Most verbs start in their simplest form – the Infinitive. The Infinitive is created by combining the word “to” with the way the verb would look in a dictionary or thesaurus.
Examples of INFINITIVE:
- To Laugh
- To Cry
- To Hope
- To Swim
The infinitive is used in a variety of ways in a sentence. They can be used as the subject of a sentence – “To live quietly is all I ever wanted.” They can be used as the direct object of a verb – “I wanted to live quietly.” They can be used to express purpose or explain the reason why something happens – “I moved to China to live quietly.” When used to express purpose or reasoning, you can sometimes introduce the infinitive with “in order to__” or so as to__.” “I moved to China in order to live quietly“
When studying idioms, you’ll realize that some verbs require an infinitive to come as the Direct Object when the clause is formed a certain way – “I appeared to live quietly.” Some of the verbs often requiring an infinitive include:
- X does not care to ____ *
- Tends to _____
- Would like
I think of these as the “My Wish is a Command” phrases. Usually these appear in four contexts:
- Person A is informing Person B of their wishes or feelings about doing something (often to get them to do something or agree with them). “Mike did not care to hear my story” = Mike didn’t want to hear it and I need to shut up. “They would like to eat at 7:00pm” = They want to eat at this time and want Person B to either agree or to do something about that (i.e. set the table at 6:30).
- Person A is trying to convince Person B to do what they want. “Sarah asked Tom to___” “The government forbade us to _____.” “The university is persuading its students to____.”
- Person B is responding what Person A wants. “I refused to go home” = I told someone no – what they want is NOT reality. “Annie promised to eat better food.” = Annie agreed to do what they wanted.
- Person A’s wishes are successfully or unsuccessfully becoming reality. “Nick failed to meet our demands.” = Our wishes were not met. “Jessie attempted to climb Mount Everest.” = She wanted to climb and she did. “Harlan learned to make pottery” = Either he wanted to learn or Person B wanted him to learn so he went to class. Either way, someone’s desires became reality.
Kind of manipulative no? At least they are forthright about it all. Here’s what I want and you should accommodate my wishes. Two of the few exceptions* to notice (because they’re an awful lot like “Forbid”) are the words “prohibit” and “ban” “Prohibit” and “Banned” will be followed by “from _____ing”; while “Forbid” is followed by “to ____.” “The government prohibited/banned us from driving while intoxicated.” “The government forbade us to drive while intoxicated.”
The word “able” (or its close relative “ability”) is an annoying idiom on the GMAT strongly tied to the infinitive. Although in conversational English, you might hear “His ability for grabbing the audience during a speech is just amazing”; it’s technically WRONG on the GMAT. If you see “able” or “ability” on the GMAT – assume it needs to be followed by “to ____” “His ability to grab the audience during a speech is just amazing.” “He is more than able to swim across the lake“. Another tricky word connected to “able” but different is “capable“. Usually, “capable” is followed by “of ____ing” rather than the “to ____” form. “He is more than capable of swimming across the lake.”
Sometimes ADJECTIVES can be followed by infinitives as well. Often this happens when you are expressing emotions or opinions about doing something. “I was happy to help.” “It seems dangerous to climb at night.” “We were lucky to stay alive.” Some common examples include: