Infinitive
Overview
 
In grammar
Grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. In the usual (traditional) description of English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, the infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle
Grammatical particle
In grammar, a particle is a function word that does not belong to any of the inflected grammatical word classes . It is a catch-all term for a heterogeneous set of words and terms that lack a precise lexical definition...

 to: therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives. As with many linguistic concepts, there is not a single definition of infinitive that applies to all languages. Many Native American languages
Indigenous languages of the Americas
Indigenous languages of the Americas are spoken by indigenous peoples from Alaska and Greenland to the southern tip of South America, encompassing the land masses which constitute the Americas. These indigenous languages consist of dozens of distinct language families as well as many language...

 and some languages in Africa
Languages of Africa
There are over 2100 and by some counts over 3000 languages spoken natively in Africa in several major language families:*Afro-Asiatic spread throughout the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of the Sahel...

 and Aboriginal Australia simply do not have infinitives or verbal noun
Verbal noun
In linguistics, the verbal noun turns a verb into a noun and corresponds to the infinitive in English language usage. In English the infinitive form of the verb is formed when preceded by to, e.g...

s.
Encyclopedia
In grammar
Grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. In the usual (traditional) description of English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, the infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle
Grammatical particle
In grammar, a particle is a function word that does not belong to any of the inflected grammatical word classes . It is a catch-all term for a heterogeneous set of words and terms that lack a precise lexical definition...

 to: therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives. As with many linguistic concepts, there is not a single definition of infinitive that applies to all languages. Many Native American languages
Indigenous languages of the Americas
Indigenous languages of the Americas are spoken by indigenous peoples from Alaska and Greenland to the southern tip of South America, encompassing the land masses which constitute the Americas. These indigenous languages consist of dozens of distinct language families as well as many language...

 and some languages in Africa
Languages of Africa
There are over 2100 and by some counts over 3000 languages spoken natively in Africa in several major language families:*Afro-Asiatic spread throughout the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of the Sahel...

 and Aboriginal Australia simply do not have infinitives or verbal noun
Verbal noun
In linguistics, the verbal noun turns a verb into a noun and corresponds to the infinitive in English language usage. In English the infinitive form of the verb is formed when preceded by to, e.g...

s. In their place they use finite verb forms used in ordinary clauses
Balancing and deranking
In linguistics, balancing and deranking are terms used to describe the form of verbs used in various types of subordinate clauses and also sometimes in co-ordinate constructions....

 or special constructions.

In languages that have infinitives, they generally have most of the following properties :
  • In most uses, infinitives are non-finite verb
    Non-finite verb
    In linguistics, a non-finite verb is a verb form that is not limited by a subject and, more generally, is not fully inflected by categories that are marked inflectionally in language, such as tense, aspect, mood, number, gender, and person...

    s.
  • They function as other lexical categories
    Lexical category
    In grammar, a part of speech is a linguistic category of words , which is generally defined by the syntactic or morphological behaviour of the lexical item in question. Common linguistic categories include noun and verb, among others...

     — usually noun
    Noun
    In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

    s — within the clauses that contain them, for example by serving as the subject of another verb.
  • They do not represent any of the verb's arguments
    Verb argument
    In linguistics, a verb argument is a phrase that appears in a syntactic relationship with the verb in a clause. In English, for example, the two most important arguments are the subject and the direct object....

    .
  • They are not inflected
    Inflection
    In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

     to agree with any subject.
  • They cannot serve as the only verb of a declarative sentence.
  • They do not have tense
    Grammatical tense
    A tense is a grammatical category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place.Bernard Comrie, Aspect, 1976:6:...

    , aspect
    Grammatical aspect
    In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb is a grammatical category that defines the temporal flow in a given action, event, or state, from the point of view of the speaker...

    , moods
    Grammatical mood
    In linguistics, grammatical mood is a grammatical feature of verbs, used to signal modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying...

