What is an Infinitive Phrase? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Forms of Verbs
  • 0:43 Infinitive Verbs
  • 1:14 Infinitive Phrases
  • 2:20 Verbals
  • 3:41 Identifying Infinitive Phrases
  • 4:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

A verb is a word typically used to express action or being, but sometimes, verbs are used for other purposes in a sentence. In this video, we'll discuss infinitives, a type of verb that can act as an adjective, an adverb or a noun.

Forms of Verbs

Do you like vanilla ice cream? Or do you like to add chocolate sauce, candy, caramel, or whipped cream? Whatever you add, it will still be ice cream - but it will look, taste, and smell a bit different depending on the topping. The infinitive form of a verb is like vanilla ice cream - it is the most basic form of the verb before you change tenses and add endings. When you change tenses and add endings, you alter the spelling and sound of the word, but the essence of the verb remains the same. Grab a spoon and some ice cream, and get ready to explore infinitives and infinitive phrases.

Infinitive Verbs

An infinitive is the to form of the verb, such as to drink, to eat, to sleep, to cry, to laugh. All variations of a verb are derived from its infinitive form. Let's consider the verb to eat. It can appear as eats, ate, eaten, or eating. Each of these words is a subtle alteration of the infinitive, but still obviously a form of to eat.

Infinitive Phrases

Because an infinitive is a verb, it can have a direct object that receives the action of the verb by answering ''what or whom.'' It can also have an indirect object that comes between the verb and the direct object and answers ''to or for whom or what.'' The infinitive and its objects can also have modifiers.

Here's an example of an infinitive with a direct object: to bake cookies

Now here's an example of an infinitive with a direct and indirect object: to bake Julie cookies

An infinitive phrase is one that includes modifiers.

  • Infinitive with modifiers: to bake chocolate chip cookies

Let's find the infinitive phrase in this sentence:

  • Amber found a travel agent to plan her trips for her.

The infinitive phrase is to plan her trips for her. Let's dissect this infinitive phrase, because it has several parts:

to plan: infinitive

her: describes trips

trips: direct object

for her: prepositional phrase describing to plan


A verbal is a verb that does the job of another part of speech. An infinitive or an infinitive phrase is a verb that can act as a noun, adjective, or adverb in a sentence.

Infinitives as Nouns

As a noun, an infinitive can play any role a noun can: subject, direct object, object of a preposition, or subject complement. Here are some examples:

  • Amber wants to leave home. In this sentence, to leave home is acting as a direct object.
  • Her greatest wish is to travel. Here, to travel is acting as a subject complement.

Infinitives as Adjectives

As an adjective, the infinitive modifies or describes a noun or pronoun. For example:

  • Amber has many places to visit. In this sentence, to visit describes places.
  • She needs someone to go with her. Here, to go with her describes someone.

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