Infinitive (abbreviated INF) is a grammatical term referring to
certain verb forms existing in many languages, most often used as
non-finite verbs. As with many linguistic concepts, there is not a
single definition applicable to all languages. The word is derived
1 Phrases and clauses 2 Clauses with subject in the accusative case 3 Marking for tense, aspect and voice 4 English
4.1 Uses of the infinitive
5 Other Germanic languages
7.1 Ancient Greek 7.2 Modern Greek
8 Balto-Slavic languages 9 Hebrew 10 Finnish 11 Seri 12 Translation to languages without an infinitive 13 See also 14 Notes
Phrases and clauses An infinitive phrase is a verb phrase constructed with the verb in infinitive form. This consists of the verb together with its objects and other complements and modifiers. Some examples of infinitive phrases in English are given below – these may be based on either the full infinitive (introduced by the particle to) or the bare infinitive (without the particle to).
(to) sleep (to) write ten letters (to) go to the store for a pound of sugar
Infinitive phrases often have an implied grammatical subject making them effectively clauses rather than phrases. Such infinitive clauses or infinitival clauses, are one of several kinds of non-finite clause. They can play various grammatical roles like a constituent of a larger clause or sentence; for example it may form a noun phrase or adverb. Infinitival clauses may be embedded within each other in complex ways, like in the sentence:
I want to tell you that Brett Favre is going to get married.
Here the infinitival clause to get married is contained within the finite dependent clause that Brett Favre is going to get married; this in turn is contained within another infinitival clause, which is contained in the finite independent clause (the whole sentence). The grammatical structure of an infinitival clause may differ from that of a corresponding finite clause. For example, in German, the infinitive form of the verb usually goes to the end of its clause, whereas a finite verb (in an independent clause) typically comes in second position. Clauses with subject in the accusative case Following certain verbs or prepositions, infinitives commonly do have an expressed subject, e.g.
I want them to eat their dinner. For him to fail now would be a disappointment.
As these examples illustrate, the subject of the infinitive is in the
objective case (them, him) in contrast to the nominative case that
would be used with a finite verb, e.g. "They ate their dinner." Such
accusative and infinitive constructions are present in
(to) eat (plain infinitive, active) (to) be eaten (passive) (to) have eaten (perfect active) (to) have been eaten (perfect passive) (to) be eating (progressive active) (to) be being eaten (progressive passive) (to) have been eating (perfect progressive active) (to) have been being eaten (perfect progressive passive, not often used)
Further constructions can be made with other auxiliary-like expressions, like (to) be going to eat or (to) be about to eat, which have future meaning. For more examples of the above types of construction, see Uses of English verb forms § Perfect and progressive non-finite constructions. Perfect infinitives are also found in other European languages which have perfect forms with auxiliaries similarly to English. For example, avoir mangé means "(to) have eaten" in French. English See also: English verbs Regarding English, the term "infinitive" is traditionally applied to the unmarked form of the verb (the "plain form") when it forms a non-finite verb, whether or not introduced by the particle to. Hence sit and to sit, as used in the following sentences, would each be considered an infinitive:
I can sit here all day. I want to sit on the other chair.
The form without to is called the bare infinitive; the form introduced
by to is called the full infinitive or to-infinitive.
The other non-finite verb forms in English are the gerund or present
participle (the -ing form), and the past participle – these are not
considered infinitives. Moreover, the unmarked form of the verb is not
considered an infinitive when it is forms a finite verb: like a
present indicative ("I sit every day"), subjunctive ("I suggest that
he sit"), or imperative ("Sit down!"). (For some irregular verbs the
form of the infinitive coincides additionally with that of the past
tense and/or past participle, like in the case of put.)
Certain auxiliary verbs are defective in that they do not have
infinitives (or any other non-finite forms). This applies to the modal
verbs (can, must, etc.), as well as certain related auxiliaries like
the had of had better and the used of used to. (Periphrases can be
employed instead in some cases, like (to) be able to for can, and (to)
have to for must.) It also applies to the auxiliary do, like used in
questions, negatives and emphasis like described under do-support.
(Infinitives are negated by simply preceding them with not. Of course
the verb do when forming a main verb can appear in the infinitive.)
However, the auxiliary verbs have (used to form the perfect) and be
(used to form the passive voice and continuous aspect) both commonly
appear in the infinitive: "I should have finished by now"; "It's
thought to have been a burial site"; "Let him be released"; "I hope to
be working tomorrow."
