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

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

Examples:

  • 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