The Italian present infinitive
The infinitive is the base form of a verb, and a verb is a word that refers to an action.
In other words, the infinitive is the unconjugated form of a verb.
In Italian there are three types:
-are verbs, like mangiare (to eat), cantare (to sing), andare (to go)
-ere verbs, like bere (to drink), cadere (to fall),rimanere(to stay)
-ire verbs, like dormire (to sleep), venire(to come), morire (to die)
Let’s take the verb mangiare as an example. We could translate into English in two different ways:
- to eat
Its translation depends on the context and it’s the same with all the other verbs.
Let’s find out when to use the Italian present infinitive!
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.
Verbs that are followed by the infinitive
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, there are certain verbs in Italian that trigger the infinitive. Let’s see which ones!
Volere, potere, dovere
Volere (to want), potere (can/to be able to), and dovere (must/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.
There are certain verbs in Italian that are followed by a preposition and a verb in the infinitive.
Here’s the structure:
- conjugated verb + preposition + infinitive verb
Here 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
Here are 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.
Giving instructions with the infinitive
We can also find the Italian infinitive for instructions.
This 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.
Giving 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 talkwith your mouth full!
Non leggere senza gli occhiali!
Don’t read without glasses!
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