Infinitives for intermediate learners

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 verbals that are used to show ideas, goals, and purposes. We will learn all about them in this lesson.

Types of Infinitives

We have two major types of infinitives in English. Take a look at the following list:

Now, let us examine how each group works:


To-infinitives (also referred to as full infinitives) are shaped by adding 'to' to the base form of the verb. Infinitives are mainly used to make infinitive phrases and clauses. Take a look at the following examples:

She wants to find a new hobby for herself.

They were told to stand there for two hours.


As it was stated above, infinitives are generally used to form infinitive phrases and clauses. These phrases/clauses can function as the subject, the object of the verb, the object of a preposition and etc. Below is a list of three important functions 'to-infinitives' perform:

  • As a Noun
  • As an Adverb
  • As an Adjective

Now, let us see how each group functions:

As a Noun

Infinitives can act as nouns in the sentence. So, they can be the subject, the object of the verb or the object of a preposition. Study the following examples carefully:

To walk outside at this hour is perilous.

Here, the infinitive is used as the subject.

She doesn't like to lend her books to anyone.

Here, the infinitive is the direct object of the verb.

He left me with no choice but to block him.

Here, the infinitive is the object of preposition.

As an Adverb

We can use infinitives to make adverbs. They are used to describe and modify verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. Take a look at the following examples:

I clean my room to feel better in it.

The professor chose your group to give a presentation on Greek Mythology.

As an Adjective

We can also use infinitives to form adjectives. They are mainly used to describe nouns. Take a look at the following examples:

That is a movie to watch.

She is a person to befriend.


It is useful to know that we can use infinitive phrases after adjectives in a sentence. Please note that the infinitive phrase does not come directly after the adjective. Study the following example carefully:

It is kind of you to understand my feelings, Anna.

Bare Infinitives

Bare infinitives are those that do not need 'to'. They are also called 'infinitives without 'to'. Some verbs are used with bare infinitives. Study the following examples:

My sister helped me cook lunch for myself.

As you can see, the base form of the verb is used without 'to'.

Fred let me sit here.


We can use bare infinitives when we have:

Now, we are going to analyze how modals can be used with 'bare infinitives':


When we have modal verbs, we can only use bare infinitives after them. Study the following examples:

The professor may answer your call later.

(Not the professor may to answer...)

I think I can write it down.

(Not I think I can to write...)


It might be useful to know that bare infinitives can be used after 'why'. It is mostly used to suggest an idea. Check out the following examples:

Why stay at home when we can take a walk by the beautiful beach?

Why go back to a toxic relationship when you can practice more self-love?

Negative Infinitives

In order to form negative infinitives, we can simply add the negative marker 'not' to the verb. Take a look at the following examples:

I'd rather not go to class today.

Why not eat pizza together?


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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.

Infinitive Clauses

To learn infinitive clauses, first of all, you should know the elements in a cause and the definition of an infinitive. In this lesson, we will learn them.

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