Infinitive verbs

The infinitive form of a verb is made up of the word to plus the base form of the verb. They never stand on their own; they always have another verb lending a hand.

Don't confuse infinitive with infinite. Infinite verbs are too frightening to even think about.

Anyone who's taken Spanish should be thinking about –ar, –er, and –ir right now. Anyone who hasn't… just ignore us.



"Henry wants to attend a lecture about trout fishing at the university on Friday night."

In this example, to attend is an infinitive verb made by adding to to the base verb attend. Good luck finding a date, Hank.

" Gayle has a plan to visit all fifty states before she turns 30."

Here, to plus visit creates the infinitive verb to visit. Since Gayle is 28 and has never left Agawam, Massachusetts, she better get moving.

" Brent's mom asked him to stop drinking orange juice straight from the carton."

In this case, to stop is an infinitive verb that consists of to plus the base verb stop. We're with Brent's mom on this one. Brent is being nasty.


Common mistakes


The base variety of verbs are the kind you see in a dictionary, like flirt, cuddle, argue, break up. Slap to in front of them, as in to flirt, to cuddle, to argue, to break up, and you get your infinitive.

You "split" an infinitive by placing a word between the to and the actual verb.

Traditionally, you weren't supposed to split infinitives. Why? Because of some archaic Latin rule. But, if you haven't noticed, we've transitioned from Latin to English, and English isn't Latin.

It's now okay to split infinitives, especially if you'd have to perform grammatical gymnastics to avoid the split. If anyone disagrees, send them our way, and we'll tell them what's up.


"Maximillian tried to legally change his first name to Maximillianus at the courthouse."

Maximillianus? We think we'd just have gone with Max, but it's none of our business. Our only business here is with the split infinitive, or an infinitive form of a verb that contains a modifying word between to and the rest of the phrase. That happens here with legally wedged between to and change.


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