Glossary: infinitive


A verb’s infinitive is the basic form used as the head-word in a dictionary (e.g. walk, be).

Infinitives are often used:

  • after to
  • after modal verbs.
  • I want to walk.
  • I will be quiet.

The infinitive with to is called the to-infinitive, whereas the infinitive without to, for example after modal verbs, is called the bare infinitive. We can then say that the clause after a modal verb is a bare infinitive clause (e.g. We can send you some more information.)

Verbs: Nonfinite and finite

Verbs can be divided into finite and nonfinite forms. Finite verbs carry tense. So, past and present tense verb forms are finite. Nonfinite verbs do not carry tense, and do not show agreement with a Subject. Put differently, they are not 'limited' by tense or agreement.

The infinitive form of a verb is nonfinite. It is the form which follows to:


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