How to use the infinitive in Spanish to talk about now and the future

What are infinitives?

An infinitive is the form of the verb you find in the dictionary.

Infinitives in Spanish end in -ar, -er or -ir, meaning ‘to...’ in English.

For example:

  • hablar - to speak

  • comer - to eat

  • vivir - to live

When do we use infinitives?

Talking about the future

Infinitives can be used to talk about the future with the verb ir (to go).

The verb ir + a is the equivalent of saying ‘going to …’ in English.

This is called the immediate future tense.

For example:

  • Voy a visitar la catedral - I am going to visit the cathedral.

  • ¿Vas a jugar al fútbol? - Are you going to play football?

  • Rosa va a pasear al perro - Rosa is going to walk the dog.

What other future sentences can you make using infinitives after the parts of ir + a in the table below?

SpanishEnglish
voy aI am going to
vas ayou are going to
va ahe/she/it is going to

Opinion verbs

You can use infinitives after opinion verbs such as me gusta (I like), no me gusta (I don't like), me encanta (I love), detesto/odio (I hate) and prefiero (I prefer).

For example:

  • Me gusta leer libros - I like to read books / I like reading books.

  • No me gusta nadar - I don’t like to swim / I don’t like swimming.

  • Me encanta comer chocolate - I love to eat chocolate / I love eating chocolate.

  • Detesto ver películas románticas - I hate to watch romantic films / I hate watching romantic films.

  • Prefiero salir con mis amigos los fines de semana - I prefer to go out with my friends at the weekend / I prefer going out with my friends at the weekend.

Me encanta tocar la guitarra

What infinitives can you use with the following phrases to express your opinion?

SpanishEnglish
me gusta (mucho)I (really) like
no me gusta (nada)I don't like (at all)
me encantaI love
detesto/odioI hate
prefieroI prefer

Other verbs

Infinitives often come after modal verbs. We use modal verbs to express ability, permission, obligation or desire (things you want to do).

Examples of modal verbs in English are ‘can’, ‘must’ or ‘want’.

Now look at these modal verbs in Spanish and how they are used with infinitives:

  • tener que - to have to

    • Todos los días tengo que hacer los deberes - Every day I have to do my homework.
    • Cuando vuelves a casa ¿tienes que pasear al perro? - When you get home do you have to walk the dog?
  • poder - to be able to/can

    • No puedo salir hoy - I cannot go out today.
    • En mi pueblo se puede ir al teatro - In my town you / one can go to the theatre.
  • querer - to want

    • ¿Quieres ir al cine? - Do you want to go to the cinema?
    • Quiero cenar en un restaurante italiano - I want to eat in an Italian restaurant.
  • deber - must

    • No debes comer chicle - You must not chew gum.
    • Debo levantar la mano en clase - I must raise my hand in class.

The following tables show the different parts of some modal verbs. How could you use them with an infinitive?

tener que

SpanishEnglish
tengo queI have to
tienes queyou have to
tiene quehe/she/it has to

poder

SpanishEnglish
puedoI am able to/can
puedesyou are able to/can
puedehe/she/it is able to/can
se puedeone/you can

deber

SpanishEnglish
deboI must
debesyou must
debehe/she/it must
se debeone/you must

querer

SpanishEnglish
quieroI want
quieresyou want
quierehe/she/it wants

Have a go at this activity to see how much you understand about infinitives in Spanish.

Quiz

Find out how much you know about using the infinitive in Spanish with this short quiz!

Where next?

Discover more from around Bitesize.

Talking about where you live in Spanish using 'ser' and 'estar'
How to use adjectives in Spanish
KS3 Spanish