Definition 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).

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Do you split your infinitives or make other grammatical ‘errors’?’
    • ‘To highlight the continuous movement of his imaginative figures, Valery uses infinitives.’
    • ‘Maybe it matters not a whit whether I strangle indecently my infinitives, or whether I split them decently with care.’
    • ‘Some infinitives seem to improve on being split, just as a stick of round stovewood does.’
    • ‘Participles dangle, metaphors are not only extended but mixed, infinitives are split and ambiguous pronouns abound.’
    • ‘Instead, there is the contrast between infinitives introduced by the prepositions à and de.’
    • ‘The verb of the infinitive (in this case go) is usually preceded by the word to.’
    • ‘He has banned infinitives as well as tensed verbs entirely from his writing, but he does exempt past participles from his linguistic Nuremberg Laws.’
    • ‘Also, he's not above splitting an infinitive, but what can you do?’
    • ‘I wonder why this bit of ignorant grammatical pontificating never caught on, while the equally ill-founded prescription against splitting infinitives did?’
    • ‘Rewrite sentences in the active voice. Recast sentences that have more than five prepositions and infinitives.’
    • ‘But the classicists decided we needed to have a rule, so we have one: it is wrong to split the infinitive.’
    • ‘The silly rule about not splitting infinitives often creates unnecessary ambiguities.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Among other particular features of Albanian and other Balkan languages are a postpositive definite article and the absence of a verbal infinitive.’
    • ‘And the use of the infinitive for coming events is so common we hardly blink.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Will roughening our cadences and splitting our infinitives establish our distance from our colonial history?’
    • ‘We typically identify powers with a certain standard locution, employing the infinitives of verbs along with verb phrases.’


  • Having or involving the basic form of a verb.

    ‘infinitive clauses’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘Note that ‘to spy’ is always an irregular verb, only the third person form resembles the infinitive.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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 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.’
    • ‘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’.’


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