Huddleston and Pullum's Cambridge
As complements of other verbs. The bare infinitive form is a complement of the dummy auxiliary do, most modal auxiliary verbs, verbs of perception like see, watch and hear (after a direct object), and the verbs of permission or causation make, bid, let, and have (also after a direct object). The to-infinitive is used after many intransitive verbs like want, aim, like, fail, etc., and like a second complement after a direct object in the case of verbs like want, convince, aim, etc. In various particular expressions, like had better and would rather (with bare infinitive), in order to, as if to, am to/is to/are to. As a noun phrase, expressing its action or state in an abstract, general way, form the subject of a clause or form a predicative expression: "To err is human"; "To know me is to love me". The bare infinitive can be used in such sentences like "What you should do is make a list." A common construction with the to-infinitive involves a dummy pronoun subject (it), with the infinitive phrase placed after the predicate: "It was nice to meet you." Adverbially, to express purpose, intent or result – the to-infinitive can have the meaning of "in order to ..." (I closed the door (in order to) block out any noise). As a modifier of a noun or adjective. This may relate to the meaning of the noun or adjective ("a request to see someone"; "keen to get on"), or it may form a type of non-finite relative clause, like in "the man to save us"; "the method to use"; "nice to listen to". In elliptical questions (direct or indirect): "I don't know where to go." After why the bare infinitive is used: "Why reveal it?"
The infinitive is also the usual dictionary form or citation form of a
verb. The form listed in dictionaries is the bare infinitive, although
the to-infinitive is often used in referring to verbs or in defining
other verbs: "The word 'amble' means 'to walk slowly'"; "How do we
conjugate the verb to go?"
For further detail and examples of the uses of infinitives in English,
see Bare infinitive and To-infinitive in the article on uses of
English verb forms.
Other Germanic languages
The original Proto-Germanic ending of the infinitive was -an, with
verbs derived from other words ending in -jan or -janan.
In German it is -en ("sagen"), with -eln or -ern endings on a few
words based on -l or -r roots ("segeln", "ändern"). The use of zu
with infinitives is similar to English to, but is less frequent than
in English. German infinitives can form nouns, often expressing
abstractions of the action, in which case they are of neuter gender:
das Essen means the eating, but also the food.
In Dutch infinitives also end in -en (zeggen — to say), sometimes
used with te similar to English to, e.g. "Het is niet moeilijk te
begrijpen" → "It is not hard to understand." The few verbs with
stems ending in -a have infinitives in -n (gaan — to go, slaan —
active middle passive
present παιδεύειν παιδεύεσθαι
future παιδεύσειν παιδεύσεσθαι παιδευθήσεσθαι
aorist παιδεῦσαι παιδεύσᾰσθαι παιδευθῆναι
perfect πεπαιδευκέναι πεπαιδεῦσθαι
Thematic verbs form present active infinitives by adding to the stem
the thematic vowel -ε- and the infinitive ending -εν, and contracts
to -ειν, e.g. παιδεύ-ειν. Athematic verbs, and perfect
actives and aorist passives, add the suffix -ναι instead, e.g.
διδό-ναι. In the middle and passive, the present middle
infinitive ending is -σθαι, e.g. δίδο-σθαι and most tenses
of thematic verbs add an additional -ε- between the ending and the
stem, e.g. παιδεύ-ε-σθαι.
The infinitive per se does not exist in Modern Greek. To see this,
consider the ancient Greek ἐθέλω γράφειν "I want to
write". In modern Greek this become θέλω να γράψω "I want
that I write". In modern Greek, the infinitive has thus changed form
and function and is used mainly in the formation of periphrastic tense
forms and not with an article or alone. Instead of the Ancient Greek
infinitive system γράφειν, γράψειν, γράψαι,
the root is suffixed with -ta/-tä according to vowel harmony consonant elision takes place if applicable, e.g. juoks+ta → juosta assimilation of clusters violating sonority hierarchy if applicable, e.g. nuol+ta → nuolla, sur+ta → surra 't' weakens to 'd' after diphthongs, e.g. juo+ta → juoda 't' elides if intervocalic, e.g. kirjoitta+ta → kirjoittaa
As such, it is inconvenient for dictionary use, because the imperative would be closer to the root word. Nevertheless, dictionaries use the first infinitive. There are also four other infinitives, plus a "long" form of the first:
The long first infinitive is -kse- and must have a personal suffix appended to it. It has the general meaning of "in order to [do something], e.g. kirjoittaakseni "in order for me to write [something]". The second infinitive is formed by replacing the final -a/-ä of the first infinitive with e. It can take the inessive and instructive cases to create forms like kirjoittaessa "while writing". The third infinitive is formed by adding -ma to the first infinitive, which alone creates an "agent" form: kirjoita- becomes kirjoittama. The third infinitive is technically a noun (denoting the act of performing some verb), so case suffixes identical to those attached to ordinary Finnish nouns allow for other expressions using the third infinitive, e.g. kirjoittamalla "by writing".
