What Is an Infinitive Phrase? (with Examples)An infinitive phrase is the infinitive form of a verb plus any complements and modifiers.
The complement of an infinitive verb will often be its direct object, and the modifier will often be an adverb. For example:
- He likes to knead the dough slowly. (The infinitive verb is to knead. The complement is its direct object (the dough). The modifier is the adverb (slowly). They all make up the infinitive phrase (the shaded text).)
Examples of Infinitive PhrasesHere are some examples of infinitive phrases (shaded):
- He helped to build the roof.
- The officer returned to help the inspectors.
- Let me show you the best way to fit a door quickly.
- She tells you to dance like no one is watching.
Infinitive Phrases Used As NounsHere are some infinitive phrases (shaded) used as nouns:
Infinitive Phrases Used As AdjectivesHere are some infinitive phrases used as adjectives:
- Let him show you the best way to paint the door.
- I need a book to read on holiday.
Infinitive Phrases Used As AdverbsHere are some infinitive phrases used as adverbs:
- The officer returned to help the inspectors
- He opened the box to reveal a huge bullfrog.
Infinitive Phrases with Bare Infinitives (When Not Preceded by To)Most infinitives are preceded by to, but after certain verbs, the to is dropped. This happens when an infinitive follows can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, or would (i.e., a modal verb).
In these examples, the infinitive phrases have a bare infinitive (in bold):
- He should go home immediately.
- They might finish the project by Wednesday.
- Dawn helped her friend bake his mother a cake. (The "special" verb is helped. The direct object is her friend. In the infinitive phrase, the bare infinitive is bake. Its direct object is a cake. This time there is an indirect object (his mother) in the infinitive phrase too.)
- I watched them sweep the road as fast as they could. (The "special" verb is watched. The direct object is them. In the infinitive phrase, the bare infinitive is sweep. Its direct object is the road. The phrase as fast as they could is an adverbial clause.)
The infinitive form of a verb is the verb in its basic form. It is the version of the verb which will appear in the dictionary.
The infinitive form of a verb is usually preceded by to (e.g., to help, to sing, to burn).
Read more about the infinitive form of a verb.