Infinitive Mood

To be or not to be. That is the infinitive mood.

Infinitive Mood Infinitive Mood

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    When learning verbs in English, and in a foreign language, we often study them in the infinitive form, e.g. 'to run', 'to dance', 'to go'. This is also how we see them in the dictionary.

    But what exactly is the infinitive mood, and how do we use it in English?

    Mood in English Grammar

    In English Grammar, the term 'grammatical mood' refers to the use of verb forms that indicate the purpose of a sentence and how it should be perceived. For example, is it a question, statement, exclamation, imperative, or another type of sentence?

    Types of grammatical mood

    There are five main types of grammatical mood in the English language.

    • The Indicative Mood- stating a fact or belief.
    • The Imperative Mood- making requests or commands.
    • The Subjunctive Mood- expressing a hypothetical situation, wish, possibility, or suggestion.
    • The Interrogative Mood- asking questions.
    • The Conditional Mood- state conditions and make requests.

    Whilst these five moods are finite (meaning they agree with person, number, and tense), the infinitive mood is not finite (hence the name!). This is why it is not included in the five main types of grammatical mood. Let's look at the infinitive mood in more detail!

    Infinitive Mood Definition

    So how would we define the infinitive mood?

    The infinitive mood is the verb form that expresses an action or state but does not refer to any subject. It consists of the word 'to' plus the base form of the verb.

    Verbs in the infinitive mood are mainly used as other parts of speech rather than as the main verb. They can act as nouns, adjectives, adverbs, the subject of the sentence, or the object of the sentence. For example, in the phrase 'Tiffany came to greet me', the infinitive verb form ('to greet') is used as an adverb to explain why Tiffany came over. The main verb of this phrase is 'she came' whilst the infinitive 'to greet' gives extra information.

    Infinitive mood two women greeting StudySmarterFig. 1 - The verb 'to greet' is in the infinitive mood.

    Infinitive Mood Examples

    Let's look at some examples of the infinitive mood. The infinitive verb form is highlighted in bold.

    Examples of the infinitive mood in everyday life are:

    Joey wanted to go to the zoo this week.

    It is time to leave!

    I need to wash my clothes for tonight.

    Jenny would love to sing in the school choir.

    Here are some further examples of quotes that use the infinitive mood:

    'The purpose of our lives is to be happy' - Dalai Lama.

    'The way to get started is to quit talking and to begin doing' - Walt Disney.

    'The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be' - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    As you can see in these examples, there is always a main verb in the sentence. For example, in the sentence 'It is time to leave', the main verb is 'is', and the infinitive 'to leave' gives further information.

    Infinitive mood, scrabble board to learn, StudySmarterFig. 2 - 'To learn' is an example of the infinitive mood.

    Infinitive Mood Form

    So how do we form the infinitive mood?

    To form an infinitive verb form, we combine the word 'to' with the base form of the verb. For instance, to play, to do, to swim, to feel, to love, to dance, and so on.

    The infinitive verb form does not have a subject or does not agree with any subject (i.e. person doing the action of the verb). This means that the form always remains the same, e.g. the infinitive 'to love' would never become 'to loves', 'to loved', or 'to loving'.

    Infinitive Mood Uses

    If the infinitive verb form isn't the main verb of the sentence, then what exactly is it used for?

    There are a few key uses of the infinitive mood. These are:

    • Showing the purpose of an action, e.g. 'I left to go to bed', 'they came to collect the sofa'.
    • As the subject of the sentence, e.g. 'to be or not to be', 'to build a house is my dream'.
    • To show the use of something, e.g. 'I need something to eat', 'shall we buy a pool to play in'.
    • After adjectives, e.g. 'It would be lovely to see you', 'I am sad not to be there'.
    • To make a comment, e.g. 'That was a nice thing to do', 'Chloe is the worst person to let drive'.
    • With adverbs such as 'enough' or 'too,' e.g. 'You're too young to go to the party', 'that's enough food to last us weeks!'

    Types of infinitive

    We can split the infinitive into three different types: full infinitives, bare infinitives, and split infinitives.

    • Full infinitives are the form that we have discussed throughout this text, e.g. 'to go', 'to dance', 'to bark'.

    • Bare infinitives have the word 'to' omitted, e.g. 'I heard him yelp', 'he helped me climb the tree'. (There are a few key verbs that allow for the 'to' to be omitted, such as hear, help, make, let, etc.)

    • Split infinitives have an adverb between which 'splits' the infinitive, e.g. 'Josh wanted to quickly go to the shop', 'Shauna had to carefully tiptoe through the room'. Here the adverbs 'quickly' and 'carefully' split the infinitive.

    Infinitive Mood - Key Takeaways

    • 'Grammatical mood' refers to the use of verb forms that indicate the purpose of a sentence and how it should be perceived.
    • The infinitive mood is the verb form that expresses an action or state but does not refer to any subject.
    • Verbs in the infinitive mood are mainly used as other parts of speech rather than as the main verb.
    • To form an infinitive verb form, we combine the word 'to' with the base form of the verb.
    • We can split the infinitive into 3 different types: full infinitives, bare infinitives, and split infinitives.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Infinitive Mood

    Is infinitive a tense or mood?

    To simplify things, the infinitive verb form can be classed as a mood. However, it is not always classed as a mood due to infinitive verb forms not being finite (i.e. they don't agree with tense, person, or number). 

    What is infinitive with an example?

    The infinitive is the verb form that expresses an action or state but does not refer to any subject. It consists of the word 'to' plus the base form of the verb. 


    An example of the infinitive is 'to go' e.g. 'Joey wanted to go to the zoo this week'. 

    What are the 5 moods?

    The 5 main types of mood in the English language are: indicative (stating a fact or belief), imperative (making requests or commands), subjunctive (expressing a hypothetical situation, wish, possibility, suggestion), interrogative (asking questions), conditional (state conditions and make requests).

    What do you mean by an infinitive and imperative mood?

    The term 'infinitive mood' refers to the use of the infinitive verb form e.g. 'to play' or 'to go'. The imperative mood is the verb form that shows a sentence is imperative is a command e.g. 'come here please' or 'sit down!'.

    What are the 3 types of infinitives?

    We can split the infinitive into 3 different types: full infinitives, bare infinitives, and split infinitives.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    The infinitive mood always agree with a subject. True or false?

    Verbs in the infinitive mood are mainly used as other parts of speech rather than as the main verb. True or false?

    In the sentence ‘I want to go to the farm’, the infinitive ‘to go’ is the main verb. True or false?

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