Home French Language Not So Primary After All: The Full Information to the French Infinitive

Not So Primary After All: The Full Information to the French Infinitive

Not So Primary After All: The Full Information to the French Infinitive



One of many first stuff you’ll be taught in French are infinitive verbs. You start with verbs like être (to be) and avoir (to have), of their unconjugated, unique kind.

Shortly after, you start to conjugate the verbs and incorporate them into full sentences with all the brand new vocabulary you’ve realized.

Whereas conjugating verbs is a crucial a part of speaking within the French language, the French infinitive has many makes use of.

On this put up, we’ll train you what the French infinitive is and when you should utilize it.


What’s the French Infinitive?

The French infinitive is the unconjugated type of a verb. In English, infinitive verbs are “to + _____” verbs, like “to be taught” in English (apprendre in French).

With out being conjugated, this infinitive kind solely tells you what is occurring, however provides no additional data, comparable to who’s finishing up the motion or the time-frame by which it’s happening. 

In French, unconjugated verbs finish in both -er, -re or -ir

As counter-intuitive as it could appear, unconjugated verbs are usually not only a factor of your early French-learning days. The French infinitive is definitely reasonably versatile and unconjugated French verbs have a wide range of makes use of.

Let’s check out the makes use of of the French infinitive. 

When to Use the French Infinitive

1. After a conjugated verb

In French, two conjugated verbs in a row is a no-no (or ought to I say a non-non). So, for instance, if you wish to say “I prefer to run,” solely the verb aimer (to love) could be conjugated:

J’aime courir. (I prefer to run.)

Twin-verb constructions are constructions which can be fashioned with a semi-auxiliary verb comparable to aller (to go), devoir [faire quelque chose] (to must [do something]), espérer (to hope/want), promettre (to vow) or vouloir  (to wish to), adopted by one other verb within the infinitive:

Nicole voudrait dormir. (Nicole want to sleep.)

When utilizing the infinitive with conjugated verbs, pronouns and totally different constructions throughout the identical sentence in French, it’s necessary to be conscious of the phrase order:

  • Object, reflexive and adverbial pronouns are often positioned between the 2 verbs and after the preposition (if there’s one) that follows the conjugated verb:

Caroline doit se laver les mains. (Caroline should wash her fingers.)

  • Object, reflexive and adverbial pronouns all precede the infinitive in sentences in French:

Il faut s’habiller. (You could dress.)

  • Destructive constructions ought to encompass the conjugated verb and precede the preposition, if there’s one:

Jean ne va pas manger ce soir. (Jean will not be going to eat tonight.)

  • Each parts of a unfavourable building precede the infinitive:

Ne jamais laisser la fenêtre ouverte. (By no means depart the window open.)

  • Within the case of a sentence that incorporates each pronouns and a unfavourable building, the unfavourable building precedes the pronouns:

Ne jamais la laisser ouverte. (By no means depart it open.)

2. As a noun (the topic/object of a sentence)

As a noun, the French infinitive is translated because the English current participle when it’s employed as a noun.

Prévenir, c’est guérir. (Stopping is therapeutic.)

Lire, c’est voyager. (Studying is touring.)

Apprendre le chinois est difficile. (Studying Chinese language is tough.)

3. After a preposition

In French, there are various verbs that should be accompanied by a preposition—mostly à  (at, to) or de  (from, of). If an extra verb is required to make a sentence significant, it should be employed within the infinitive.

C’est difficile de discuter avec Adrien. (It’s tough to speak to Adrien.)

Avant de manger, je me lave les mains. (Earlier than consuming, I wash my fingers.)

4. Instead of the crucial

The crucial temper is mostly utilized in French to offer instructions. The French infinitive can be utilized instead when a command is impersonal in nature. This implies you’ll come throughout the infinitive within the context of warnings in addition to in instruction manuals and in recipes.

Mettre un casque de sécurité. (Placed on a security helmet.)

