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Infinitives| What Is an Infinitive? | Types & Examples

Updated on November 27, 2015
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Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a Master's Degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.

What is an Infinitive?
What is an Infinitive? | Source

What is an Infinitive?

In English grammar, the base form of the verb is called an infinitive. Infinitive is either followed by “to” or is used without “to”. Look at the following sentences, wherein the highlighted words are infinitives:

  • He has to work hard to pass the test.
  • She wanted to stay at the hotel.
  • I made him apply for the job.
  • She bade him go home.

Types of Infinitives

Following are the types of infinitives:

To-Infinitive

To-infinitive is a type of infinitive which is followed by “to”. Consider the following sentences:

  • Adela wants to buy me a book.
  • He desires to meet him.
  • They love to read books.
  • You wanted to play the game.

In the above sentences, the highlighted words are to-infinitives. They are used to express desire, purpose or opinion of someone or something.

Bare Infinitive

A type of infinitive that is not followed by “to” is called a bare infinitive or zero infinitive. The bare infinitives are used with auxiliaries and model verbs: could, can, will, shall, would, may, might and must. Look at the following sentences, wherein the highlighted words are bare infinitives:

  • He could win the match.
  • She might quit the job.
  • You must work hard to achieve your goals.
  • They need not stay here.
  • He had better go there.
  • She had rather read the book than memorizing it.
  • Our soldiers would rather die than surrender.
  • You will speak to him bluntly.
  • I shall write him a letter.

Split Infinitive

A split infinitive is a type of infinitive that makes use of an adverb or other modifier after the principal verb. The split infinitive is made by placing the adverb or other modifier between the “to” and the infinitive. The adverb or the modifier splits the infinitive. That’s why; it is called a split infinitive. Consider the following sentences:

  • Adela wanted to cordially greet them.
  • He bade me to gently press the button.
  • She told him to quickly change your dress.
  • He requested him to correctly use the microscope.

In the above sentences, the underlined words are adverbs, which have been placed between the to and the infinitive. Thus, it splits the to-infinitive.

Qualifying Infinitive

Qualifying infinitive is a type of infinitive which is used to qualify a noun, adjective or verb. It is also called a gerundial infinitive. Consider the following sentences:

  • He rang to talk to my father.
  • She went to see her.
  • Stale food is bad to eat.
  • He is good to win the match.
  • This is the house to live in.
  • There are reasons to rusticate him.

In the 1st and 2nd sentences, the infinitives qualify the verbs, while in the 3rd and 4th sentences, the infinitives qualify the adjectives. Similarly, in the 5th and 6th sentences, the infinitives qualify the nouns.

Forms of Infinitives

There are four forms of infinitives:

Perfect Infinitives

The perfect infinitive is an infinitive that uses past participle instead of base form of the verb. It shows certainty and completion of the action. It is formed by placing to+have+past participle after the main verb. For example:

  • She must have written the book.
  • They seemed to have failed in their attempts.
  • He might have watched the movie.
  • I am glad to have seen her.
  • They should have managed to settle the issue.
  • If you had studied hard, you would have passed the test.

Perfect Continuous Infinitives

The perfect continuous infinitives show an action which has been initiated in the past and is still in progress. It is formed by placing to+have been+past participle after the main verb. For example:

  • He must have been writing a letter to his brother.
  • She might have been struggling to find a job.
  • They should have been making plans for alleviation of poverty.
  • Adela was glad to have been reading at Oxford University.

Continuous Infinitives

The continuous infinitive is an infinitive that shows an ongoing action at the time of speaking. It is formed by placing to+be+present participle after the main verb. For example:

  • I’m glad to be reading here.
  • She must be kidding.
  • He was found to be spying on him.
  • The baby seemed to be crying.

Passive Infinitives

Infinitives in the form of passive are called passive infinitives. For example:

  • She must have been cheated by him.
  • It seemed to have been stolen by Adela.
  • The king was found to have been poisoned by his brother.
  • I'm glad to have been invited to the party.

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© 2015 Muhammad Rafiq

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