Infinitive

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This article is part of the grammar course.

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The infinitive is a non-finite form of the verb. There are two infinitives in English.

  • The bare infinitive is the base form, by itself. This is the one from which the other forms are adapted. (Regular verbs in English have up to five forms, or inflections: the base form; the 3rd person singular in the present tense, formed by adding -s to the base form, e.g. 'he talks'; the past tense; and the two participles. Some verbs have fewer forms, usually because the past tense and the past participle are identical. One verb has eight forms - the verb 'to be'. It is a useful exercise to list - and label - them.)
The bare infinitive is the form by which a verb is put into alphabetical order in dictionaries.
  • The other infinitive consists of 'to' + the base form. This is called - obviously enough - the to-infinitive. This is the form, 'to think', which is meant when teachers and others say "You should not split the infinitive", by which they mean putting a word between 'to' and the verb.

The two other non-finite forms of the verb dealt with in AWE are the 'dual purpose' forms, the participle and the verbal noun. They do two jobs at once.