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Infinitives – What are Infinitives? Uses, and Examples

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Author: Muhammad Faisal Kiani

Greetings, learners! Learn everything you need to know about infinitives in English in this research article. The following details will help you understand better than other English grammar. 

What is Infinitive?

As an infinitive, we find a verb consisting of TO + V1 that functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb. For example – to go, to run, to love, to give, to sleep, to dance, to smoke, etc.

This kind of verb doesn’t change according to the subject or tense.

The following are three types of non-finite verbs in English:

  1. Gerunds
  2. Infinitives
  3. Participles

Examples:-

  • To walk daily improves your health.
  • To work is the only thing I want right now.
  • I just want to play.
  • One of my talents is to help people.
  • The person to meet is Max.
  • He bought the bike to sell it.

These first four examples use infinitives to function as nouns. The fifth one functions as an adjective, and the sixth one functions as an adverb.

Note: Negative infinitives are formed by using NOT before the word.

  • We decided not to play there.
  • He told me not to share it with anyone.
  • Not to play with him was the right decision.
  • Try not to cut the ball.

Functions of an Infinitives

Infinitive serves the following functions in sentences:

  1. Infinitive as Nouns
  2. Infinitive as Adjectives
  3. Infinitive as Adverbs

1. Infinitive as Nouns

As a noun, We can use an infinitive as follows:

  1. The subject of the sentence
  2. The object of a verb
  3. The subject complement

Examples of infinitives as subjects

  • To see her daily is a privilege.
  • To work is my passion.
  • To have a supportive friend is a blessing.

Further, Infinitive phrases are made up of an infinitive and an object or a modifier. Other than the second example, all the subjects are infinitive phrases. In the second case, there is an infinitive, not an infinitive phrase.

Normally, infinitives are used as objects in a sentence. Generally, Gerunds or Gerund phrases are used as subjects of sentences

  • Seeing her daily is a privilege.
  • Working is my passion.
  • Having a supportive friend is a blessing.

Examples of infinitives as objects

  • Nobody likes to play with a liar.
  • We are planning to buy a new car.
  • They refused to go with me.
  • God! I forgot to bring bag.
  • You failed to impress him.
  • She was pretending to be happy.
  • The manager is trying to connect with me.
  • Emma is learning to swim.

Normally, infinitives are used with the following verbs: to plan, refuse, to like, to hate, to pretend, to forget, to try, to remember, to intend, to learn, to fail, to hope, and so on.

List of Infinitives

A list of verbs that are followed by an object and an infinitive

advicechoosehirepermit
allowexpectinstructpersuade
askenableinviteprepare
commandencourageneedpromise
convinceforceorderremind
wantwarnbegrequire
wishteachforbidtell

A list of verbs followed by a noun/pronoun and an infinitive

Examples:

  • I told him to shut up.
  • We want you to be safe.
  • The doctor advised Emma to take some rest.
  • They won’t allow me to sit there.
  • He asked me to say sorry to his father.
  • Command your team to move forward.
  • You can’t convince him to eat meat.
  • They are expecting her to take over the charge.
  • This will enable us to fight the coronavirus.
  • Your sister has chosen English to be her subject.
  • My officer has been forcing me to quit the job.
  • I am warning you to not play here.
  • My father taught me to respect teachers.
  • She needs you to be there for help.

Significantly, It’s important to note that the infinitive follows the indirect object (noun or pronoun).

NOTE: ‘WARN’ is often followed by an object and a negative infinitive.

Emma warned me not to go there.

Examples of infinitives As subject complements

Subject Complement: 

The subject complement is a word or group of words that renames or describes the subject. Generally speaking, a noun renames the subject, whereas an adjective modifies it.

Examples:

  • His favorite hobby is to play. (To play is referring to his favorite hobby)
  • One of the problems was to find a car.
  • The goal of our organization is to educate the poor.
  • My advice would be to call her.
  • What I have been trying to do for years is to open a shop.

