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Created by: Team English -, Last Updated: June 10, 2024


Infinitives are the base form of verbs preceded by the words “to,” such as “to run,” “to eat,” “to sleep” or “to be.” They can function in various grammatical roles within English sentences: as nouns, adjective, or adverbs words. Infinitives are versatile, allowing for expressions of purpose, intent, or potential actions. They are used in many constructions, including after certain verbs (like “want” or “hope”), adjectives (such as “happy” or “easy”), and to express reasons or objectives, exemplified in sentences like “She went outside to enjoy the sunshine.”

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What are Infinitives?

An infinitive is the base form of a verb combined with the word “to.” This form is versatile and used in various ways within English sentences. Infinitives are also integral in expressing purposes or intentions, often following particular verbs. These verbs include “want,” “try,” “learn,” “decide,” and “promise,” among others. For instance, in the sentence “She wants to travel next summer,” the phrase “to travel” is an infinitive used to describe the speaker’s intention. This form helps add detail and clarity to English expressions, making it a fundamental component of the language.

Types of Infinitives

Types of Infinitives

Infinitives in English are primarily of two types: bare infinitives and to-infinitives. Each type has specific uses depending on the context in English grammar.

1. Bare Infinitives: These are the verb forms without the “to” particle, used particularly after modal verbs and certain other verbs. Examples of modal verbs include “can,” “will,” “shall,” “may,” and “must,” as in sentences like “She can swim” or “They must leave now.” Additionally, bare infinitives follow verbs like “let,” “make,” “hear,” and “help,” which dictate or influence another action, evident in phrases such as “Let her go” or “Help me carry this.”

2.To-Infinitives: These infinitives include the “to” particle and are the most versatile. They can act as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. As nouns, they might express purposes or intentions, like in “To learn is to grow.” When functioning as adjectives, they modify nouns, such as in “The book to read is on the table.” Lastly, as adverbs, they explain the reasons for actions, evident in sentences like “She came to see you.”

List of Infinitives

  1. to run
  2. to jump
  3. to play
  4. to sing
  5. to dance
  6. to read
  7. to write
  8. to cook
  9. to study
  10. to learn
  11. to teach
  12. to paint
  13. to draw
  14. to travel
  15. to explore
  16. to discover
  17. to invent
  18. to create
  19. to dream
  20. to imagine
  21. to hope
  22. to wish
  23. to believe
  24. to understand
  25. to comprehend
  26. to achieve
  27. to succeed
  28. to fail
  29. to attempt
  30. to practice

Infinitives phrases

An infinitive phrase consists of an infinitive (the base form of a verb preceded by “to”) and any modifiers, complements, or objects associated with it. These phrases can function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs in a sentence, providing additional information about actions, intents, or qualities.

Usage of Infinitive Phrases

As noun phrases (subjects or objects):

  • To succeed in life is my ultimate goal. (subject)
  • I want to learn a new language. (direct object)
  • His dream is to become a doctor. (predicate nominative)

As adjectival phrases (modifiers):

  • She has a lot of work to do. (modifying “work”)
  • I have a book to read. (modifying “book”)
  • This is the best place to eat sushi. (modifying “place”)

As adverbial phrases:

  • He left early to catch the train. (modifying “left”)
  • She studies hard to pass the exam. (modifying “studies”)
  • They went to the store to buy groceries. (modifying “went”)

After certain verbs:

  • He decided to go for a walk.
  • She agreed to help with the project.
  • They promised to arrive on time.

After adjectives:

  • It is important to exercise regularly.
  • She is excited to start her new job.
  • He was too tired to continue.

After nouns:

  • She had the ability to solve complex problems.
  • It’s his desire to travel the world.
  • The plan is to finish by next week.

How do you use an infinitive?

Infinitives are versatile components of English sentences, serving various grammatical purposes. Here’s a detailed guide on how to use infinitives effectively:

As a Subject:

Infinitives can function as the subject of a sentence, usually referring to an action. For instance, “To understand quantum mechanics takes years of study.” Here, “To understand quantum mechanics” acts as the subject.

As an Object:

After certain verbs, an infinitive can serve as the object. Verbs that commonly take infinitives as objects include “want,” “hope,” “learn,” “decide,” “plan,” “wish,” and “attempt.” For example, in the sentence “She hopes to graduate next year,” “to graduate” is the object of the verb “hopes.”

To Express Purpose:

One of the most common uses of infinitives is to indicate the purpose of an action. This explains why something is done. For example, “He went to the store to buy groceries.” The phrase “to buy groceries” shows the purpose of going to the store.

As a Modifier:

Infinitives can also act as modifiers, providing additional information about nouns or verbs. When modifying a noun, it usually follows the noun directly and explains a potential action. For example, “The decision to increase the budget was tough.” Here, “to increase the budget” modifies “decision.” When modifying a verb, it often provides reason or intent, as in “She paused to think.”

