Before we examine the Italian infinitive tense, let’s take a look at what infinitive means.
The infinitive is the basic form of the verb (to go, to do, to see etc.), which is used, for example, after other verbs like can, must, should.
To put it in simple terms, infinitive means that the verb is not conjugated according to a person (I, you, he/she etc.). For example, in the sentence I go to the cinema (vado al cinema) the verb go is related to I, whereas in a sentence like I like to go camping (mi piace andare in campeggio), to go isn’t related to any person, whilst like is related to I.
In English, the infinitive can be just one word (do), or two words (to do), depending on the sentence.
In Italian, the infinitive is always one word, and it ends in –are (1st conjugation), –ere (2nd conjugation) or –ire (3rd conjugation).
parlare – to speak – 1st conjugation
camminare – to walk – 1st conjugation
comprare – to buy – 1st conjugation
vedere – to see – 2nd conjugation
credere – to believe – 2nd conjugation
spendere – to spend – 2nd conjugation
sentire – to hear – 3rd conjugation
uscire – to go out – 3rd conjugation
finire – to finish – 3rd conjugation
Note: the infinitive of some verbs (not many) is characterized by a slightly different ending, -urre, which means that all the verbs ending in -urre will follow the same conjugation pattern.
tradurre – to translate
ridurre – to reduce
produrre – to produce
How to use the infinitive in Italian
– After a modal verb (can, must, want) or another verb.
Non posso uscire perché ho il raffreddore. I can’t go out because I have a cold.
Vuoi venire al cinema con me? Do you want to come to the cinema with me?
Dobbiamo fare una torta. We must make a cake.
Preferisco restare a casa stasera. I prefer to stay at home tonight.
– With the negative imperative.
Non toccare quella bottiglia! Don’t touch that bottle!
Non andare in camera da letto! Don’t go to the bedroom!
Non spingere! Don’t push!
– After adjectives and nouns followed by “di”
Sono felice di vederti. I’m happy to see you.
Siamo stanchi di camminare. We are tired of walking.
Hai voglia di uscire domani? Do you feel like going out tomorrow?
– After prepositions like before, after or without.
Mi piace leggere prima di dormire. I like to read before sleeping.
Guarda il film senza leggere i sottotitoli. Watch the film without reading the subtitles.
– After “mi piace” (I like)
Mi piace leggere. I like reading.
Ci piace cucinare. We like cooking.
– To give an order or an instruction, for example on a recipe, a sign, a manual etc.
Aggiungere la farina e mescolare. Add the flour and mix.
Rallentare. Slow down.
Vietato fumare. Smoking is not permitted.