2. Infinitive as Adjectives

Infinitives or infinitive phrases can act as adjectives in sentences. The adjective appears next to the noun or pronoun, it modifies when it works as an adjective.

Examples of infinitives as Adjectives

  • The person to call is me. (which person = to call)
  • The right thing to do is to call the officer.
  • Do I need anything to show?
  • Are you looking for someone to change your life?

Structure: Subject + linking verb + noun phrase + infinitive/infinitive phrase

  • It is a great team to be a part of.
  • Taxila was an amazing place to visit.
  • You are a good person to work with.
  • He has a great opportunity to learn driving from the best.
  • Emma is not the right person to call for this job.
  • He is not a man to leave.
Subjectlinking verbNoun PhraseInfinitiveObject/modifier
(optional)
Itisa great opportunityto startthe business
Youarethe best personto teachus English
Thatwasan amazing filmto watchwith my family.
Thesewill not beright peopleto workwith

Infinitives after a noun phrase

3. Infinitive as Adverbs

An infinitive or an infinitive phrase can also work as an adverb. As an adverb, it helps to explain a verb. Look at the following example:

  • I came here to help you.

The infinitive phrase “to help you” modifies the verb ‘came’ and tells us the reason why it happened. Why did I come here? I came here in order to help you.

  • Max is working hard to earn more.
  • He called me last night to ask for a favor.
  • They have booked a car to go on the trip.
  • Whenever he gets angry, he does meditation to control his anger.

As an adverb, in simple words, infinitives tell us the purpose or the reason for the action. 

Note: 

As, It is important to note that an infinitive or an infinitive phrase can also modify an adjective. Therefore, it functions as an adverb. In a sentence, it modifies the adjective as follows:

Structure: Subject + linking verb + adjective + infinitive/infinitive phrase

  • It is necessary to sleep properly.
    (modifying the adjective properly)
  • I am pleased to work with you.
    (telling us the reason of the adjective)
  • It was awesome to be on the top.
    (telling us the reason of the adjective)
  •  Everyone is sad to hear about your resignation.
    (telling us the reason of the adjective)
  • Emma was shocked to clear the interview.
    (telling us the reason of the adjective)

Bare infinitives in English

I just figured out what infinitives are. Now, where does this bare infinitive mean? You guys must be thinking that. Well, it is not something to be bothered about. Let me explain it to you.

A bare infinitive, also known as a zero infinitive, is an infinitive that does not have the particle TO in it. 

Further, We use bare infinitives after certain verbs: make, let, see, hear, watch, help, etc.

Examples:

  • I made her take the test.
    (Here, take is the bare infinitive, and take the test is the bare infinitive)
  • My father does not let me play.
  • Did anyone watch him play the match?
  • She did not hear us talk about the media.
  • I helped you win the match.

NOTE: 

These verbs are followed by an object first. Infinitives come after the objects of these verbs.

Bare infinitives are also used after had better, better, and would rather.

  • You had better start working alone.
  • She would rather kill herself.
  • We better do something about the safety.

Similarly, bare infinitives are also used after modal auxiliary verbs: can, could, may, might, should, would, will, shall, must, etc.

  • You should listen to the people who are successful.
  • You must work on your communication skills.
  • I can beat anyone in a street fight.

Here are some common question about INFINITIVE in our daily life. Another benefit of these FAQs is to understand better. 

What is an Example of an infinitive?

Infinitives can act as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. Examples include, “to walk,” “to read,” and “to eat.” The nouns in these sentences might be the subject. As an adjective, they will modify a noun, for example, “To travel is all she thinks about.”.

What are the 5 Infinitives?

Here are five different kinds of infinitives.

  1. Infinitive as a Subject. 
  2. Infinitive as a Direct Object
  3. Infinitive as a Subject Complement
  4. Infinitive as an Adjective
  5. Infinitive as an Adverb

What is an Infinitive Word?

Infinitives consist of the word to plus a verb (in its simplest “stem” form) and may be used as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.  Although the infinitive can function as a subject, direct object, subject complement, adjective, and adverb within a sentence, it can also function as a compliment.

