Infinitives are used in many structures, especially after catenative verbs. Follow the article to learn them.

What Are Infinitives in English?

What Are Infinitives?

Infinitives are non-finite structures that are usually used to express suggestions, opinions, purposes, etc.

Different Types of Infinitives

There are two main types of infinitives in English:

What Are To-infinitives?

To-infinitive is 'to' plus the base form of the main verb. For example, the verb 'go' is the base form, and 'to go' is the to-infinitive. Check out the examples with the to-infinitive:

Functions of To-infinitives

Infinitives are used to make infinitive clauses or phrases which are used to function as the subject, adverb, adjective, direct object, an object of the preposition, or complement of a clause.

They like to drink a cup of tea.

They want to choose the best teacher.

  • Nominal infinitives
  • Adjectival infinitives
  • Adverbial infinitives

Here are some examples:

To swim was fun to learn. → Subject

They have found a place to go. → Adjective

We are ready to get married. → Complement

It is important to study well at school. → Complement

Nominal Infinitives


Nominal infinitives are to-infinitives that function as a noun . So they can have many functions in a sentence, such as:

  • Subject
  • Direct object
  • Object of the preposition

To speak to him required such an effort. → Subject

I want to kiss the baby. → Direct object

They have decided to fire you. I am so sorry. → Direct object

We had no choice but to cry. → Object of the preposition


Nominal infinitives as subjects can appear at the beginning of a sentence:

To become a bestselling author is my dream.

As objects, they can appear after the verbs that are catenative (verbs that need another verb as a direct object).

We all want to go to the zoo.

And also they can appear after the prepositions as the objects of that prepositions:

I had no choice but to study for my exam.

using an infinitive as an object

Adjectival Infinitives


Adjectival infinitives are used to modify nouns.

This is a book to read.

This boy is a baby to love.


Adjectival infinitives are usually preceded by a linking verb. And as adjectives, they can appear in two_ positions:

  • Predicative Adjectival Infinitives
  • Postpositive Adjectival Infinitives

It has a kitchen to die for. (postpositive)

My mom's cheesecake is simply to die for. (predicative)

Sometimes to-infinitives are used after wh-words to ask for or give information. Here is the structure:

I do not know how to make you happy.

They asked me what to do.

Adverbial Infinitives


Adverbial infinitives are to-infinitives that function as:

The book is really easy to carry.

To cook your favorite meal, we need potatoes, onions and oil.


Adverbial infinitives as adjective complements appear after adjectives. They do not necessarily need to appear immediately after the adjectives, sometimes a prepositional phrase comes before them.

  • Dummy subject + Linking verb + Adjective + (for/of someone) + (to-infinitive)

Check out the examples for more clarification:

It is important for you to learn physics at school.

It is kind of you to help the poor

As an adverb, they can both appear at the beginning or at the end of a sentence. For example:

I need to go see a dentist to have a nicer smile.

To have a nicer smile, I need to go see a dentist.

What Are Bare Infinitives?

Sometimes there is no need to use to-infinitives and some verbs require a bare infinitive (also called infinitive without to). Here are a few examples:

They helped rescue the dog.

Help me pack my stuff.

Placement and Functions

With verbs of perception that is followed by a direct object (whether a noun or pronoun), we use a bare infinitive as object complements. Check out the structure:

  • Subject + Verbs of perception + Direct object + Object complement

Here are a few examples that help you understand them better:

Those girls saw us steal the boy.

I heard her lie about the murder.

We use a bare infinitive after 'why' to make a suggestion. Here are a few examples:

Why not leave without him?

Why stay outside and wait for Marco?

Why not have salmon?

Infinitives in Passive Formation

To have an infinitive in passive voice, all you have to do is to use the to-infinitive form of the verb 'be' followed by the past participle form of the verb. Here are a few examples:

There are exercises to be done.

The cat need to be fed three times a day.

Present Perfect Tense of the Infinitives

We are able to make present perfect tense with infinitives in English. To do so, you need to use the to-infinitive form of the verb 'have' followed by the past participle of the verb. Here are a few examples:

It is nice to have done all the chores.

They wanted to have finished the project by Thursday.

Prepositional Phrase vs. Infinitive Phrases

Both prepositional phrases and infinitive phrases can begin with 'to'. The key difference between these two is that prepositional phrases are nouns, pronouns, or nominal structures governed by 'to,', however, infinitive phrases are verbs or verbal structures governed by the particle 'to.' Here are the examples:

The blind man wants to meet the king. → Infinitive phrase

Give the keys to my roommate. → Prepositional phrase

Infinitives of Purpose

To-infinitives are widely used to express the reason or purpose of something. There are two other phrases that are followed by to-infinitives to express the purpose. (So as to + bare infinitive) and (in order to + bare infinitive) are also used as infinitives of purpose. Check out the examples.

I called him so as to invite him to my birthday party.

We stayed in order to make sure you re ok.


Some verbs can either be used with a bare infinitive or a to-infinitive. Such as help. Check out the examples.

They helped to save the dog.

They helped save the dog


Infinitives are categorized into three main groups:

  1. Nominal infinitives
  2. Adjectival infinitives
  3. Adverbial infinitives

There are two types of infinitives in English:

  1. To-infinitives
  2. Bare infinitives


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To-infinitives are the base form of the verbs preceded by the preposition 'to'. To-infinitives are used in many conditions. In this lesson, we will learn them.

Bare Infinitives

The word 'bare' means without the addition of something. So you can easily get the meaning of a bare infinitive.

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