An infinitive is the basic form of a verb. (A verb as we know is a word that shows an action, occurrence, or state of being.) In English, we have the to-infinitive and the bare infinitive. The to-infinitive can also appear as a split infinitive.
- To-infinitive: Rita likes to swim.
- Bare infinitive: You must swim to the island.
- Split infinitive: Try to quietly swim along the shore without being seen.
The infinitive is a non-tensed verb form: it is not affected by a change in.
- Present tense: Rita wants to swim like a dolphin.
Past tense: As a child, Rita wanted to swim like a dolphin.The infinitive to swim does not change form in the past tense.
A verb in its basic form after the word to is the to-infinitive (also called the full infinitive): to + verb.
- Rita wants to live on an island.
- Lulu likes to sing while she bakes.
- Maya wants to travel the world.
- To hope is to live.
- I need something to drink.
- Your job is to supervise.
- It’s nice to meet you.
The to-infinitive is a verb form. Don’t confuse it with a preposition., in which the word to is used as a
- She wants to sing.
infinitive = “to sing” (to + verb)
- She went to Thailand last winter.
prepositional phrase = “to Thailand” (preposition + noun; no verb)
The bare infinitive
A verb in its basic form without the word to is the bare infinitive (also called the zero infinitive). It appears after thedo and such as can, could, should, and must.
- You should leave.
Modal verbs like should are followed by a bare infinitive like leave (not “to leave”).
- I must go.
- I can call him back.
- I could send them an email.
- I do like you.
Verbs of perception (feel, see, hear, etc.) are followed by aand the bare infinitive.
- I felt something move in the bag!
The verb feel (“felt”) followed by a noun phrase (“something”) and a bare infinitive (“move”).
- I saw it disappear for a second.
- Did you hear the phone ring?
Other verbs such as help, let, make, and have are also followed by a noun phrase and a bare infinitive.
- I’ll help you pack.
- We want to help our clients make the right decisions.
- Let it go.
- How can we make him understand how important this is?
- I’ll have someone send you the documents.
The split infinitive
A split infinitive is a to-infinitive in which a word (usually an adverb) appears between to and the verb.
- I plan to quietly leave the room.
- It’s nice to finally meet you.
- You can also try to carefully pull the two pieces apart.
- I want to somehow finish this report and go home.
- Maya hopes to someday write a novel.
Although purists may object, it’s perfectly fine to split the infinitive in English to improve clarity or emphasize an adverb.
- I need to not listen to other people.
- Try to gently slot it into its groove.
Now that you know the types of infinitives in English, also learn about theirand how they are used.