.INF
    He is hesitant to risk the chance.
    Dis niks om oor huis toe te skryf nie.
    it's nothing for.COMP about house to PTCL.INF write.INF PTCL.NEG
    It's nothing to write home about.
    Dis goed om hier te wees.
    it's good for.COMP here PTCL.INF be.INF
    It's good to be here.
    Ons het baie om voor dankbaar te wees.
    we have much for.COMP for thankful PTCL.INF be.INF
    We have much to be grateful for.
    Dit is nie om oor te lag nie.
    it is not for.COMP over PTCL.INF laugh.INF PTCL.NEG
    It is not to laugh about. It is no laughing matter.
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