Infinitive Verbs

Do you know the difference between an infinitive verb and a base verb? Or, do you know when and how do you use infinitive verbs? These questions, and their answers are the key to understanding the uses of an infinitive verb.

Defining an Infinitive Verb

Basically, an infinitive verb is a verb with the word “to” in front of it.

  • to be
  • to have
  • to hold
  • to sleep
  • to dream

When you use an infinitive verb, the “to” is a part of the verb. It is not acting as a preposition in this case. And the verb is always just the verb. It’s not conjugated in anyway – no -ed, no -ing, no -s on the end. Sometimes you’ll see sentences like this:

  • She went from kissing him to slapping him in no time.

You see “to slapping,” and it’s easy to think that’s an infinitive verb, but it isn’t. It’s a preposition (to) and a gerund (slapping). You can tell it’s not an infinitive because of the -ing on the end of the verb. Infinitives never have an -ing ending.

Infinitive Verb vs. Base Verb

A lot of people think that the infinitive is the most basic form of a verb, but it isn’t. The most basic form is the base form. The base form is just the verb, without the “to.” Some people also call this a bare infinitive.

  • be
  • have
  • hold
  • sleep
  • dream

Using an Infinitive Verb

There are several possible ways to use infinitive verbs. You can use them:

  1. as the subject of a sentence – To err is human; to forgive, divine.
  2. like an adjective or adverb phrase that expresses purpose or intent – My instructions are to press this button every hour.
  3. following an indirect object – He told me to give this to you.
  4. following certain other verbs:
  • afford – We can’t afford to eat out every night.
  • agree – Let’s agree to disagree.
  • aim – I aim to please.
  • appear – She appears to have the chicken pox.
  • arrange – I’ll arrange to meet you at 3:00.
  • attempt – We attempted to contact him several times.
  • determined – They are determined to finish the race.
  • beg – She begged to stay up past her bed time.
  • care – Would you care to dance?
  • choose – He’ll always choose to eat pizza if given the choice.
  • claim – They claim to have been home all night.
  • dare – Do you dare to approach me?
  • decide – We decided to get married in a hot air balloon.
  • demand – I demand to know who said that!
  • deserve – You deserve to have all you want in life.
  • expect – Do you expect to see her any time soon?
  • fail – She failed to achieve any of her goals.
  • happen – I happen to have all the things you need.
  • help – It would help to be able to swim.
  • hesitate – He hesitated to ask for the day off.
  • hope – She hopes to be engaged by the end of the summer.
  • learn – We’re learning to communicate better.
  • long – Oh how he longed to hold her in his arms!
  • manage – Have you managed to complete your work on time for once?
  • mean – I didn’t mean to hurt you.
  • need – You need to think before you speak.
  • neglect – He neglected to tell his parents about the accident.
  • offer – Jim offered to help me pack.
  • plan – What do you plan to do after college?
  • prepare – I’m preparing to run away.
  • pretend – Don’t pretend to sleep when I’m talking to you.
  • proceed – We then proceeded to drink until we blacked out.
  • promise – I promise to love you forever.
  • refuse – She refused to sign the documents.
  • resolve – He has resolved never to fight again.
  • seem – They seem to be having some sort of argument.
  • stop – We stopped to use the restroom and stretch.
  • swear – Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
  • tend – I tend to laugh when I’m nervous.
  • threaten – He threatened to shoot me if I didn’t give him my wallet.
  • use – She gave MacGeyver her cigarettes and an earring, which he used to make a bomb.
  • volunteer – They volunteered to paint kids’ faces at the fair.
  • vow – We vowed to love and cherish one another.
  • want – Do you really want to hurt me?
  • wish – Do you wish to see me cry?
  • would hate – I would hate to be in his shoes.
  • would like – The gentleman would like to accompany the lady home.
  • would love – I would love to dance!
  • would prefer – He would prefer to go bowling, but she wants to see a movie.

As you can see, the infinitive verb has many uses, both functional (We need to leave now) and philosophical (To be, or not to be? That is the question).