    , and/or voice, or they are limited in the range of tenses, aspects, moods, and/or voices that they can use. (In languages where infinitives do not have moods at all, they are usually treated as being their own non-finite mood.)


However, it bears repeating that none of the above is a defining quality of the infinitive; infinitives do not have all these properties in every language, as it is shown below, and other verb forms may have one or more of them. For example, English gerund
Gerund
In linguistics* As applied to English, it refers to the usage of a verb as a noun ....

s and participle
Participle
In linguistics, a participle is a word that shares some characteristics of both verbs and adjectives. It can be used in compound verb tenses or voices , or as a modifier...

s have most of these properties as well.

English

English language has three non-finite verbal forms, but by long-standing convention, the term "infinitive" is applied to only one of these. (The other two are the past- and present-participle
Participle
In linguistics, a participle is a word that shares some characteristics of both verbs and adjectives. It can be used in compound verb tenses or voices , or as a modifier...

 forms, where the present-participle form is also the gerund
Gerund
In linguistics* As applied to English, it refers to the usage of a verb as a noun ....

 form.) In English, a verb's infinitive is its unmarked form, such as be, do, have, or sit, often introduced by the particle
Grammatical particle
In grammar, a particle is a function word that does not belong to any of the inflected grammatical word classes . It is a catch-all term for a heterogeneous set of words and terms that lack a precise lexical definition...

 to. When this particle is absent, the infinitive is said to be a bare infinitive; when it is present, it is generally considered to be a part of the infinitive, then known as the full infinitive (or to-infinitive), and there is a controversy about whether it should be separated from the main word of the infinitive (see Split infinitive
Split infinitive
A split infinitive is an English-language grammatical construction in which a word or phrase, usually an adverb or adverbial phrase, comes between the marker to and the bare infinitive form of a verb....

). Nonetheless, modern theories typically do not consider the to-infinitive to be a distinct constituent
Constituent (linguistics)
In syntactic analysis, a constituent is a word or a group of words that functions as a single unit within a hierarchical structure. The analysis of constituent structure is associated mainly with phrase structure grammars, although dependency grammars also allow sentence structure to be broken down...

, instead taking the particle to for operating on an entire verb phrase; so, to buy a car is parsed as to [buy [a car]], not as [to buy] [a car].

The bare infinitive and the full infinitive are mostly in complementary distribution
Complementary distribution
Complementary distribution in linguistics is the relationship between two different elements, where one element is found in a particular environment and the other element is found in the opposite environment...

. They are not generally interchangeable, but the distinction does not generally affect the meaning of a sentence; rather, certain contexts call almost exclusively for the bare infinitive, and all other contexts call for the full infinitive.

Huddleston
Rodney Huddleston
Rodney D. Huddleston is a linguist and grammarian specializing in the study and description of English.Huddleston is the primary author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language , which presents a comprehensive descriptive grammar of English.He earned his PhD from the University of Edinburgh...

 and Pullum
Geoffrey Pullum
Geoffrey Keith "Geoff" Pullum is a British-American linguist specialising in the study of English. , he is Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh....

's Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL), published in 2002, does not use the notion of the infinitive, arguing that English uses the same form of the verb, the plain form, in infinitival clauses that it uses in imperative
Imperative mood
The imperative mood expresses commands or requests as a grammatical mood. These commands or requests urge the audience to act a certain way. It also may signal a prohibition, permission, or any other kind of exhortation.- Morphology :...

 and present-subjunctive clauses.

