Sergey Sulimov


Sergey Sulimov


Infinitive in English

школа английского языка

In English, a verb has two forms, a personal and an impersonal form. The second is the infinitive, the participle and the gerund. Today we are going to look at an English verb infinitive, how it is formed and how it is used.

What is an infinitive

The infinitive is a verb an indefinite form that answers the questions “What to do? / To do what?” The infinitive only names the action without specifying the person or number. The infinitive distinguishing feature is the to particle presence before the verb. However, there are cases where this particle may also be omitted (the so-called bare infinitive).

I want to drink tea. — Я хочу выпить чаю.

He can play the violin. — Он умеет играть на скрипке.

To form the negative form, use the particle not, if there is a particle to not put in it front.He decided not to read this book. — Он решил не читать эту книгу.

You’d better not go to this forsaken castle. — Вам лучше не ходить в этот заброшенный замок

Infinitive forms in English

The infinitive can be used in 4 forms in the active voice and 2 in the passive voice.

SimpleAction in the present and future tenseto + первая форма глагола (V)The student wants to write his paper today. — Студент хочет написать свою работу сегодняto be + V3The teacher wants the papers to be written today. — Учитель хочет, чтобы работы были написаны сегодня
ContinuousContinuous action in the present and futureto be  + V-ingHe seems to be eating the cake with pleasure. — Кажется, он ест пирог с удовольствиемNot used
PerfectAn act that occurred before the speech moment or other actionto have + V3She seems to have forgotten about salt. — Кажется, она забыла про сольto have been V3The house seems to have been renovated already. — Кажется, этот дом уже был отремонтирован
Perfect ContinuousAn action that has lasted until another action in the present or a certain point in timeto have been V-ingHe seems to have been doing wrong all these years. — Кажется, он все эти годы делал что-то не такNot used

In speech, the infinitive all these forms occur with varying frequency. Most often you will use the Simple Infinitive in the active voice, followed by the same form in the passive voice. The Perfect Infinitive (perfective forms) is used less frequently and is discussed in detail in the topics related to modal verbs and conditional sentences.

The infinitive functions

The infinitive can move quietly through a sentence and perform various functions.


1. To walk is good for your health. — Ходить пешком полезно для здоровья.

2. A compound nominal predicate part

My hobby is to collect unusual postcards from different countries. — Мое хобби — собирать необычные открытки из разных стран.

3. Addition

Many children like to eat sweets. — Многие дети любят есть сладости.

4. Circumstance

He came here to meet her. — Он пришел сюда, чтобы встретить ее.

5. Definition

It is very interesting destination to travel. — Это очень интересное место для путешествий.

Often the infinitive can be used as an introductory phrase. To tell the truth, I don’t want to meet them. — По правде говоря, я не хочу с ними встречаться.

Infinitive with and without the to particle

The time most, the infinitive requires the to particle, but there are cases where the particle is not used. We will talk in more detail about these cases.

1. After modal verbs

This is the most common case where the infinitive is used without to.

You can do everything that you want. — Ты можешь делать все, что тебе захочется.

However, there are exceptions: have to, ought to, be to, dare to.

He had to study for the exam hard because he did not study well for the whole semester. — Ему пришлось усердно готовиться к экзамену, потому что он плохо учился весь семестр.

2. After the verbs to make (делать), to let (позволять), to hear (слышать), to see (видеть), to feel (чувствовать)

I heard him sing in the shower. — Я слышала, как он поет в душе.

But when these verbs are used in the passive voice, the particle to before the infinitive is obligatory.

He was heard to sing in the shower. – Слышали, что он поет в душе.

3. After had better (лучше бы), would sooner (скорее), would rather (предпочтительнее), nothing but (ничего, кроме)

I’d rather eat my passport than marry her. — Я лучше съем свой паспорт, чем женюсь на ней.

4. In sentences beginning with why not

Why not watch a new movie today? — Почему бы не посмотреть новый фильм сегодня?

There is a verb after which the infinitive can be used equally with or without the to particle: to help. There is a verb after which the infinitive can be equally used with or without the particle – help.

Help me (to) translate this sentence, please. — Помоги мне перевести это предложение, пожалуйста.

The infinitive in English is a vast subject and not the easiest. If you want to get to it’s bottom, we invite you to the EnglishPapa.

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