The Infinitive Tense
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Video Lesson
Summary of Lesson
Defining the Infinitive, looking at how it is formed and in what types of sentence structures or typical situations it might be used.
More detail about how infinitives are used directly after other verbs and how this compares to verbs with 'ing' endings in English.
Looking at how the preposition 'a' is used with infinitives to link two verbs together.
Looking at how other types of prepositions are used with infinitives to link two verbs together.
Looking at how the infinitive and other words are linked together in set sentence structures with and without propositions.
  What you can learn from this lesson
Being able to identify and correctly use verbs in their infinitive forms.
Knowing in what situations and different types of sentence structures the infinitive is commonly used. In particular recognising the relationship between infinitives and how verbs with ‘ing’ endings are used in English.
Understanding how prepositions are used with infinitives. Knowing how different types of prepositions are used with different verbs in the infinitive (a, en, con, de, por).
Recognising the more usual and most common verbs that are used in sentence structures with and without the use of prepositions.
Being able to use the infinitive in set sentence structures.
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The first part of this lesson seeks to introduce the infinitive tense and explain in what common situations it is used in everyday speech.


In both English and Spanish the infinitive is the term given to a verb that remains in its original form without taking changes to either the stem or the ending of the verb. Examples of infinitive verbs in both English and Spanish are given here.


English Spanish English Spanish
to work trabajar to be estar
to eat comer to be able poder
to live vivir to leave salir


In Spanish the first three verbs above are regular and the last three are irregular. If a verb is regular or irregular when using the infinitive it is irrelevant. The verb remains in the same form always!


When the infinitive is used.


In Spanish, infinitive verbs are commonly used in speech in three different types of situations.


1)      Used to link two verbs together where the second verb is the infinitive. The first verb in these situations will usually be formed in one of the other tenses.


(Yo) quiero comer fruta.  - I want to eat fruit.

Él olvidó pagar su renta . - He forgot to pay his rent.


2)      Used to link two verbs together with a preposition where the second verb is the infinitive. The most common preposition used is ‘a’.


Van a robar todas las galletas.  - They’re going to steal all the biscuits.

() empezaste a gritar primero. - You started to shout first.


3)      The infinitive is used in conjunction with other words (not always other verbs), in certain set phrases. In these situations it is not always the second verb that is in the infinitive.


No hace falta trabajar nada más. - We/you don’t need to work anymore.

Darle vueltas a algo. - To be worried about something.

No tiene que ver nada contigo.  - It has nothing to do with you.




The second part of the lesson concentrates on infinitives that are used to link two verbs together where the second verb is the infinitive. In Spanish there is no rule that can help us decide which verbs should be followed directly by an infinitive verb rather than a preposition for example. The verbs that are used in this way have to be learnt. Here is a list of some of the most common verbs.

Spanish infinitive English infinitive
aceptar to accept
aconsejar to advise
acordar to agree
afirmar to affirm / state
buscar to seek
creer to believe
deber to owe / owe a duty to
decidir to decide
dejar to let (not dejar de - to stop
demostrar to demonstrate
desear to desire / wish
elegir to choose
encantar to love / really like
escoger to choose
esperar to wait
evitar to avoid
fingir to pretend
gustar to like
hacer to do / to make
intentar to try
lamentar to regret
lograr to achieve
merecer to deserve
necesitar to need
negar to deny (not negarse a - to refuse)
odiar to hate
olvidar to forget
pensar to think
poder to be able
preferir to prefer
querer to want
reconocer to recognise
recordar to remember
saber to know
soler to be in the habit of
sentir to regret
temer to fear
ver to see


When all of the above verbs are followed by another verb in speech, the verb that follows will usually follow directly after it and will usually be in the infinitive form. Here are some examples.


() no me haces pensar mal de ti. - Don’t make me think bad of you.

Ellos deben venir con nosotros. - They should come with us.

Nosotros podemos ayudarte. - We can help you.


Sometimes when the infinitive verb is used in Spanish one of the continuous tenses is used in English.


Él prefiere hablar que escribir. - He prefers speaking rather than writing.

Ella niega ser culpable.  - She denies being to blame.


This is especially true when we say what we do or don’t like.


A mi me gusta cocinar. - I like cooking.

Me encanta escuchar musica.  - I love listening to music.

(Yo) odio limpiar.  - I hate cleaning.




