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Hi, Grammar Man—The "too [adjective phrase] to [verb phrase]" construction is very common. It implies that what the verb phrase expresses could not be true, because of an overbundance of the quality expressed by the adj. phrase:

  • He was too tired to read a book.
  • She is too old to have children.
  • They are too busy to take a vacation.

Notice that, in each example, the verb phrase following "to" ("read," "have," "take") is in the base form. The base form of the verb "be" is "be" (not "is," "was," "were," "been," "am," or "are"—other forms of "be").

  • He looks too old to be ninety.

The idea here is that he seems not to be ninety years old on account of how old he looks. The film makers made him look too old. They made him look so old that he looks older than ninety, the age of his charater in the film.

Last edited by David, Moderator

Dear Sir

"Too" is a adverb here. how come it is adjective phrase then?

  • She wore very expensive shoes. (In this sentence "very" is adjective or adverb?)

I know the meaning of "is, am, are, was, were. But what is the meaning "BE" ?

"Be" is "infinitive" here? Is that reason "to" added before "be" to make infinitive here since "to" is a stem of infinitive "be"?

Last edited by Former Member
@Former Member posted:

"Too" is a adverb here. how come it is adjective phrase then?

"Too" indicates that there is too much of the quality denoted by the adjective in the adjective (phrase) that follows "too." Whether or not a "to"-infinitive clause is present, there is always one implicitly present at the semantic level.

A: Can you help me?
B: I'm too busy right now. (= I'm too busy right now to help you.)

@Former Member posted:

I know the meaning of "is, am, are, was, were. But what is the meaning "BE" ?



Be, is, am, are, was, were, and been are all forms of the same verb (be). It is silly to start threads here asking about the meaning of any one of them apart from the others. They all mean the same thing! What you need to learn is grammar.

@Former Member posted:

"Be" is "infinitive" here? Is that reason "to" added before "be" to make infinitive here since "to" is a stem of infinitive "be"?

Any time any verb follows infinitive to, it will be in its base form. The base form of be is be (not is, was, were) The base form of like is like (not likes, liking, liked).

Last edited by David, Moderator

Dear Sir,

(1) He likes to be cooked = He likes to get cooked by someone. Right?

(2) "Some believed I looked too old to be ninety."

In this 2nd sentence "some believed I looked too old."

-till this, the meaning is clear for me. But after that here comes "to be ninety". Can you paraphrase "to be ninety"?

To be ninety = a state of 90 year old (correct?)

Last edited by Former Member

"Be" can be a passive auxiliary verb (as in "I like to be cooked," "Mike was punched by Tom," "He has been selected," etc.—THE FORM THAT "BE" TAKES DOES NOT MATTER), a progressive auxiliary verb (as in "He is thinking," "She was sleeping," "They were arguing," "I have been lying down," etc.—THE FORM THAT "BE" TAKES DOES NOT MATTER), or a copulative/linking verb (as in "I am happy," "She is pretty," "They are nice," "He has been cold," "She was the manager," "They were the volunteers," "He looks too old to be ninety," "Being ninety would not be fun"—THE FORM THAT "BE" TAKES DOES NOT MATTER). Please try to concentrate and absorb what I have told you here.

Last edited by David, Moderator

You said "be" can be passive auxiliary verb, progressive auxiliary verb, copulative/linking verb. If that is the case, in what situation "be" can be used as a infinitive with "to"?

THE FORM THAT "BE" TAKES DOES NOT MATTER = what is the meaning of this?

Last edited by Former Member
@Former Member posted:

You said "be" can be passive auxiliary verb, progressive auxiliary verb, copulative/linking verb. If that is the case, in what situation "be" can be used as a infinitive with "to"?

The "be" in "to be" can be any of the three types of "be":

  • I want to be free. ["be" is a copula/linking verb]
  • I want to be driving. ["be" is the progressive auxiliary]
  • I want to be saved. ["be" is the passive auxiliary]
@Former Member posted:

THE FORM THAT "BE" TAKES DOES NOT MATTER = what is the meaning of this?

It means that all forms of "be" ("be," "am," "is," "are," "was," "were," "been," and "being") can function as all three types of "be" (copula/linking verb, progressive auxiliary, and passive auxiliary). There is no form of "be" that must be one type or the other. You must observe the context and discern which type of "be" it is.

Last edited by David, Moderator
@Former Member posted:
  • I want to be driving. ["be" is the progressive auxiliary] - What is the meaning of this?

In the progressive (e.g., "I am driving"), "be" (in some form of the verb, "am" being one of them) precedes the present participle (e.g., "driving"). This can also happen in nonfinite (tenseless) parts of a sentence, such as in infinitival clauses (e.g., "to be driving"). "Be" precedes the present participle:

  • It would be scary to be skiing at a time like that.
  • I would hate to be teaching eight classes at once.
  • I want to be reading when she arrives.

What language do you speak, Grammar Man? How long have you been studying English? Have you ever taken an English grammar class or looked at an English grammar textbook? Do you understand the meaning of any of the examples we have looked at in this thread?

Last edited by David, Moderator
@Former Member posted:

Can you paraphrase the below sentences

It would be scary to be skiing at a time like that.

I would hate to be teaching eight classes at once.

I want to be reading when she arrives.

Hi, Grammar Man,

I think it is difficult to paraphrase the sentences above. In spite of David`s thorough explanations (as well as mine in other threads), you still don't seem to understand the use of "be" in its different forms. I'll make one more attempt.

"To ski," "to teach" and "to read" are simple infinitives:

- To ski in the Himalayas is scary = It is scary to ski in the Himalayas
- To teach English is exciting = It is exciting to teach English
- To read books is amazing = It is amazing to read books

In the sentences above, the simple infinitive refers to an action without specifying the time of performance of the action.

With the progressive form, reference is made to a specific point of time:

- It would be scary to be skiing at a time like that.

- I would hate to be teaching eight classes at once.

- I want to be reading when she arrives.

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