Perfect Infinitives

Perfect infinitives can have the same meaning as perfect tenses or past tenses.

  • It is nice to have heard from her. (= It is nice that I have heard from her.)
  • I’m glad to have won. (= I am glad that I have won.)
  • She is glad to have represented her country in the Olympics. (= She is glad that she has represented her country in the Olympics.)
  • I am glad to have left school. (= I am glad that I have left school.)

The perfect infinitive is often used to talk about unreal past events.

  • I meant to have posted the letter, but I forgot.

Perfect infinitives are quite common after modal auxiliary verbs like would, should and could. Note that after a modal auxiliary verb, the perfect infinitive is used without to.

  • You should have asked me before borrowing my car.
  • She should have consulted a doctor.
  • They should have told us they weren’t coming.
  • could have married anybody I wanted.

Perfect infinitives in third conditional sentences

Third conditional forms are used to talk about unreal past situations. Here we use a past perfect tense in the if-clause and would + perfect infinitive (have + past participle) in the result clause.

  • If I had worked harder, I would have passed the test.
  • If she had applied in time, she would have got the job.

Note that the structure modal verb + perfect infinitive does not always refer to unreal past situations. It can also be used to express our belief that something has happened.

  • 6 o’clock. She should have reached home now.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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