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 a type of verb form that are used to express an action or state of being without specifying who or what is doing the action.

Infinitives: Types

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

Now, let us examine how each type works:

To-infinitives

To-infinitives, also known as full infinitives, are formed by adding 'to' to the base form of a verb. They are primarily used to create 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.

Uses

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, etc. 'To-infinitives' can function as:

  • a noun
  • an adverb
  • an adjective

Now, let us see how each group functions:

To-infinitives As a Noun

To-infinitives can act as nouns in the sentence. So, they can serve as 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 to-infinitive is used as the subject.

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

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

He left me with no choice but to block him.

Here, the to-infinitive is the object of preposition.

As an Adverb

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

That is a movie to watch.

She is a person to befriend.

Tip!

We can use to-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, also known as infinitives without 'to', are verb forms that do not require 'to' before the base form of the verb. Certain verbs are commonly 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.

Uses

We can use bare infinitives when we have:

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

Modals

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...)

Tip!

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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