What are the 3 types of Infinitives?

The present infinitive is most commonly used when we speak about the infinitive in English. The infinitive can be expressed in four different ways, as follows:

  1. The perfect infinitive
  2. the perfect continuous infinitive 
  3. the continuous infinitive 
  4. The passive infinitive

What is infinitive and give 5 Examples?

What is an infinitive? There are usually two parts to an infinitive: the word “to” and the base form of the verb (the simple form of the verb you would find in a dictionary). An infinitive is used to express emotion, to say to read, to run, to jump, to play, to sing, to laugh, to cry, to eat, and to go.

How do you find the Infinitive in a Sentence?

Look for the word or words following the word “to” in the sentence to make sure you are looking at an infinitive, not a prepositional phrase. Infinitives are always formed when a root-form verb follows the word “to”.

Where do we use Infinitive?

After a verb that involves saying something, you can also use the infinitive to show your intention. Infinitive forms can be used for verbs such as “agree”, “promise”, and “decide”. For example, “He agreed to share the money between them.”.

How do you choose an Infinitive?

A verb is defined as a noun or gerund when infinitive + first form of the verb is involved, while a participial when first and third forms of the verb (first form with -ing) are involved. Therefore, the infinitive here is “to do”.

How do you identify Infinitives?

An infinitive is formed by combining a verb with its object, but functions as neither a verb nor an object. There are two words in it: to + verb, and it works as a noun, adjective, or adverb. It is a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. Verbal words are words formed from verbs without acting as verbs.

Why is it called Infinitive?

Infinitives in English are preceded by ‘to’. Infinitive verbs don’t have a time limit because they, like the notion of infinity, are unbound. By conjugating the infinitive, we derive the finite forms of the verb.

Why is an Infinitive?

An infinitive “to” is used to express the intent or need before a verb and a pronoun or noun. 

Purpose: I brought it to use in the ground = so that I could use it.

Necessity: There is work to do! = work that must be done.

What is the difference between gerund and infinitive?

We can replace a noun with a gerund or an infinitive. The gerund is an auxiliary verb (-ing) such as singing, dancing, and running. An infinitive is formed by adding to the base form of the verb, such as to sing, to dance, and to run. It depends on the main verb of the sentence whether you use a gerund or an infinitive.

What kind of infinitive is to be?

Infinitive verbs are not conjugated like other verbs; they remain in their infinitive forms in a sentence. Here are some examples of common infinitive verbs: to be (I want to be an Engineer.) to dream (James dares to dream about getting the job.

What is simple Infinitive?

The simple infinitive refers to the same time as that of the preceding verb: I was glad to see her. He must be very happy. I’ll arrange a meeting with the manager. My son’s football coach is said to be very strict.

What is infinitive without TO?

We use the infinitive without “to” after modal verbs can, could, may, might, will, shall, would, should, must: 

Example:

She can read in the guest room today. 

We also use the infinitive without “to” after let, make, and (optionally) help: 

Example:

She lets us use some of his lands to play games.

What is the Difference between Full Infinitive and Bare Infinitive?

The infinitive without ‘to’ is called the bare infinitive, or the base form of a verb. This is the verb’s most basic form. The infinitive with to is called the full infinitive, or the to-infinitive. … An infinitive verb is never conjugated.

Do infinitives always start with “to”?

An infinitive will, almost, begin with too. 

Exceptions do occur, however. For example, an infinitive will lose its “to” when it follows these verbs: 

  1. Feel
  2. Hear
  3. Help
  4. Let 
  5. Make
  6. See
  7. Watch

Between the verb and the infinitive, you will find a direct object.

Is “to have” an Infinitive?

Some examples of infinitive verbs include: 

  • To be
  • To have

What are the 3 verbals?

  1. Infinitive 
  2. Gerund 
  3. Participle

Why do we use Bare Infinitive?

