Infinitive Verbs: what are they and how to use them?

Andrew Dinu

Verbs form the backbone of sentences, shaping action and expressing states of being. A key component of verb usage is the infinitive form, a versatile element in constructing sentences. This article aims to break down the definition, types, examples, and practical applications of infinitive verbs, providing a solid grasp of this grammatical concept.

What is an Infinitive Verb?

An infinitive verb is essentially the base form of a verb, usually preceded by the word “to.” In English, these verbs stay unchanged, irrespective of the subject or tense. The structure is simple: “to” + the base form of the verb.

What are the Types of Infinitive Verbs?

Bare Infinitive:

  • The base form without the “to.”
  • Example: She made him eat his vegetables.

Full Infinitive:

  • The conventional form with “to” before the base verb.
  • Example: He likes to swim in the ocean.

Split Infinitive:

  • An adverb slips between “to” and the base verb.
  • Example: She decided to quickly finish her work.

Examples of Infinitive Verbs:

To make sense of infinitive verbs, let’s explore some common examples:

Infinitive VerbExample Sentence
To eatShe loves to eat Italian cuisine.
To runHe decided to run five miles today.
To danceThey are eager to dance at the party.

How to Use Infinitive Verbs?

As the Sentence Subject:

  • Example: To travel is her greatest passion.

Object of a Verb:

  • Example: She wants to learn a new language.

After Certain Verbs:

  • Some verbs are followed by an infinitive, like “decide,” “choose,” and “want.”
  • Example: He chose to study medicine.

Expressing Purpose:

  • Example: She went to the store to buy some groceries.

After Adjectives:

  • Certain adjectives are followed by an infinitive, indicating a characteristic or quality.
  • Example: It is essential to be honest in life.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

Split Infinitive Errors:

  • Avoid placing adverbs between “to” and the base verb if it disrupts the sentence flow.
  • Incorrect: She decided to quickly finish her work.
  • Correct: She decided to finish quickly her work.

Using Gerunds Instead:

  • Be cautious not to mix up gerunds (verbs ending in -ing) with infinitive verbs.
  • Incorrect: I look forward to swimming the race.
  • Correct: I look forward to swim in the race.

Frequently Asked Questions about Infinitive Verbs

Q1: What’s the main difference between an infinitive and an infinitive phrase?

An infinitive is just the base form of a verb with “to” in front, like “to read.” Meanwhile, an infinitive phrase is a bunch of words including the infinitive along with its modifiers and complements. It gives more details about the action or intention, such as in “to quickly finish his work.”

Q2: Can an infinitive be the subject of a sentence?

Yes, an infinitive can be the star of the show in a sentence. For example, “To travel is her greatest passion.”

Q3: What is an Infinitive Verb?

An infinitive verb is the base form of a verb, typically introduced by “to.” It remains unchanged regardless of subject or tense. Types include Bare (without “to”), Full (with “to”), and Split (with an adverb between “to” and the verb). Examples and usage scenarios enhance understanding.

Q4: Are there specific verbs always followed by infinitives?

Yup. Some verbs are best buddies with infinitives, like “decide,” “choose,” and “want.” Like, “He decided to study medicine.”


Understanding infinitive verbs is crucial for crafting grammatically sound and meaningful sentences. By familiarizing yourself with the different types, examples, and usage scenarios, you empower yourself to communicate more effectively in both written and spoken English. The next time you encounter a sentence, take a moment to spot and appreciate the infinitive verbs contributing to its structure and meaning.