Bare

The bare infinitive is not used in as many contexts as the full infinitive, but some of these are quite common:
  • The bare infinitive is used as the main verb after the dummy auxiliary verb do, or most modal auxiliary verbs (such as will, can, or should). So, "I will/do/can/etc. see it."
  • Several common verbs of perception, including see, watch, hear, feel, and sense take a direct object and a bare infinitive, where the bare infinitive indicates an action taken by the main verb's direct object. So, "I saw/watched/heard/etc. it happen." (A similar meaning can be effected by using the present participle instead: "I saw/watched/heard/etc. it happening." The difference is that the former implies that the entirety of the event was perceived, while the latter implies that part of the progress of the event was perceived.)
  • Similarly with several common verbs of permission or causation, including make, bid, let, and have. So, "I made/bade/let/had him do it." (However, make takes a to-infinitive in the passive voice: "I was made to do it.")
  • After the had better expression. So, "You had better leave now."
  • With the verb help. So, "He helped them find it." (The use of the to-infinitive with the verb help is also common.)
  • With the word why. So, "Why reveal it?" (Use of the to-infinitive following why is also common.)
  • The bare infinitive is the dictionary form of a verb, and is generally the form of a verb that receives a definition; however, the definition itself generally uses a to-infinitive. So, "The word 'amble' means 'to walk slowly.'"
  • The bare infinitive form coincides with the present subjunctive
    Subjunctive mood
    In grammar, the subjunctive mood is a verb mood typically used in subordinate clauses to express various states of irreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred....

     form as well as the imperative
    Imperative mood
    The imperative mood expresses commands or requests as a grammatical mood. These commands or requests urge the audience to act a certain way. It also may signal a prohibition, permission, or any other kind of exhortation.- Morphology :...

     form, but most grammarians do not consider uses of the present subjunctive or imperative to be uses of the bare infinitive.

Full

The full infinitive (or to-infinitive) is used in a great many different contexts:
  • Outside of dictionary headword
    Headword
    A headword, head word, lemma, or sometimes catchword is the word under which a set of related dictionary or encyclopaedia entries appear. The headword is used to locate the entry, and dictates its alphabetical position...

    s, it is the most commonly used citation form
    Citation form
    In linguistics the citation form of a word can mean:* its canonical form or lemma: the form of an inflected word given in dictionaries or glossaries, thus also called the dictionary form....

     of the English verb: "How do we conjugate the verb to go?"
  • It can be used like a noun phrase, expressing its action or state in an abstract, general way. So, "To err is human"; "To know me is to love me". (However, a gerund
    Gerund
    In linguistics* As applied to English, it refers to the usage of a verb as a noun ....

     is often preferred for this — "Being is doing" would be more natural than the abstract and philosophical sounding "To be is to do.")
  • It can be used like an adjective or adverb, expressing purpose or intent. So, "The letter says I'm to wait outside", or "He is the man to talk to", or "[In order] to meditate, one must free one's mind."
  • In either of the above uses, it can often be given a subject using the preposition for: "For him to fail now would be a great disappointment"; "[In order] for you to get there on time, you'll need to leave now." (The former sentence could also be written, "His failing now would be a great disappointment.")
  • It can be used after many intransitive verbs; in this case, it generally has the subject of the main verb as its implicit subject
    Control (linguistics)
    In linguistics, a control construction is a clause that contains a main clause , the predicate of which has two complements — an embedded clause complement and a nominal complement that acts as the semantic argument of the main clause and of the embedded clause...

    . So, "I agreed to leave", or "He failed to make his case." (This may be considered a special case of the noun-like use above.) With some verbs the infinitive may carry a significantly different meaning from a gerund: compare I stopped to talk to her with I stopped talking to her, or I forgot to buy the bread with I forgot buying the bread.
  • It can be used after the direct objects of many transitive verbs; in this case, it generally has the direct object of the main verb as its implicit subject. So, "I convinced him to leave with me", or "He asked her to make his case on his behalf." However, in some cases, the subject of the main clause is also subject of the infinitival clause, as in "John promises Mary to cook", where the cook is John (the subject of the main sentence), and not Mary (the object).
  • As a special case of the above, it can often be used after an intransitive verb, together with a subject using the preposition for: "I arranged for him to accompany me", or "I waited for summer to arrive."


When the verb is implied, some dialects will reduce the to-infinitive to simply to: "Do I have to?"

