This special tool with infinitives can improve your English

All English learners know about present, future and past tenses, but not many learners are aware that you can actually put infinitives into the past as well!

The 2 things you are probably wondering are how and why, I’m going to answer both of these questions for you, starting with why.


Take a look at this sentence:

‘Adolf Hitler is thought to be one of the most evil dictators of all time’ 

You have to use present tense in the first part ‘Adolf Hitler is thought..‘, because people still think today that Hitler was one of the most evil dictators,  but the second part – the part with the infinitive – looks a bit strange here.  It almost sounds like Hitler is still around today, and nobody wants to see that! If you can’t change the first part, you have to change the second part to make it sound more like Hitler was a past dictator and not a present one. For that we have to put the infinitive part into the past, which looks like this:

Adolf Hitler is thought to have been one of the most evil dictators of all time

This is very common in sentences which begin with

‘________ is thought to..’,

‘________ is believed to…’,

‘ ________ is known to…’,

‘_________ is said to…’.

For more passive phrases in Business English, check out my professional passive phrases!


As you can see above, then, to make the infinitive in the past, then, you simply use this construction:

to have + past participle

This is known as a perfect infinitive.  Here is another example:

            PRESENT              PAST (lost in the past)

‘The team is said   to have lost yesterday’s game because many players were injured’

If you say this sentence without using the perfect infinitive then it sounds very strange:

‘The team is said to lose yesterdays game because they had many players injured.’

Once you can use these constructions properly, it really increases the range of different sentence types you can use in English.

This construction can be used after verbs which have to be followed by an infinitive.  Take a look at this sentence:

‘When the guests arrive I want to have prepared everything’

Here, the sentence says that when the guests arrive I want to have ALREADY FINISHED my preparation everything.

If you say this sentence with a normal infinitive, it completely changes the meaning:

‘When the guests arrive I want to prepare everything’

This sentence says that when the guests arrive I want to START preparing everything.

This perfect infinitive is used in sentences with by – ‘by Friday..’. ‘by the start of next week..’.  Here is another example:

‘By Friday afternoon we need to have finished the report’ 

If you can put infinitives into the past, you can also put -ing forms into the past as well!

To do this we use having + past participle. This is known as a ‘perfect gerund’

This can be used in sentences with ‘is known for…’, ‘is famous for…’ 

‘Neil Armstrong is known for having been the first person to walk on the moon’

Unlike some of the sentences above with infinitives, there is often no real difference between using normal gerunds and perfect gerunds. So the sentence ‘Neil Armstrong is known for being the first person to walk on the moon’ is ok here.

Perfect gerunds can also be used after verbs which should be followed by the -ing form:

‘John regrets not having revised for his exams’

These sentences sound just as good with a normal -ing form: ‘John regrets not revising for his exams’

Where these perfect gerund forms are most useful are at the beginning of sentences:

Having seen the film so many times, I don’t want to see it again’

Having reviewed all the evidence, I think we were right to make the decision’

If you would like to have any of these words explained further, or if you would like to see some more examples, feel free to email me at [email protected], or message me on Skype at live:fluencyspace! Also, check out some more professional uses for English grammar right here!


 David Cox

 Fluency Space

 Make the world your fluency space. Business English for career and life success

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