After Adjectives:

Infinitives are often used after adjectives to give more detail about the feelings or opinions of the subject towards an action. For instance, “It is difficult to explain.” The infinitive “to explain” complements the adjective “difficult.”

With Verbs of Perception:

When used with verbs of perception such as “see,” “hear,” or “feel,” the infinitive often appears without “to,” known as the bare infinitive. For example, “I heard her sing.”

Rules of Infinitives Usage

Infinitives are versatile forms of verbs that can function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs in sentences. Understanding the rules of infinitive usage can significantly enhance your writing and speaking abilities in English. Here are some key rules to guide you:

  1. To Express Purpose
    Infinitives are often used to explain why something is done. They answer the question “why?”.

Example: “She went to the store to buy groceries.”

  1. After Certain Verbs
    Some verbs are typically followed by infinitives, such as “agree,” “decide,” “hope,” “plan,” “promise,” and “want.”

Example: “He hopes to travel to Italy next year.”

  1. After Adjectives
    Infinitives can follow adjectives to complete their meaning, especially when expressing feelings or opinions about something.

Example: “It is difficult to understand quantum physics.”

  1. To Form Passive Voice
    Infinitives are used in passive voice constructions, especially when reporting speech or general beliefs.

Example: “He is believed to be the best chess player in the country.”

  1. As Subject of a Sentence
    Sometimes, an infinitive can be the subject of the sentence, usually when discussing actions abstractly.

Example: “To walk every day is good for your health.”

  1. After Question Words
    When question words like who, what, when, where, why, and how are used, infinitives can follow to complete a question or statement.

Example: “I don’t know what to do next.”

  1. After Object Pronouns
    Infinitives can follow object pronouns to specify actions related to the object.

Example: “I want her to succeed.”

  1. Without “To”
    In some cases, especially after modal verbs (can, could, might, should, etc.), the infinitive loses the “to.”

Example: “She can sing beautifully.”

Infinitives vs Gerunds

Infinitives vs gerunds
FormBase form of a verb with “to” (e.g., “to eat”)Verb ending in “-ing” (e.g., “eating”)
FunctionCan act as nouns, adjectives, or adverbsPrimarily function as nouns
Purpose ExpressionCommonly used to express purpose or intention (e.g., “to buy milk”)Not typically used to express purpose
Use with Specific VerbsRequired after verbs like “decide,” “hope,” “learn” (e.g., “hopes to travel”)Required after verbs like “enjoy,” “avoid,” “finish” (e.g., “enjoys swimming”)
Subject or ObjectCan function as the subject or object in a sentence (e.g., “To read is fun”)Often used as the subject or object (e.g., “Swimming is fun”)
Meaning ChangesChoice between infinitive and gerund can change the meaning after certain verbs (e.g., “stop to rest” vs. “stop resting”)Consistent meaning as noun but can alter verb meaning with use (e.g., “hate running” vs. “hate to run”)

Infinitives Excercises with answers

Here are some exercises designed to help you practice using infinitives in sentences. Each exercise includes a prompt and the correct response to check your understanding.

Exercise 1: Complete the Sentence
Instruction: Complete the sentences by choosing the appropriate infinitive from this list: to eat, to read, to sleep, to write.

  1. I love __________ novels in my free time.
    • Answer: to read
  2. She needs __________ early to catch the bus tomorrow.
    • Answer: to sleep
  3. They decided __________ at a new restaurant downtown.
    • Answer: to eat
  4. He promised __________ her a letter every week.
    • Answer: to write

Exercise 2: Identify the Purpose of the Infinitive
Instruction: Identify whether the infinitive in each sentence is used as a noun, adjective, or adverb.

  1. He had a plan to succeed.
    • Answer: Noun (the infinitive “to succeed” acts as the object of the noun “plan”)
  2. The best book to read is the one about human psychology.
    • Answer: Adjective (the infinitive “to read” describes the noun “book”)
  3. She went to the store to buy groceries.
    • Answer: Adverb (the infinitive “to buy” modifies the verb “went” indicating purpose)

Exercise 3: Transform the Sentence
Instruction: Rewrite the sentences replacing the gerund with an infinitive.

  1. She enjoys singing.
    • Answer: She enjoys to sing.
  2. They stopped smoking.
    • Answer: They stopped to smoke.
  3. He likes running in the morning.
    • Answer: He likes to run in the morning.

Download Infinitives excercise with answers

10 examples of infinitive sentences

  • To speak multiple languages fluently opens many doors in one’s career.
  • I decided to take a long vacation after the project ends.
  • He wants to learn how to cook Italian dishes.
  • They agreed to meet at the new cafe downtown.
  • To donate to charity each month is part of their family tradition.
  • She plans to start her own business next year.
  • To watch the sunrise every morning is his way of finding peace.
  • It’s important to respond to all emails by the end of the day.
  • They hoped to travel to Europe after graduation.
  • To practice meditation daily helps her maintain mental clarity.

