What is an infinitive?

An infinitive is a verb in its most basic form. It usually has the word to before it, so it looks like this:

infinitive pic

Let’s look at some examples:

  • to dance
  • to play
  • to eat

Infinitives do not act as verbs, however. Instead, infinitives act as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.

Examples of infinitives as nouns
She loves to sing.
Here, to sing is acting as the direct object of the verb loves, and direct objects are often nouns.

To fly was his passion.
Here, to fly is acting like the subject of the sentence, and subjects are nouns.

Examples of infinitives as adjectives
The way to win involves patience.
Here, to win modifies the noun way, which makes it an adjective.

Her favorite color to paint the walls is mint.
Here, to paint modifies the noun color, which makes it an adjective.

Examples of infinitives as adverbs
She stopped to chat.
Here, to chat modifies the verb stopped, which makes it an adverb.

He decided to eat the scorpion.
Here to eat modifies the verb decided, which makes it an adverb.

Because they can act as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, infinitives are an important part of our language. Now you’ll be able to recognize them in everyday speech and in writing.

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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