The word to is frequently used with an infinitive, but it is not an essential part or sign of it. When an infinitive is used without the marker “to”, it is called a bare infinitive. The infinitive is used without to after certain verbs like bid, let, make, see, hear, need, dare, etc.

What is a Perfect Infinitive?

The perfect infinitive has the following structure:

(to) have + past participle

Example:

To have missed, to have written, to have enjoyed, to have worked, etc. Perfect infinitives can have the same kind of meaning as perfect or past tenses.

What are the 4 types of Infinitives?

The infinitive has four other forms: the perfect infinitive, the continuous infinitive, the perfect continuous infinitive, and the passive infinitive. These are formed by using several verb tenses, with auxiliary verbs after the “to”. Perfect infinitives are used with other verbs to convey the conditional mood.

What is the Continuous Infinitive?

The continuous infinitive is used to express a continuing action after a verb or auxiliary, which must be followed by the infinitive. The continuous infinitive is formed: 

to be + present participle

What is Infinitive Subject?

The infinitive of the verb is the un-conjugated verb form whose English meaning expresses “to” — to sing, to dance, to laugh, and so on. Although the infinitive is a verb form, it may be used as a subject, as a command, and as part of interrogative and exclamatory phrases.

How do you use Gerund and Infinitive in a sentence?

Very Simple. Both gerunds and infinitives can replace a noun as the object of a verb. Whether you use a gerund or an infinitive. It will depend on the main verb in the sentence.

Following a verb (gerund or infinitive)

I expect to have the project finished by Monday.[INFINITIVE]
I anticipate having the project finished by Monday.[GERUND]

Where should you not use Infinitives?

The infinitive is used without to” after modal auxiliary verbs will, shall, would, should, can, could, may, might, and must. It might rain early in the morning. (NOT, It might rain early in the morning.) I must play now.

What is meant by Split Infinitive?

If another word enters an English infinitive in the middle, it’s called a split infinitive. 

What are verbals examples?

Verbal Example: Ben likes to fly. (To fly is the infinitive. It functions as a noun in the sentence, acting as a direct object.) Verbal Example: My earnest desire is to finish the project.

How do you make a Passive Infinitive?

The passive infinitive is made up of the marker to + be + a past participle (also known as the -ed or -en form), as in “The case is to be decided by a judge.”

How do you know if it is a Gerund or Participle?

In order to differentiate between gerunds and present participles, look for the helping verb “be”. This is the present participle when it is followed by the -ing form. A gerund begins a sentence or follows a verb or preposition.

What is a Zero Infinitive?

Infinitive verb forms that do not contain the particle ‘to’ are referred to as zero infinitives. 

Why is Split Infinitive bad?

Misplaced infinitives fall under the category of split infinitives. Therefore, It is best to avoid split infinitives when writing formal documents. In formal writing, it is inappropriate to use split infinitives. When writing informally or speaking, using an infinitive is more acceptable.

How do you Teach Infinitives?

With a Story, I Teach Gerunds Infinitives

  1. Class members should read the story aloud. …
  2. In English, verbs often precede another action. …
  3. “Verb + infinitive” should appear on the left side of the whiteboard, and “Verb + Gerund” should appear on the right.
  4. The third time you read your story, make sure it is clear.

Can you end a sentence with an Infinitive?

Infinitives are never conjugated with -ed or -ing at the end because they are not used as verbs in a sentence. They’re one of the three types of verbals, which are verbs used as an adjective, noun, or adverb. The other verbals are gerunds and participles.

When should a Writer Avoid Splitting an Infinitive?

Splitting the infinitive sounds awkward. In the infinitive, too much information is inserted between the two parts. Which sentence best uses a split infinitive to create emphasis?

Final Words

We have discussed thoroughly the Infinitive with its examples, types of infinitives, functions of infinitives, and infinitive phrases with examples. You can also find the infinitive English PDF. I  hope it will help you a lot in English grammar to understand. Did you notice that I have used the infinitive again at the end? Stay blessed.

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