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infinitive constructions
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1. as a noun
  2. as an imperative
  3. after verbs
  4. negation of infinitives
  5. past infinitive constructions

watching tvThe infinitive expresses the idea or concept of a verb's meaning, without specifying a specific subject or point in time (tense). In most cases, use of the infinitive in French corresponds to the English. Infinitive constructions may be categorized according to the following uses:

as a noun
The infinitive may sometimes function as a noun. For example, it may be the subject of a sentence. Note that the French infinitive is often translated as a gerund (the '-ing' form of the verb) in English.

Joe-Bob: Etudier n'est pas facile!   Joe-Bob: Studying is not easy!

as an imperative (command)
The infinitive may be used to give a written order when there is no specific addressee. You will often see this form on signs.

Ne pas marcher sur l'herbe.   Do not walk on the grass.
don't walk on the grass

after verbs
The infinitive is often used directly after these conjugated verbs:

Verbs of movement: (In this category, the infinitive indicates purpose.)   aller, descendre, partir, rentrer, retourner, revenir, sortir, venir, etc.
Verbs of preference:   adorer, aimer, désirer, détester, préférer, vouloir
Verbs of opinion:   compter, croire, espérer, nier, penser, valoir mieux (impersonal: il vaut mieux)
Verbs of perception:   écouter, entendre, regarder, sentir, voir
Verbs of ability, obligation and necessity:   avoir beau (to do something in vain), devoir, faillir (to almost do something), falloir (impersonal: il faut) pouvoir, savoir

discussing restaurants
Tex et ses amis sortent dîner.   Tex and his friends are going out to have dinner.
Tex compte savourer un bon dîner français, mais Joe-Bob veut manger un hamburger.   Tex is counting on enjoying a good French dinner, but Joe-Bob wants to eat a hamburger.
Edouard les écoute discuter un moment et puis il dit: J'ai failli manger un hamburger une fois. Non, je ne peux pas faire ça, tout de même. Il faut trouver un vrai restaurant français.   Edouard listens to them discuss for a moment and then he says: I almost ate a hamburger once. No, I really can't do that. We have to find a real French restaurant.

after prepositions
The infinitive is the verb form generally used after a preposition in French. The infinitive expresses purpose when it is used after pour or afin de. In the case of avant de and sans, the English translation is often a conjugated verb (Before they left), or a present participle (Before leaving), rather than the English infinitive. The infinitive follows the preposition par after the verbs commencer and finir.

pour or afin de   Tammy arrive pour sortir avec Tex et ses amis.   Tammy arrives [in order] to go out with Tex and his friends.
avant de and sans   Avant de partir, ils lui demandent de choisir un restaurant. Elle commence par suggérer le nouveau restaurant thaï. Tex et ses copains parlent sans écouter Tammy.   Before leaving, they ask her to choose a restaurant. She starts by suggesting the new Thai restaurant. Tex and his friends talk without listening to Tammy.
par   Elle finit par comprendre que choisir un restaurant était impossible.   She finally understands that choosing a restaurant was impossible.

Note that the preposition en is followed by a present participle, not the infinitive. (En sortant, Joe-Bob a dit au revoir. On leaving, Joe-Bob said good-bye.)

The infinitive may be used to complete the sense of an adjective or a pronoun. Generally infinitives following a noun or adjective are preceded by the preposition de. (Edouard ne serait pas content de manger un hamburger. Edouard would not be happy to eat a hamburger.) However, adjectives and nouns are followed by the preposition à + infinitive to indicate a passive sense or a function: C'est bon à manger. (It's good to eat.), une salle à manger (dining room), de l'eau à boire (drinking water).

verbs followed by 'à' before an infinitive
When the following verbs are followed by an infinitive, the preposition à is required:

aider à, to help to   s'habituer à, to get used to
s'amuser à, to have fun at   hésiter à, to hesitate to
apprendre à, to learn to   inviter à, to invite to
arriver à, to succeed in, to manage to   se mettre à, to start to
s'attendre à, to expect to   se préparer à, to prepare to
chercher à, to try to, to attempt to   renoncer à, to give up
commencer à, to start to   réussir à, to succeed at
se décider à, to make up one's mind to   servir à, to be used for
encourager à, to encourage to   tenir à, to be anxious to, to be eager to

verbs followed by 'de' before an infinitive:
When the following verbs are followed by an infinitive, the preposition de is required:

(s')arrêter de, to stop   permettre (à quelqu'un) de, to permit someone to
conseiller de, to advise to   persuader de, to persuade to
se contenter de, to content oneself with   se presser de, to hurry to
décider de, to decide to   promettre de, to promise to
s'efforcer de to try hard to, to endeavor to   proposer de, to propose to
essayer de, to try to   refuser de, to refuse to
s'excuser de, to apologize for   rêver de to dream of
finir de, to finish   se soucier de, to care about
mériter de, to deserve, to be worth   se souvenir de, to remember to
oublier de, to forget to    

to avoid the subjunctive
The infinitive is often used in impersonal expressions to avoid the subjunctive when a specific subject is not necessary.

Edouard: Il est tout à fait barbare de manger des hamburgers!   Edouard: It is completely uncivilized to eat hamburgers!

oh, to be in france! in an interrogative or exclamatory phrase
The infinitive may be used in an interrogative phrase or exclamatory phrases to express a dilemma.

Tex se demande: Quel restaurant choisir? Où aller?   Tex wonders: Which restaurant to choose? Where to go?
Oh! Etre en France! Boire un bon vin rouge!   Oh, to be in France! To drink a good red wine!

negation of infinitives
Ne pas, ne plus, ne rien, or ne jamais are placed side by side before the infinitive to make it negative. Ne personne, however, straddles the verb.

Tammy demande aux autres de ne pas se disputer.   Tammy asks the others not to fight.
Tex promet de ne se battre avec personne.   Tex promises not to fight with anyone.

Pas is sometimes omitted in the negative with an infinitive after the verbs savoir, pouvoir, oser and cesser.

Tex et ses amis ne savent que faire   Tex and his friends don't know what to do
et Tammy n'ose parler.   and Tammy doesn't dare speak.

past infinitive constructions
The infinitive of avoir or être plus the past participle of a verb is used after the preposition après to describe a preceding action in the past. Note the past participle agreement in past constructions with être.

Après avoir suggéré plusieurs restaurants, ils choisissent un restaurant français.   After having suggested several restaurants, they choose a French restaurant.
Après être arrivés au restaurant, Joe-Bob et Corey commandent des hamburgers. Ils sont têtus!   After arriving at the restaurant, Joe-Bob and Corey order hamburgers. They are stubborn!


fill in the blanks
Fill in the blank with the correct translations of the English indicated in parentheses.
1. Tex adore ______ au café. (going)

2. ______ est bon pour le coeur et la ligne. (dancing)

3. Prière de ______ . (do not enter)

4. Ce soir les amis sortent pour ______ . (to have dinner)

5. Tex écoute ______ Serge Gainsbourg. (singing)

6. Trey espère ______ une petite amie bientôt. (to find)

7. Vous devez vérifier votre argent avant de ______ . (ordering)

8. Commençons par ______ un hors-d'oeuvre. (ordering)

9. On ne fête pas son anniversaire sans ______ un morceau de gâteau. (having)

10. Edouard! N'oublie pas d' ______ le ketchup. (to bring)

11. Après ______ le dîner, nous irons danser. (having finished)

12. Que ______ ? (to do)