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  ENGLISH GRAMMAR for ESL learners  


BARE INFINITIVES

The infinitive structure of verbs without 'to' is called the bare infinitive.



Most infinitive structures begin with ‘to’, but sometimes the ‘to’ is omitted. This is known as the bare infinitive or the base form.
Bare infinitives are used as follows:

  After auxiliary modal verbs : 
(will, shall, would, could, can, may, might, must, should, needn't)
  • I might walk there if it doesn’t rain.
  • You needn’t go on a diet but you must eat healthy food.
  After the causative verbs 'make', 'have', 'let' and 'help'*: 
(*‘help’ can also be used with ‘to’)
  • She made the children do their homework.”
  • The lawyer had his assistant make copies of the contract.
  • Dad wouldn't let me drive his car.
  • Can you help me find/to find my keys.
  After verbs of perception:
(see, watch, notice, observe, feel, hear…)

  • I watched him move to a seat at the back.
  • We saw the burglar climb over the wall.
  • He heard the teacher call his name.
  • We felt the ground shake beneath our feet.
When the -ing form is used instead of the bare infinitive, it suggests an action continuing over a period of time.
  • As I walked home I heard the band playing.
  After ‘would rather’, ‘had better’:
  • I’d rather sit here.
  • You’d better call a doctor.
  After prepositions such as ‘except’, ‘but’ and ‘than’:
  • I’ll do anything except cook. .
  • She does nothing but cry.
  • She would prefer to stay single than marry that man.
  In the second clause when two infinitive structures are connected:
  • I want you to tidy the house and (to) wash up after the party.”
  • He decided to turn off the computer and (to) go home.
  After 'why' when making suggestions:
  • Why wait until later when we can do it now?
  • Why take a taxi? We can walk home
  • Why spend money on something we can't afford!

Note: See more on Causative Verbs.


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Please note that British English spelling is used on this website.

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