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All About Spanish Verbs: The Infinitive

By Curt Smothers

The infinitive form of Spanish verbs is the foundation of 14 verb conjugations. It also links up with other verbs to complete an idea and doubles as a noun, becoming the Spanish counterpart to the English gerund and present participle. Infinitives also give written commands.

The Basics

The Spanish infinitive is the basic form of the Spanish verb that conveys the general meaning of the verb, without adding person, Flag of Spain number or tense. For example, hablar (to talk), beber (to drink), and vivir (to live), all give us the general idea of the actions of talking, drinking and living, but mention no person nor time frame. Note, too, that Spanish infinitives come with three (and only three) two-letter endings, -ar, -er, and -ir. As discussed below, the Spanish infinitive does a sort of "double duty" as the counterpart to the English gerund and participle (-ing form).

How the Spanish Infinitive Is Used

The Spanish Infinitive is used as follows:

  • The Infinitive forms the basis of the 14 Spanish verb conjugations.

Conjugations add the person, number and tense (time) to verbs that brings language to life. For Spanish regular verbs, we drop the two-letter (-ar, -er, -ir) endings from the infinitive and add the appropriate ending. For example hablar (to speak) becomes hablo (I speak). Beber (to drink) becomes bebí (I drank), and vivir (I live) becomes viviré (I will live), each by adding the appropriate tense endings to the verb stems (the infinitive minus the endings).

  • The infinitive doubles up with certain conjugated Spanish verbs to complete the meaning of the action.

Examples:

Queremos salir ahora. (We want to leave now.)

Vamos a ir a la playa. (We are going to go to the beach.)

  • The infinitive can be used as a noun.

Examples:

Para mí nadar es divirtido. (For me, swimming is fun.)

Leer es su pasión. (Reading is his passion.)

  • The infinitive follows prepositions to form participle phrases.

Examples:

Antes de salir quiero ver a mi hermana. (Before leaving, I wish to see my sister.)

Después de llegar perdieron sus maletas. (After arriving, they lost their suitcases.)

En lugar de beber una cerveza, voy a beber café. (Instead of drinking a beer, I am going to drink coffee.)

  • The infinitive is used in written notices to give impersonal commands.

Examples:

No fumar. (Do not smoke/no smoking.)

No tocar. (Do not touch.)

Hacer un clic aquí. (Click here.)