A personal suffix can then be added to this form to indicate the "agent participle", such that kirjoittamani kirja = "the book which I wrote".
The fourth infinitive adds -minen to the first, forming a noun which has the connotation of "the process of [doing something]", e.g. kirjoittaminen "[the process of] writing". It, too, can be inflected like other Finnish nouns which end in -nen. The fifth infinitive adds -maisilla- to the first, and like the long first infinitive, must take a possessive suffix. It has to do with being "about to [do something]" and may also imply that the act was cut off or interrupted, e.g. kirjoittamaisillasi "you were about to write [but something interrupted you]". This form is more commonly replaced by the third infinitive in adessive case, usually also with a possessive suffix (thus kirjoittamallasi).
Note that all of these must change to reflect vowel harmony, so the
fifth infinitive (with a third-person suffix) of hypätä "jump" is
hyppäämäisillään "he was about to jump", not *hyppäämaisillaan.
Look up infinitive in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Auxiliary verb Finite verb Gerund Non-finite verb Split infinitive Verbal noun
^ Ylikoski, Jussi (2003). "Defining non-finites: action nominals, converbs and infinitives" (PDF). SKY Journal of Linguistics. 16: 185–237. ^ Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey K. (2005). A Student's Introduction to English Grammar. Cambridge UP. p. 204. ISBN 9780521848374. ^ Pană Dindelegan, Gabriela (2004), "Aspecte ale substantivizării în româna actuală. Forme de manifestare a substantivizării adjectivului", in Pană Dindelegan, Gabriela, Aspecte ale dinamicii limbii române actuale II (PDF) (in Romanian), Bucharest: University of Bucharest, ISBN 973-575-825-3 ^ Schulte, Kim (2004). Pragmatic Causation in the Rise of the Romance Prepositional Infinitive: A statistically-based study with special reference to Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian (Ph.D.). University of Cambridge. pp. 153–70. ^ Schulte, Kim (2007). Prepositional Infinitives in Romance: A Usage-based Approach to Syntactic Change. Studies in Historical Linguistics. 3. Berne/Oxford: Peter Lang. pp. 73–84. ISBN 978-3-03911-327-9. ^ Callaham, Scott N. (2010). Modality and the Biblical Hebrew Infinitive Absolute. Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes. 71. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 978-3-447-06158-2.
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Lexical categories and their features
Abstract / Concrete Adjectival Agent Animate / Inanimate Attributive Common / Proper Countable / Mass / Collective Initial-stress-derived Relational Strong / Weak Verbal / Deverbal
Finite / Non-finite Attributive Converb Gerund Gerundive Infinitive Participle (adjectival · adverbial) Supine Verbal noun
Accusative Ambitransitive Andative/Venitive Anticausative Autocausative Auxiliary Captative Catenative Compound Copular Defective Denominal Deponent Ditransitive Dynamic ECM Ergative Frequentative Impersonal Inchoative Intransitive Irregular Lexical Light Modal Monotransitive Negative Performative Phrasal Predicative Preterite-present Reflexive Regular Separable Stative Stretched Strong Transitive Unaccusative Unergative Weak
Collateral Demonstrative Nominalized Possessive Postpositive
Genitive Conjunctive Flat Locative Interrogative Prepositional Pronominal Relative
Demonstrative Disjunctive Distributive Donkey Dummy Formal/Informal Gender-neutral Gender-specific Inclusive/Exclusive Indefinite Intensive Interrogative Objective Personal Possessive Prepositional Reciprocal Reflexive Relative Resumptive Subjective Weak
Inflected Casally modulated Stranded
Article Demonstrative Interrogative Possessive Quantifier
Discourse Interrogative Modal Noun Possessive
Yes and no Copula Coverb Expletive Interjection (verbal) Preverb Pro-form Pro-sentence Pro-verb Procedure wo