Verser la farine dans le saladier. (Pour the flour within the mixing bowl.)

5. In an interrogative or exclamative phrase

The French infinitive can be utilized to assemble interrogative or exclamative phrases within the context of a dilemma:

Que faire ? (What to do?)

Où aller ? (The place to go?)

Quelle couleur choisir ? (Which colour to decide on?)

6. Instead of the subjunctive

The French infinitive can be utilized instead of the subjunctive temper in two situations.

  • When the topic of the primary clause and the subordinate clause is identical:

The sentence Elise est contente qu’elle soit à l’heure (Elise is completely happy that she is on time) will be rewritten utilizing the infinitive as Elise est contente d’être à l’heure  (Elise is completely happy to be on time).

(In a case like this, you’re really required to make use of the infinitive as a result of within the first instance, elle would seek advice from another person, not Elise.)

  • When the topic is implied however not explicitly said:

The sentence Il faut que tu dormes  (You could sleep) will be written utilizing the infinitive as Il faut dormir  (You could sleep).

7. To kind the previous infinitive

The previous infinitive is a compound building that’s fashioned with an auxiliary verb être  (to be) or avoir  (to have) and a previous participle. The previous infinitive denotes an motion that happens earlier than the motion of the primary verb. The previous infinitive is utilized in 4 situations.

  • Modifying the verb in the primary clause:

J’aurais préféré avoir mangé plus tôt. (I’d have most well-liked to have eaten earlier.)

  • Modifying the adjective in the primary clause:

Elise est contente d’avoir déménagé. (Elise is completely happy to have moved.)

  • Following the preposition après (after):

Après avoir mangé, j’étais moins énérvé. (After having eaten, I used to be much less aggravated.)

Merci de m’avoir invité. (Thanks for having invited me.)

A be aware on phrase order and the previous infinitive: In day-to-day French, unfavourable constructions precede the infinitive.

Je suis désolé(e) de ne pas être arrivé à l’heure. (I’m sorry for not having arrived on time.)

Past the Fundamentals: Methods to Make the A lot of the French Infinitive

  • Quiz your self. Appropriately using the French infinitive requires you to accumulate a agency grasp on verb-pronoun pairings. Whereas many such pairings exist in English, learners of the French language should stay conscious that totally different pronouns are utilized in every language.

Try these flashcards from Quizlet to follow figuring out whether or not verbs are adopted by the preposition à (to, from), de (from, of) or the infinitive. When you’re comfy with these, take this fill-in-the-blank preposition quiz. Lastly, this quiz from Tex’s French Grammar is a good way to brush up in your translation abilities when you fine-tune your understanding of the infinitive.

  • Pay attention for it. One other nice solution to be taught and follow the French infinitive is to hearken to or watch French content material to see the place you’ll be able to hear it being utilized in totally different contexts by native audio system. If you could find accompanying texts, even higher—for instance, genuine movies on the language studying program FluentU are paired with interactive subtitles and transcripts, making it simpler to identify the infinitive in motion.

FluentU is out there to entry in your browser or by downloading the iOS and Android app, so you’ll be able to be taught wherever you might be! 

501 French Verbs (Barron's 501 Verbs)

An effective way to do that is to categorise the verbs that you just come throughout as these that are adopted by the prepositions à (at, to) and de (of, from) or nothing in any respect. The reference information “501 French Verbs” can be an amazing useful resource for locating le mot juste (the proper phrase) or maybe I ought to say le verbe juste (the proper verb)?

  • (Re)write textual content in French. A easy however efficient train to get comfy with the varied makes use of of the infinitive (and enhance your studying comprehension) is to take a paragraph from a e book or one other short- to medium-length textual content (a newspaper or journal article are additionally good choices) and the place relevant, exchange present constructions with the French infinitive.


Quelle méthode choisir ? (What technique to decide on?)

Effectively, it’s as much as you!

Pratiquer souvent (follow typically) and your French will enhance.