Auxiliary verbs

The auxiliary verb do does not have an infinitive — even though do is also a main verb and in that sense is often used in the infinitive. One does not say *I asked to do not have to, but rather, either I asked not to have to or I asked to not have to (but see split infinitive
Split infinitive
A split infinitive is an English-language grammatical construction in which a word or phrase, usually an adverb or adverbial phrase, comes between the marker to and the bare infinitive form of a verb....

). Similarly, one cannot emphasize an infinitive using do; one cannot say, "I hear him do say it all the time."

Nonetheless, the auxiliary verbs have (used to form the perfect) and be (also used to form the passive voice
Passive voice
Passive voice is a grammatical voice common in many of the world's languages. Passive is used in a clause whose subject expresses the theme or patient of the main verb. That is, the subject undergoes an action or has its state changed. A sentence whose theme is marked as grammatical subject is...

 and continuous aspect) both commonly appear in the infinitive: "It's thought to have been a ceremonial site", or "I want to be doing it already." "I was supposed to have (already) gone" vs "I should have (already) gone."

Defective verbs

The modal auxiliary verbs, can, may, shall, will and must are defective
Defective verb
In linguistics, a defective verb is a verb which is missing e.g. a past tense, or cannot be used in some other way that normal verbs come. Formally, it is a verb with an incomplete conjugation. Defective verbs cannot be conjugated in certain tenses, aspects, or moods.-Arabic:In Arabic, defective...

 in that they do not have infinitives; so, one cannot say, *I want him to can do it, but rather must say, I want him to be able to do it. The periphrases
Compound verb
In linguistics, a compound verb or complex predicate is a multi-word compound that acts as a single verb. One component of the compound is a light verb or vector, which carries any inflections, indicating tense, mood, or aspect, but provides only fine shades of meaning...

 to be able to, to have to and to be going to are generally used in these cases.

Impersonal constructions

There is a specific situation in which the infinitive is used like an "impersonal future tense", replacing "will". This is done through the construction:
to be + "to" + bare infinitive

Grammatically, this is identical to the instructional "I am to wait outside" construction (above), but does not signify somebody having been issued an instruction; rather, it expresses an intended action, in the same way as "will". This "tense" is used extensively in news reports, eg. –
  • The Prime Minister is to visit the West Bank (active)
  • Aid is to be sent to war-torn Darfur (passive) '


This "future infinitive" construction is interesting in that it only has a future aspect to it in situations where the speaker is significantly distanced from the event. In cases where the subject of the sentence is not quite as distanced from the speaker, then the same construction takes on a sense of instruction or necessity (as in "he is to wait outside", or "he is to go to hospital").

The same construction can be used in conditional clauses – If you are to go on holiday, then you need to work hard (or, conversely, if you want to...then you are to...).

The impersonality aspect comes from the fact that the emotionless verb to be is used in the place of the more usual modal verbs which would normally connect the speaker to the statement. In this way, statements are given weight (as if some external force, rather than the speaker, is governing events).

Conversely, however, the construction also provides an uncertainty aspect, since it frees the speaker from responsibility on their statement – in the phrase "John will go", for example, the speaker is almost advocating their certainty that John will, in fact, go; meanwhile, "the Prime Minister is to go" simply states the knowledge that the PM's going is in some way foreseen. (If John ends up not going, for example, the "will go" construction is negated, while the PM's "to go" construction would still hold true, since all it expresses is an expectation). In both cases, the knowledge is simply being reported (or pretends to be) from an independent source. In this sense, this impersonal to + verb construction can almost be seen as a fledgeling renarrative
Inferential mood
The inferential mood is used to report a nonwitnessed event without confirming it, but the same forms also function as admiratives in the Balkan languages in which they occur. The inferential mood is used in some languages such as Turkish to convey information about events, which were not directly...

 mood.

