When do you need to use an infinitive verb in Spanish? – 10 tips!

What is the infinitive?

The infinitive is the simplest form of a verb. An infinitive tells you what the action is but not who is doing it nor when they are doing it. It translates into English as “to …” In Spanish there are 3 patterns of infinitive; those that end in -ar, -er or -ir. Examples are:

hablarto speak

comerto eat

vivirto live

There are several common structures in Spanish that need the use of the infinitive. In this post we will look at these uses:

1) When two verbs are together, the second one  should be the infinitive

For example:

Quiero comer algo.I want to eat something.
Necesito salir ahora.I need to leave now.
¿Puedo sentarme aquí?Can I sit here?

2) After a preposition

A preposition is a word that links two words or phrases together. They often show location, direction or time. Spanish prepositions include: de, para, por, con, sin, hasta, en, bajo, a, según, hacia, desde.

Antes de comer … – Before eating
Necesito gafas para leer I need glasses to read
Sin parar Without stopping/Non-stop

3) When using “gustar” and similar verbs

When you say you like doing something, you need to use the verb. Whereas in English we say “I like reading in Spanish they say “I like to read.

Me gusta cocinarI like cooking
¿Te gusta nadar?Do you like swimming?

Other verbs that work in the same way include;

Encantarto love

Me encanta hablar en españolI love speaking in Spanish

Interesarto be interested in

Me interesa conocer a mis compañerosI’m interested in getting to know my colleagues

fascinarto be fascinated

Me fascina aprender de los idiomasI am fascinated about learning languages

4) Immediate future

To talk about what you are “going to do” you need to follow the structure below:

Ir + a + infinitive verb

Voy a trabajar mañana – I am going to work tomorrow

Vamos a ir a España el viernes – We are going to go to Spain on Friday

Van a llegar tarde – They are going to arrive late

5) To have to do something

Whenever you are talking about an obligation or something you “have to do”, the structure is:

Tener + que + infinitive

Tengo que estudiarI have to study

¿Tienes que trabajar luego? – Do you have to work later?

Tenemos que salir pronto – We have to leave soon

6) To start to do something

To “start to do something” needs the following structure. You only conjugate “empezar”. It is the same structure whichever tense you use:

Empezar + a + infinitive verb

Empiezo a trabajar a las ochoI start to work at 8

Empezamos a caminar a las sieteWe started to walk at 7

Empezarán a comer cuando todos lleguenThey will start to eat when they all arrive

7) Impersonal statements

Es fácil aprender español – It is easy to learn Spanish
Es difícil recordar todo – It is difficult to remember everything
Es importante estudiar mucho – It is important to study a lot

8) Infinitives as nouns

When a verb acts as a noun, you just use the infinitive.

Hablar chino es difícilSpeaking Chinese is difficult.
Pienso viajar a India – I am thinking about travelling to India.
Jugar al tenis es buen ejercicioPlaying tennis is good exercise.

9) Infinitives as a command

You can also use the infinitive as a command telling someone to do something:

Batir los huevos. – Beat the eggs.
No fumar – Don’t smoke.
Cortar las patatas – Chop the potatoes.

10) Verbs used with infinitives

All of the verbs below are often used before the infinitive form of the verb:

aceptarto accept
acordarto agree
afirmar – to say/state
amenazar – to threaten
asegurar – to assure
buscar – to look for
creer – to believe
deber – to owe/should
decidir – to decide
demostar – to demonstrate
desear – to want/wish
enseñar – to teach
esperar –to hope
fingir – to pretend
gustar – to like
intentar – to try
ir a – going to
lamenter – to regret
lograr – to succeed in
negar – to deny
pensar en – to think about/of
poder – to be able to
preferir – to prefer
prometer – to promise
querer – to want
reconocer – to recognise
recordar – to remember
seguir – to follow / continue
sentir – to feel
soler – to usually …
temer – to fear
tener que – to have to
tratar de – to try to

Practice quiz:

1. Playing golf is difficult.
2. I like speaking Spanish.
3. I have to prepare the dinner.
4. I am going to buy fruit.
5. It is easy to forget.
6. We want to hire a car.
7. Smoking is forbidden.
8. I promise to practise Spanish.
9. He starts to watch a film.
10. Running is good exercise.

Answers:

1. Jugar al golf es difícil.
2. Me gusta hablar español.
3. Tengo que preparar la cena.
4. Voy a comprar la fruta.
5. Es fácil olvidar.
6. Queremos alquilar un coche.
7. Fumar está prohibido.
8. Prometo practicar español.
9. Empieza a ver una película.
10. Correr es buen ejercicio.