Definition of infinitive in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ɪnˈfɪnɪtɪv/


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).
Example sentences
  • 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.


Having or involving the basic form of a verb: infinitive clauses
More example sentences
  • 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’.



Pronunciation: /ɪnfɪnɪˈtʌɪv(ə)l/
Example sentences
  • It's stated as rhetorical advice, but the examples slide into some very dubious syntax, in particular a coordination of nominal gerunds with an infinitival VP.
  • Far from being ungrammatical, split infinitives are (as we have explained before on Language Log) always an option for modifiers of infinitival clauses, and sometimes the only option.
  • Shed would be encountered as a plain form (in infinitival clauses), as a plain present (used when the subject is not 3rd singular), as a past participle, and as a preterite.


Pronunciation: /ɪnfɪnɪˈtʌɪv(ə)li/
Example sentences
  • The frequency and statistical likelihood of real-world usage patterns is responsible for the hierarchical sequence in which specific adverbial notions come to be expressed infinitivally.


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

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: in|fini|tive

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.