The Infinitive, To-infinitives, Bare-infinitives, Examples and Exercises of Infinitives


The root of a verb plus the word “to” is called infinitive. An infinitive is formed by adding “to” to the first form or the present tense of a Finite Verb. The verb Infinitive is a kind of noun but it also has the characteristics of a verb. It is partly a verb and partly a noun. So we can call it Verbal-Noun. The word “to” is used with the Infinitive as: to go, to laugh, to sit, to write, to work, to buy, etc. However “to” is not used with certain words as: can, could, may, might, must, bid, bear, see, need, dare, hear, make, let.

Forms of Infinitive

There are two forms of infinitives:
1. To-infinitive
2. Bare-infinitives

1. To-infinitive

The form of infinitive with “to” is called the Full-infinitive or To-infinitive.

Use of To-infinitive

To-infinitive may be used as:
I. Simple infinitive
II. Qualifying Infinitive
I. To-infinitive As a simple infinitive
When the infinitive is used like a noun, it is called the simple infinitive.
A simple infinitive can be used as:
(i) Subject to a Verb:
TO reform oneself is the greatest reform.
TO err is human.
(ii) Object to a verb:
It is always a luxury to love.
He likes to play.
(iii) Object to the preposition:
We know the true value of a thing when we are about to lose it.
(iv) As a form of exclamation:
To be or not to be!
(v) After the words how, when, what and where an To-infinitive should be used.
I know how to write English.
He wants to know where to put the machine.
I am not sure when to start.
I could not decide what to say.
(vi) Complement to a verb:
His greatest pleasure is to sing.
His cousin is to play daily.
(vii) If the verbs (make, see, behold, watch, hear, feel) are used in Passive-Voice the infinitive sign “to” must be used, as:
He was made to understand.
He was seen to leave the place.
He was observed to steal my book.
II. To-infinitive As Qualifying Infinitive
The Qualifying Infinitive do the work of an adverb and an adjective.
It may be used:
(i) To qualify a Verb, usually to express purpose, as:
We eat to live. (purpose)
He came to play match. (purpose)
We go to college to study. (purpose)
(ii) To qualify a noun:
This is not the time to eat.
This house is to let.
(iii) To qualify an adjective:
They are quick to cheat but slow to beg.
The girls are anxious to learn.
(iv) To qualify a sentence:
To play football, I went to ground.
He was petrified, so to speak.

Bare-infinitives

The form of infinitive without “to” is called the bare infinitive. The word “to” is often used with the infinitive, but is not a necessary part of it.

Use of Bare-infinitive

(i) We use bare infinitive after modal auxiliary verbs (can, could, may, might, shall, will, should, must) except have to, be able to, ought to, need to.
I will pay you.
We should work hard.
He can swim.
You must do your work.
(ii) After certain verbs we use the infinitive without “to”.
List:
bid, let, make, need, dare, see, hear
I bade him go there.
Let him sit there.
Make him run.
You need not ask such a question.
Do not dare tell him what happened.
I heard him cry.
(iii) If the verbs (make, see, behold, watch, hear, feel) are used in Passive-Voice the infinitive sign “to” must be used, as:
He was made to understand.
He was seen to leave the place.
He was observed to steal my book.
He was bidden to keep shut.
(iv) The infinitive without “to” is also used after:
had better, had rather, would rather, sooner than, rather than, had sooner, need hardly, cannot but; as:
Let him sit there.
You had better go there yourself.
He would rather starve than beg.
I cannot but stay here and wait for him.
He need hardly tell you how sorry we are.
(v) Sometimes “to” is dropped after the verb “help”.
Please help the guests wash their hands.