Other Germanic languages

The original Proto-Germanic
Proto-Germanic language
Proto-Germanic , or Common Germanic, as it is sometimes known, is the unattested, reconstructed proto-language of all the Germanic languages, such as modern English, Frisian, Dutch, Afrikaans, German, Luxembourgish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, and Swedish.The Proto-Germanic language is...

 ending of the infinitive was -an, with verbs derived from other words ending in -jan or -janan.

In German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 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 function as 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
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 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 difficult to understand." The few verbs with stems ending in -a have infinitives in -n (gaan — to go, slaan — to hit). Afrikaans
Afrikaans
Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, spoken natively in South Africa and Namibia. It is a daughter language of Dutch, originating in its 17th century dialects, collectively referred to as Cape Dutch .Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch; see , , , , , .Afrikaans was historically called Cape...

 has lost the distinction between the infinitive and present forms of verbs, with the exception of the verbs "wees" (to be), which admits the present form "is", and the verb "hê" (to have), whose present form is "het".

In Scandinavian languages the n has dropped out and the infinitive suffix has been reduced to -e or -a. The infinitives of these languages are inflected for passive voice through the addition of -s or -st to the active form.

Latin and Romance languages

The formation of the infinitive in the Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 reflects that in their ancestor, Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, almost all verbs had an infinitive ending with -re (preceded by one of various thematic vowels). For example, in Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 and Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

, infinitives end in -ar, -er, or -ir, while similarly in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 they typically end in -re, -er, oir, and -ir. In Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

 the so-called "long infinitives" end in -are, -ere, -ire and they are converted into verbal nouns by articulation
Articulation
Articulation may refer to:In linguistics:* Topic–focus articulation, a field of study concerned with marking old and new information in a clause* Manner of articulation, how speech organs involved in making a sound make contact...

 (verbs that cannot be converted into the nominal
Noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

 long infinitive are very rare). The "short infinitives" used in verbal contexts (e.g. after an auxiliary verb) have the endings -a,-ea, -e, and -i (basically removing the ending in "-re"). In Romanian, the infinitive is usually replaced by a clause containing the preposition sǎ plus the subjunctive mood. The only verb that is modal in common modern Romanian is the verb a putea, to be able to. But in popular speech, the infinitive after a putea is also increasingly replaced by the subjunctive.

In all Romance languages, infinitives can also be used as nouns.

Latin infinitives challenged several of the generalizations about infinitives. They did inflect for voice (amare, "to love", amari, to be loved) and for aspect
Grammatical aspect
In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb is a grammatical category that defines the temporal flow in a given action, event, or state, from the point of view of the speaker...

 (amare, "to love", amavisse, "to have loved"), and allowed for an overt expression of the subject (video Socratem currere, "I see Socrates running").

Romance languages inherited from Latin the possibility of an overt expression of the subject. Moreover, the "inflected infinitive" (or "personal infinitive") found in Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

, Galician
Galician language
Galician is a language of the Western Ibero-Romance branch, spoken in Galicia, an autonomous community located in northwestern Spain, where it is co-official with Castilian Spanish, as well as in border zones of the neighbouring territories of Asturias and Castile and León.Modern Galician and...

, and (some varieties of) Sardinian
Sardinian language
Sardinian is a Romance language spoken and written on most of the island of Sardinia . It is considered the most conservative of the Romance languages in terms of phonology and is noted for its Paleosardinian substratum....

 inflects for person and number. These are the only Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 that allow infinitives to take person and number endings. This helps to make infinitive clauses very common in these languages; for example, the English finite clause in order that you/she/we have... would be translated to Portuguese as para teres/ela ter/termos... (European Portuguese is a null-subject language). The Portuguese personal infinitive has no proper tenses, only aspects (imperfect and perfect), but tenses can be expressed using periphrastic
Periphrasis
In linguistics, periphrasis is a device by which a grammatical category or grammatical relationship is expressed by a free morpheme , instead of being shown by inflection or derivation...

 structures. For instance, even though you sing/have sung/are going to sing could be translated to apesar de cantares/teres cantado/ires cantar.

