Using infinitives

Infinitives are used throughout the French language.

An infinitive is a verb taken directly from the dictionary in its original form, ie ending in -er, -ir, -re meaning ‘to...’

A verb in the infinitive normally follows:

1. As a second verb, eg:

  • je vais aller - I’m going to go
  • je dois faire - I have to do

2. A modal verb – pouvoir, devoir, vouloir. For example:

  • je peux faire mon lit - I am able to make my bed
  • il devait prendre son petit déjeuner - he had to have his breakfast

3. Verbs taking the preposition à, such as apprendre à:

  • nous apprenons à danser - we are learning to dance

4. Verbs taking the preposition de, such as refuser de:

  • je refuse d’aller au travail ! – I refuse to go to work!

5. Certain prepositions, such as pour, sans, au lieu de, avant de (for/without/instead of/before):

  • pour aller à la gare, s’il vous plaît ? - how do you get to the station, please?
  • j’y vais en autobus au lieu de marcher - I’m going there by bus instead of walking

Verbs commonly followed by an infinitive

allerto go (this makes the immediate future tense)
aimerto like
préférerto prefer
espérerto hope
savoirto know


  • il aime chanter - he likes to sing
  • j’espère aller à l’universitée l’année prochaine – I hope to go to uni next year
  • je sais parler français - I know how to speak French