By now you're used to using infinitives (the form of a verb that ends in –AR, -ER, or –IR) in a variety of ways. However, did you realize that an infinitive can be used as a subject or the object of a preposition?
In English, when a verb is used as a verbal noun, an –ing word is used. Examples include, "I like singing," "Diving is fun," or, "Before eating, I washed the dishes." If you translated these directly into Spanish, you may be tempted to use the present participle (such as cantando, buceando, comiendo). This would be incorrect. Use the infinitive instead.
Spanish Infinitives – examples
Used as a Subject
Imitar es la forma más sincera de halagar.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Estar a tiempo es importante
Being on time is important
Used as the Object of a Preposition
Lo hice sin pensar en las consecuencias
I did it without thinking of the consequences
Para poder respirar bajo el agua, necesitas tanques de aire
To be able to breath under water, you need air tanks
Antes de explicar la lección, la profesora nos dio algunas hojas de papel
Before explaining the lesson, the professor gave us some sheets of paper
Spanish Infinitives as Commands
When you see signs in public places, you'll often see the infinitive form of a verb used as a command.
Verbs Followed by Spanish Infinitives
There are many, many verbs in Spanish that are followed by a preposition (usually a, de, or en) and an infinitive. Some of these include: enseñar a to teach (something)
to go to
to think about
to have to
to try to
You are already familiar with using the infinitive form of a verb after words like poder, saber, and querer. (Examples include: "Puedo hacerlo," "Sé nadar," and "Quiero ir.")
However, did you know that sensory verbs like to hear, to see, or to feel, are also followed by an infinitive? Watch out for the word order: the infinitive will come directly after the conjugated sensory verb, followed by the direct object.
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