Other Romance languages (including Spanish, Romanian, Catalan, and some Italian dialects) allow uninflected infinitives to combine with overt nominative subjects. For example, Spanish al abrir yo los ojos ("when I opened my eyes") or sin yo saberlo ("without my knowing about it").

Ancient Greek

In Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 the infinitive has four tenses (present, future, aorist, perfect) and three voices (active, middle, passive). Unique forms for the middle are found only in the future and aorist; in the present and perfect, middle and passive are the same.
λύω
"I release"
active middle passive
present λύειν λύεσθαι
aorist λῦσαι λύσασθαι λυθῆναι
future λύσειν λύσεσθαι λυθήσεσθαι
perfect λελυκέναι λελύσθαι

Modern Greek

Only the Ancient Greek aorist infinitives active and passive survive in Modern Greek, but their descendants have a totally different function. The Ancient Greek γράψαι "to write" became γράψειν in analogy to the present infinitive γράφειν and then γράψει in Modern Greek and is used only in combination with the auxiliary verb έχω "I have" in the formation of the Present Perfect: έχω γράψει "I have written, lit. I have writing". When combined with είχα "I had", it yields the Past Perfect είχα γράψει "I had written". Similarly, the Ancient Greek γραφῆναι "to be written" survives as γραφεί (γραφῆ in Katharevousa
Katharevousa
Katharevousa , is a form of the Greek language conceived in the early 19th century as a compromise between Ancient Greek and the Modern Greek of the time, with a vocabulary largely based on ancient forms, but a much-simplified grammar. Originally, it was widely used both for literary and official...

); thus, έχει γραφεί (ἔχει γραφῆ in Kath.) means "It has been written".

In Pontic Greek, infinitives have a similar function; they only serve for the creation of the Present Perfect Optative
Optative mood
The optative mood is a grammatical mood that indicates a wish or hope. It is similar to the cohortative mood, and closely related to the subjunctive mood....

: ας είχα γράψ'ναι "I wish I have written". Infinitives are formed this way: active: root of the Future + -ναι; passive: root of the Aorist + -θήν. Examples: εποθανείναι, μαθείναι, κόψ'ναι, ράψ'ναι, χαρίσ'ναι, αγαπέθην, κοιμεθήν.

In Modern Greek
Modern Greek
Modern Greek refers to the varieties of the Greek language spoken in the modern era. The beginning of the "modern" period of the language is often symbolically assigned to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, even though that date marks no clear linguistic boundary and many characteristic...

, "I want to write" translates θέλω να γράψω (literally, "I want that I write"), opposed to Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 ἐθέλω γράφειν (literally, "I want to write"). In Modern Greek, the infinitive has changed form and is used mainly in the formation of tenses and not with an article or alone. Instead of the Ancient Greek infinitive "γράφειν", Modern Greek uses the infinitive "γράψει", which does not inflect. The Modern Greek infinitive has only two forms according to voice, "γράψει" for the active voice and "γραφ(τ)εί" for the passive voice.

Balto-Slavic languages

The infinitive in Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 usually ends in -t’ (ть) preceded by a thematic vowel, or -ti (ти), if not preceeded by one; some verbs have a stem ending in a consonant and change the t to č’, such as *mogt’ → moč’ (*могть → мочь) "can". Some other Balto-Slavic languages
Balto-Slavic languages
The Balto-Slavic language group traditionally comprises Baltic and Slavic languages, belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. Baltic and Slavic languages share several linguistic traits not found in any other Indo-European branch, which points to the period of common development...

 have the infinitive typically ending in, for example, -ć (sometimes -c) in Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

, -t’ in Slovak
Slovak language
Slovak , is an Indo-European language that belongs to the West Slavic languages .Slovak is the official language of Slovakia, where it is spoken by 5 million people...

, -t (formerly -ti) in Czech
Czech language
Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

 and Latvian
Latvian language
Latvian is the official state language of Latvia. It is also sometimes referred to as Lettish. There are about 1.4 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and about 150,000 abroad. The Latvian language has a relatively large number of non-native speakers, atypical for a small language...