The third part of this lesson looks at when two verbs are linked together with the preposition ‘a’. The second verb in these situations will be in the infinitive form. Other prepositions can be used in this way instead of ‘a’ but these are looked at in part four of the lesson. Again it is necessary to learn which verbs are followed by the preposition ‘a’ in this way.


One of the most common verbs that can be followed by ‘a’ and the infinitive is ‘ir’ to go. If you have looked at the lessons on the future and past tenses you will already have come across this formation.


(Yo) voy a comer. - I’m going to eat.

() ibas a comer. - You were going to eat.

Él va a decir. - He’s going to say.

Ella iba a decir. - She was going to say.


Below is a list of other common verbs that can be followed by ‘a’ and the infinitive. A lot of the time the same equivalent preposition is used with the same verbs in English sentences.


Spanish English
acercarse a to approach
alcanzar a to manage to
andar a to go to
animar a to encourage to
aprender a to learn to
atreverse a to dare to
ayudar a to help
bajar a to go down to
comenzar a to start to
conducir a to lead to
contribuir a to contribute to
empezar a to begin to
enseñar a to show how to / teach to
forzar a to force to
invitar a to invite to
llegar a to manage to
llegar a ser to become
negarse a to refuse to
obligar a to force
pasar a to go on to
pensar a to think to
ponerse a to begin to
probar a to try to
venir a to come to
volver a to return (to do something)




Part four of the lesson looks at other prepositions that can be used to link two verbs together where the second verb is in the infinitive. The most common prepositions after ‘a’ are ‘de’, ‘con’, ‘en’ and ‘por’. Much of the time in English these prepositions are not used in the same way that they are in Spanish.


Linking two verbs with the preposition ‘de’


Here is a list of common verbs.


Spanish English
acabar de to have just done (something)
acordarse de to remember
arrepentirse de to regret
cansarse de to tire of
cuidar de to take care
dejar de to stop (refrain from)
parar de to stop (physically)
presumir de to boast about
quejarse de to complain about
tener ganas de to desire / want
terminar de to finish
tratar de to try to


(Yo) acabo de terminar mis deberes. - I just finished my chores.

Él se quejó de pagar .   - He complained about paying.


Linking two verbs with the preposition ‘con’


Here is a list of common verbs.


Spanish English
amenazar con to threaten with
comenzar con to start with
soñar con to dream about
tener que ver con to have to do with


Él amenazó con golpearme .  - He threatened to hit me.

Tiene que ver con comprar pollos. - It has to do with buying chickens.


Linking two verbs with the preposition ‘en’


Here is a list of common verbs.


Spanish English
quedar en to agree to
confiar en to trust to
consistir en to consist of
dudar en to hesitate to
insistir en to insist on
pensar en to think about
tardar en to take a long time to
molestarse en to bother about


Si () dudas en reacionar sera obvio. - If you hesitate to react it will be obvious.

(Yo) pienso en besarte mucho.  - I think about kissing you a lot.


Linking two verbs with the preposition ‘por


Here are some common verbs.


Spanish English
comenzar por to start by
disculparse por to apologize for
luchar por to fight for
preocuparse por to worry about
optar por to opt to


Vamos a comenzar por pensar. - We’re going to start by thinking.

Vosotros deberíais luchar por obtener más. - You should all fight to get more.




The final part of the lesson looks at when the infinitive can be used in set phrases. In these cases the imperative may be used with other words such as nouns, adjectives, conjunctions or even by themselves.


Infinitives by themselves or in instructions

Infinitives are often used by themselves or in instructions in Spanish where in English other tenses or longer sentences may be necessary.


Esquiar. - Skiing.

Nadar.   - Swimming.

No fumar. - No smoking.

No pisar el césped.  - Don’t walk on the grass.


Infinitives in set sentence structures

Often an infinitive verb will follow after certain other words that form part of a set sentence structure.


tener que + infinitive

hay que + infinitive


(Yo) tengo que hacer la cena. - I have to make the dinner.

Hay que hacer la cena. - You/we ought to make the dinner.


Infinitives with nouns or adjectives

Sometimes an infinitive can be used after certain nouns or adjectives.


Me dio rabia ver tanta gente. - I was angry to see so many people.

Él tenía miedo preguntarle a ella. - He was afraid to ask her.


That concludes this lesson on the imperative tense. If you have not done so already watch the actual video for this lesson and then try one of the associated quizzes to test your understanding.

The Infinitive Tense
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