Unlocking the Mystery of Infinitives in English Grammar

By Strategically AI. Reviewed by Rebecca Hey.
Updated January 23, 2024
3 minute read
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Have you ever stumbled upon the term 'infinitive' in English grammar and wondered what it's all about? Infinitives are like the Swiss Army knife of the English language – versatile and essential. In this article, we'll dive into the world of infinitives, exploring their forms, uses, and providing examples to help you understand and use them effectively in your writing and speech.

Understanding Infinitives

An infinitive is the base form of a verb, often preceded by the word 'to.' Think of it as the untouched, pure form of a verb – not tied to any specific tense, person, or number.

The Two Types of Infinitives

  1. Full Infinitive: This includes 'to' (e.g., to eat, to sleep, to dance).
  2. Bare Infinitive: This omits 'to' (e.g., eat, sleep, dance).

Examples in Context

  • "I love to read." (Full Infinitive)
  • "Let him speak." (Bare Infinitive)

The Role of Infinitives in Sentences

Infinitives can play several roles in a sentence:

  • As a Noun: "To swim is my favorite activity."
  • As an Adjective: "The decision to leave was difficult."
  • As an Adverb: "She came to assist."

Crafting Sentences with Infinitives

Creating sentences with infinitives isn't just grammatically enriching; it's also a way to add variety and depth to your writing.

Tips for Using Infinitives

  1. Express Purpose: Use infinitives to explain why something is done (e.g., "He exercises to stay healthy").
  2. After Certain Verbs: Some verbs are commonly followed by infinitives, like 'want,' 'try,' 'learn,' and 'decide.'
  3. Be Mindful of Split Infinitives: While not always grammatically incorrect, split infinitives can disrupt the flow of a sentence. A split infinitive occurs when an adverb is placed between 'to' and the verb (e.g., "to boldly go").

Summary and Key Insights

Infinitives are a fundamental part of English grammar, offering flexibility and clarity in expressing ideas. Understanding how to use them effectively can greatly enhance your language skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can infinitives be used in any tense?

Yes, infinitives are not bound by tense, which makes them incredibly versatile.

Is it always wrong to split an infinitive?

No, it's sometimes acceptable, especially for emphasis or clarity, but traditionally, it's often avoided.

How do I know when to use a full or bare infinitive?

It usually depends on the verb that precedes it. Some verbs require a full infinitive, others a bare infinitive.

Can infinitives be the main verb in a sentence?

Yes, especially when used as a noun. For example, "To err is human."

Are infinitives used differently in British and American English?

The usage is generally the same, though there might be slight variations in certain expressions.

Conclusion

Infinitives are not just grammatical elements; they are keys that unlock a more nuanced and expressive use of the English language. Whether you're writing an essay, a report, or just chatting with friends, a good grasp of infinitives can make your communication more effective and engaging.

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Rebecca Hey
Founder of Strategically.co, we’ve created over 10 million words of impactful content, driving organic traffic growth for more than 300 businesses.
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