 (with a handful ending in -s on the latter), -ty (-ти) in Ukrainian
Ukrainian language
Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet....

, -ць (-ts) in Belarusian
Belarusian language
The Belarusian language , sometimes referred to as White Russian or White Ruthenian, is the language of the Belarusian people...

. Lithuanian infinitives end in -ti, Slovenian
Slovenian language
Slovene or Slovenian is a South Slavic language spoken by approximately 2.5 million speakers worldwide, the majority of whom live in Slovenia. It is the first language of about 1.85 million people and is one of the 23 official and working languages of the European Union...

 end on -ti or -či, and Croatian
Croatian language
Croatian is the collective name for the standard language and dialects spoken by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and other neighbouring countries...

 on -ti or -ći.

Serbian
Serbian language
Serbian is a form of Serbo-Croatian, a South Slavic language, spoken by Serbs in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and neighbouring countries....

 officially retains infinitives -ti or -ći, but is more flexible than the other Slavs in breaking the infinitive through a clause. The infinitive nevertheless remains the dictionary form. Bulgarian
Bulgarian language
Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group.Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, demonstrates several linguistic characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages such as the elimination of case declension, the...

 and Macedonian
Macedonian language
Macedonian is a South Slavic language spoken as a first language by approximately 2–3 million people principally in the region of Macedonia but also in the Macedonian diaspora...

 have lost the infinitive altogether (it usually ended in -ти) and, for that reason, the present first-person singular conjugation is used as the dictionary form.

Biblical Hebrew

Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 has two infinitives, the infinitive absolute and the infinitive construct. The infinitive construct is used after prepositions and is inflected with pronominal endings to indicate its subject or object: bikhtōbh hassōphēr "when the scribe wrote", ahare lekhtō "after his going". When the infinitive construct is preceded by ל (lə-, li-, lā-) "to", it has a similar meaning as the English to-infinitive, and this is its most frequent use in Modern Hebrew. The infinitive absolute is used for verb focus, as in מות ימות mōth yāmūth (literally "die he will die"; figuratively, "he shall indeed die"). This usage is commonplace in the Bible, but in Modern Hebrew it is restricted to high-flown literary works.

Note, however, that the to-infinitive of Hebrew is not the dictionary form; that is the third person singular perfect form.

Finnish

To form the first infinitive, the strong form of the root (without consonant gradation
Consonant gradation
Consonant gradation is a type of consonant mutation, in which consonants alternate between various "grades". It is found in some Uralic languages such as Finnish, Estonian, Northern Sámi, and the Samoyed language Nganasan. In addition, it has been reconstructed for Proto-Germanic, the parent...

 or epenthetic 'e') is used, and these changes occur:
  1. the root is suffixed with -ta/-tä according to vowel harmony
    Vowel harmony
    Vowel harmony is a type of long-distance assimilatory phonological process involving vowels that occurs in some languages. In languages with vowel harmony, there are constraints on which vowels may be found near each other....

  2. consonant elision takes place if applicable, e.g. juoks+ta → juosta
  3. assimilation of clusters violating sonority hierarchy if applicable, e.g. nuol+ta → nuolla, sur+ta → surra
  4. 't' weakens to 'd' after diphthongs, e.g. juo+ta → juoda
  5. '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 four other infinitives, which create a noun-, or adverb-like word from the verb. For example, the third infinitive is -ma/-mä, which creates an adjective-like word like "written" from "write": kirjoita- becomes kirjoittama.

Seri

The Seri language
Seri language
Seri is a language isolate spoken by the Seri people by between 716 and 900 people in two villages on the coast of Sonora, Mexico.-Classification:...

 of northwestern Mexico has infinitival forms which are used in two constructions (with the verb meaning 'want' and with the verb meaning 'be able'). The infinitive is formed by adding a prefix to the stem: either iha- [iʔa-] (plus a vowel change of certain vowel-initial stems) if the complement clause is transitive
Transitive verb
In syntax, a transitive verb is a verb that requires both a direct subject and one or more objects. The term is used to contrast intransitive verbs, which do not have objects.-Examples:Some examples of sentences with transitive verbs:...

