Meaning of infinitive in English:



  • The basic form of a verb, without an inflection binding it to a particular subject or tense (e.g. see in we came to see, let him see).

    • ‘He has banned infinitives as well as tensed verbs entirely from his writing, but he does exempt past participles from his linguistic Nuremberg Laws.’
    • ‘Instead, there is the contrast between infinitives introduced by the prepositions à and de.’
    • ‘Thus, if a language has long-distance reflexivization with indicatives, then it will necessarily have it with (if relevant) subjunctives, infinitives, small clauses, and NPs.’
    • ‘There's no logical or grammatical reason to forbid splitting infinitives, and sometimes it's even obligatory, as Arnold Zwicky and Geoff Nunberg pointed out here last spring.’
    • ‘Some infinitives seem to improve on being split, just as a stick of round stovewood does.’
    • ‘I wonder why this bit of ignorant grammatical pontificating never caught on, while the equally ill-founded prescription against splitting infinitives did?’
    • ‘The silly rule about not splitting infinitives often creates unnecessary ambiguities.’
    • ‘We typically identify powers with a certain standard locution, employing the infinitives of verbs along with verb phrases.’
    • ‘Rewrite sentences in the active voice. Recast sentences that have more than five prepositions and infinitives.’
    • ‘Do you split your infinitives or make other grammatical ‘errors’?’
    • ‘Participles dangle, metaphors are not only extended but mixed, infinitives are split and ambiguous pronouns abound.’
    • ‘Will roughening our cadences and splitting our infinitives establish our distance from our colonial history?’
    • ‘To highlight the continuous movement of his imaginative figures, Valery uses infinitives.’
    • ‘I was good at history and liked literature, especially Conrad because he split all his infinitives and I thought it a much cooler way of writing.’
    • ‘Maybe it matters not a whit whether I strangle indecently my infinitives, or whether I split them decently with care.’
    • ‘The verb of the infinitive (in this case go) is usually preceded by the word to.’
    • ‘And the use of the infinitive for coming events is so common we hardly blink.’
    • ‘Among other particular features of Albanian and other Balkan languages are a postpositive definite article and the absence of a verbal infinitive.’
    • ‘Also, he's not above splitting an infinitive, but what can you do?’
    • ‘But the classicists decided we needed to have a rule, so we have one: it is wrong to split the infinitive.’


  • Having or involving the basic form of a verb.

    ‘infinitive clauses’
    • ‘In such instances, finite and infinitive clauses are commonly postposed and anticipatory it takes their place in subject position: ‘It is obvious that nobody understands me’; ‘It was a serious mistake to accuse them of negligence.’’
    • ‘To make my job easier, I marked only finite subordinate clauses, not infinitive clauses or nominalizations of various sorts, and not main clauses strung together by coordinators like ‘and’ and ‘but’.’
    • ‘Deleuze's ‘pure event’ subsists in language as infinitive verbs, to die, to diet, etc. and is actualised by a ‘conceptual personae’ as a ‘concept’.’
    • ‘Still a third example involves the semantics of perceptual reports with naked infinitive complements, as in ‘John saw Mary cry’, which is analyzed as ‘John saw an event which was a crying by Mary’.’
    • ‘The figures used in Tables 4, 6 and 7, where I aim to follow Foster as closely as my textbase allows, therefore include infinitive uses.’
    • ‘‘To ignore’: the infinitive verbal root of the word, ‘ignorance’, is, obviously, a greater defect of the human mind than the basest stupidity.’
    • ‘Thus, it is possible that these words are learned in their infinitive form, and this form is applied to every form of the verb, even if the inflection requires the use of a different grapheme.’
    • ‘Note that ‘to spy’ is always an irregular verb, only the third person form resembles the infinitive.’


Late Middle English (as an adjective): from Latin infinitivus, from infinitus (see infinite). The noun dates from the mid 16th century.