Examples of Infinitives as noun

As Subjects

  • To read books regularly is a great way to expand your knowledge.
  • To jog every morning boosts your energy for the day.
  • To play an instrument can be incredibly rewarding.
  • To ignore advice from experts is not wise.
  • To gamble excessively is risky behavior.
  • To drink enough water daily is essential for health.
  • To drive fast in residential areas is dangerous.
  • To laugh often is the secret to a happy life.
  • To protest peacefully is a fundamental right.
  • To take risks is necessary for growth.

As Objects

  • She loves to dance.
  • He chose to stay silent.
  • She began to understand the problem.
  • He hesitated to enter the dark room.
  • Sally managed to solve the puzzle.
  • They planned to visit Japan next summer.
  • I need to write a report by tomorrow.
  • He learned to play the piano as an adult.
  • She promised to keep a secret.
  • We hope to meet again soon.

Examples of Infinitives as Adjective

  1. “She has a plan to renovate the kitchen next summer.” – The infinitive “to renovate” modifies the noun “plan,” specifying the type of plan.
  2. “He found the best spot to watch the sunset.” – Here, the infinitive “to watch” modifies the noun “spot,” indicating its purpose.
  3. “There is no time to waste.” – “To waste” modifies “time,” specifying what kind of time is being discussed.
  4. “I need a place to stay tonight.” – “To stay” modifies “place,” clarifying the purpose of the place.
  5. “Do you have a reason to be upset?” – The infinitive “to be upset” modifies “reason,” detailing the kind of reason.
  6. “She offered a solution to fix the problem.” – “To fix” modifies “solution,” explaining what the solution accomplishes.
  7. “He is looking for a way to escape.” – “To escape” modifies “way,” describing the type of way he is looking for.
  8. “We need someone to lead the project.” – “To lead” modifies “someone,” indicating the role or capacity in which the person is needed.
  9. “That is the tool to remove the screws.” – “To remove” modifies “tool,” specifying what the tool is used for.
  10. “He gave me a book to read over the weekend.” – “To read” modifies “book,” explaining what kind of book it is or what is intended to be done with it.

Examples of Infinitives as Adverb

  1. “She moved to the city to find a new job.” – The infinitive “to find” modifies the verb “moved,” explaining the purpose of the move.
  2. “They woke up early to catch the sunrise.” – “to catch” modifies the verb phrase “woke up early,” describing why they did so.
  3. “He spoke loudly to ensure everyone could hear him.” – In this sentence, “to ensure” modifies the verb “spoke,” indicating the reason for speaking loudly.
  4. “She saved money to go on a vacation.” – “to go” modifies the verb “saved,” clarifying the purpose of saving money.
  5. “We stopped talking to listen to the announcement.” – Here, “to listen” modifies the verb “stopped talking,” explaining why they stopped.
  6. “I opened the window to let in fresh air.” – “to let” modifies the verb “opened,” specifying the reason for opening the window.
  7. “They hurried to the theater to see the first show.” – “to see” modifies the verb “hurried,” detailing the purpose of their hurry.
  8. “He paused to collect his thoughts before answering.” – In this example, “to collect” modifies the verb “paused,” explaining why he paused.
  9. “She studies hard to excel in her exams.” – “to excel” modifies the verb “studies,” indicating the reason for studying hard.
  10. “He left the party early to catch the last train home.” – “to catch” modifies the verb “left,” describing why he left early.

How do you identify infinitives?

To identify infinitives, look for the word “to” followed by the base form of a verb, such as “to eat,” “to sing,” or “to dance.”

What are the rules for infinitives?

The rules for infinitives include using them after certain verbs, adjectives, and to express purpose, and avoiding splitting “to” and the verb with other words.

What are the functions of infinitives in a sentence?

Infinitives can function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs, depending on their role in the sentence.

Can infinitives stand alone in a sentence?

Yes, infinitives can stand alone as the main verb in a sentence, functioning as the base form of the verb.

What are split infinitives?

Split infinitives occur when an adverb is placed between “to” and the base form of the verb, such as “to boldly go.”

Are split infinitives grammatically incorrect?

While traditionally frowned upon, split infinitives are widely accepted in modern English as long as they do not hinder clarity or flow.

Can infinitives be used after certain verbs?

Yes, certain verbs are followed by infinitives, such as “want,” “need,” “like,” “decide,” and “hope.”

Can infinitives be used after adjectives?
Yes, some adjectives are followed by infinitives to express purpose or reason, such as “happy to help” or “eager to learn.”

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