Infinitive

Spanish infinitive
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Infinitivo

The Spanish infinitive, which always ends in –ar, –er, or –ir, serves as the name of any given verb. It’s what you look up in dictionaries and verb conjugation tables, so it’s important to learn the infinitive of every new verb you see or hear. Because the infinitive has no number or person marker, it’s known as an impersonal verb mood.

Spanish infinitives are generally considered equivalent to "to" + verb in English but are often translated to the English gerund, as you’ll see in the examples below

Por ejemplo…

hablar   to talk
comer   to eat
dormir   to sleep

When speaking or writing Spanish, verbs usually need to be conjugated, but there are several constructions that require the infinitive itself.

As a noun

An infinitive can be the subject of a sentence:

Mentir no es buena idea.   Lying is not a good idea.
Aprender es importante.   Learning is important.

Learn more: Using infinitives as nouns

After verbs

After a conjugated verb, the Spanish infinitive can be used

1) with a preposition

Vamos a estudiar.   We’re going to study.
Acabo de salir.    I just left.
Salgamos después de comer.   Let’s leave after eating. 
La biblioteca es perfecta para estudiar.   The library is perfect for studying.

2) without a preposition

Me gusta bailar. I like dancing.
Prefieren venir con nosotros. They prefer coming with us.
Los vi jugar. I saw them play.

3) with que

Tienes que comer.   You have to eat.
Hay mucho que hacer.   There’s a lot to do.

Instead of the subjunctive

The infinitive can replace the subjunctive when the main clause has

1) the same subject as the subordinate clause

Tiene miedo que llegué tarde.*
 ==> Tiene miedo de llegar tarde. 
  He’s afraid he’ll arrive late.
He’s afraid of arriving late.
Estoy contenta que tenga razón.*
 ==> Estoy contenta de tener razón.
  I’m happy that I’m right.
I’m happy to be right.

 * These are grammatically incorrect. When the subject is the same, you must use the infinitive.

2) an impersonal subject (if the subject is implied)

Es importante que trabajes.
 ==> Es importante trabajar.
  It’s important for you to work.
It’s important to work.
No es necesario que vengan.
 ==> No es necesario venir.
  It’s not necessary that they come. (They don’t need to come)
It’s not necessary to come.

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Spanish infinitives