What is the present infinitive?
A verb is a word that refers to an action, and the infinitive is its base form. In other words, the infinitive is the unconjugated form of a verb.
In Italian, there are three types:
- verbs ending in –are such as mangiare (to eat), cantare (to sing), andare (to go).
- verbs ending in –ere such as bere (to drink), cadere (to fall), rimanere (to stay).
- verbs ending in –ire such as dormire(to sleep), venire(to come), morire (to die).
Let’s take the verb mangiare as an example. We could translate it into English in two different ways:
- to eat
Its translation depends on the context, and it’s the same with all the other verbs.
How to use the infinitive as a subject?
In Italian, we can use the infinitive as the subject of a sentence, as in the examples below:
Leggere è bellissimo!
Reading is beautiful.
Andare in Spagna è il mio sogno.
Going to Spain is my dream.
Capire questo concetto mi sembra impossibile.
Understanding this concept seems impossible to me.
As you can see, in this case, the English equivalent is a verb ending in -ing.
How to use verbs followed by infinitives?
The infinitive is sometimes preceded by another verb.
It’s the same in English. Think of the following two sentences:
- I prefer to go home.
- She likes to read.
Like in English, certain verbs in Italian trigger the infinitive. Let’s see which ones!
Volere, potere, dovere
Volere (to want), potere (can or to be able to), and dovere (must or to have to) are special verbs because they’re usually followed by a verb in the infinitive.
Have a look at the examples below:
Voglio andare a casa.
I want to go home.
Puoi venire con me?
Can you come with me?
You have to study!
Verbs that need a preposition
Prepositions are short words like di and a. And in Italian, certain verbs are followed by them, and the verb is in the infinitive.
Here’s the structure: conjugated verb + preposition + infinitive verb.
These are some of these kinds of verbs:
- Andare a: to go
- Cominciare a: to start
- Continuare a: to carry on
- Credere di: to think
- Cercare di: to try
- Finire di: to finish
Let’s review some examples:
Vado a fare la spesa.
I’m going to do the grocery.
Cerca di capire.
Try to understand.
Ho finito di lavorare.
I finished working.
How to give instructions with the infinitive?
We can also use the Italian infinitive for giving instructions.
Is very common in recipes:
Cuocere per tre ore.
Cook for three hours.
Tagliare la cipolla a fette.
Cut the onion into slices.
Lavare e asciugare l’insalata.
Wash and dry the lettuce.
Practice with QuizletHere's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.
How to give orders with the infinitive?
We use the imperative to give orders or instructions.
In Italian, when we want to give someone an order using the negative form, we simply follow this rule:
- non + infinitive verb
Here are some examples:
Non venire troppo tardi!
Don’t come too late!
Non parlare con la bocca piena!
Don’t talk with your mouth full!
Non leggere senza gli occhiali!
Don’t read without glasses!
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