, or ica- [ika-] (and no vowel change) if the complement clause is intransitive
Intransitive verb
In grammar, an intransitive verb is a verb that has no object. This differs from a transitive verb, which takes one or more objects. Both classes of verb are related to the concept of the transitivity of a verb....

. The infinitive shows agreement in number with the controlling subject. Examples are: icatax ihmiimzo 'I want to go', where icatax is the singular infinitive of the verb 'go' (singular root is -atax), and icalx hamiimcajc 'we want to go', where icalx is the plural infinitive. Examples of the transitive infinitive: ihaho 'to see it/him/her/them' (root -aho), and ihacta 'to look at it/him/her/them' (root -oocta).

Translation to languages without an infinitive

In languages without an infinitive, the infinitive is translated either as a that-clause or as a verbal noun
Verbal noun
In linguistics, the verbal noun turns a verb into a noun and corresponds to the infinitive in English language usage. In English the infinitive form of the verb is formed when preceded by to, e.g...

. For example, in Literary Arabic
Literary Arabic
Modern Standard Arabic , Standard Arabic, or Literary Arabic is the standard and literary variety of Arabic used in writing and in most formal speech....

 the sentence "I want to write a book" is translated as either urīdu an aktuba kitāban (lit. "I want that I write a book", with a verb in the subjunctive mood
Subjunctive mood
In grammar, the subjunctive mood is a verb mood typically used in subordinate clauses to express various states of irreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred....

) or urīdu kitābata kitābin (lit. "I want the writing of a book", with the masdar or verbal noun), and in Demotic Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 biddi aktob kitāb (subordinate clause with verb in subjunctive).

Even in languages that have infinitives, similar constructions are sometimes necessary where English would allow the infinitive. For example, in French the sentence "I want you to come" translates to Je veux que vous veniez (lit. "I want that you come", with come being in the subjunctive mood). However, "I want to come" is simply Je veux venir, using the infinitive, just as in English. In Russian, sentences such as "I want you to leave" do not use an infinitive. Rather, they use the conjunction чтобы "in order to/so that" with the past tense form (most probably remnant of subjunctive) of the verb: Я хочу, чтобы вы ушли (literally, "I want so that you left").

See also

  • Auxiliary verb
    Auxiliary verb
    In linguistics, an auxiliary verb is a verb that gives further semantic or syntactic information about a main or full verb. In English, the extra meaning provided by an auxiliary verb alters the basic meaning of the main verb to make it have one or more of the following functions: passive voice,...

  • False purpose
    False purpose
    False purpose is a grammatical construct that inaccurately applies intent to an action. The construct nearly always arises because of the incorrect use of the preposition "to" in front of a verb describing an action in the past. False purpose is considered an error by many grammarians, though it is...

  • Finite verb
    Finite verb
    A finite verb is a verb that is inflected for person and for tense according to the rules and categories of the languages in which it occurs. Finite verbs can form independent clauses, which can stand on their own as complete sentences....

  • Gerund
    Gerund
    In linguistics* As applied to English, it refers to the usage of a verb as a noun ....

  • Non-finite verb
    Non-finite verb
    In linguistics, a non-finite verb is a verb form that is not limited by a subject and, more generally, is not fully inflected by categories that are marked inflectionally in language, such as tense, aspect, mood, number, gender, and person...

  • Split infinitive
    Split infinitive
    A split infinitive is an English-language grammatical construction in which a word or phrase, usually an adverb or adverbial phrase, comes between the marker to and the bare infinitive form of a verb....

  • Verbal noun
    Verbal noun
    In linguistics, the verbal noun turns a verb into a noun and corresponds to the infinitive in English language usage. In English the infinitive form of the verb is formed when preceded by to, e.g...

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