Infinitive

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An infinitive in English is the usage of a verb so that it acts as the subject of a phrase or sentence. It is called the "infinitive" because the verb is not "made finite" or limited to indicate number, tense, or mood.

By far the most common form of an infinitive is with the preposition "to", such as in "to walk", "to cry", "to eat", "to fear". William Shakespeare used a number of infinitives of this form in one of his most famous soliloquies, the "Soliloquy of Hamlet"

- "To be or not to be..."
- "To sleep, perchance to dream..."

A less common form of the infinitive is with the conditional prepositions "may" or "might". An example can again be found in the speech by Hamlet referenced above; "What dreams may come...?". Another example is "we might win".

A third case of infinitive drops the preposition altogether. This is is possible when the infinitive form is used in conjunction with a specific set of verbs - these include "feel", "hear", "help", "let", "make", "see", and "watch". Examples include

- "I felt the earth move" ("move" is the infinitive)
- "We heard the bell toll" ("toll" is the infinitive)
- "She helped me understand ("understand" is the infinitive)
- "I let him win" ("win" is the infinitive)

see also split infinitive, infinity