Italian Infinitive Mode

The infinitive mode is probably the easiest of modes to recognize and use. It has a present tense and a past tense. The present tense is probably the one we are all familiar with as it is used in all dictionaries to express the meaning of a verb (e.g. mangiare -> to eat).

Modo Infinito | (Infinitive Mode)

The infinitive mode has both a present form (infinito presente) and a past form (infinito passato). The interesting characteristic of this mode, similarly to the gerundio, is that it never changes form.

Present TensePast Tense
(to speak)
avere parlato
(to have spoken)
  • Ho voglia di parlare con qualcuno – (I want to speak to someone)
  • Dopo avere parlato per ore, ci siamo salutati – (After having spoken for hours, we said goodbye)

Presente | (Present Tense)

The infinitive present tense has three main endings: -are, -ere, -ire. Based on these endings we are able to divide all Italian verbs into three classes:
  • Verbs ending with are(mangiare -> to eat)
  • Verbs ending with ere – (leggereto read)
  • Verbs ending with -ire – (partire -> to sleep)
For Example:
  • Mi piace mangiare la pizza – (I like to eat pizza)
  • Luca non vuole leggere il libro – (Luca does not want to read the book)
  • Dobbiamo partire domani – (We need to leave tomorrow)

The present infinitive can also be used in the following instances:

  • It can be used as a noun:
    • Dormire bene è importante – (It is important to sleep well)
  • It can be used to give an order or directions instead of the imperative mode:
    • Accendere il forno a 180 gradi – (Turn on the oven to 180 degrees)
  • It can be used with another verb in a dependent clause to indicate that the action of the dependent clause is happening at the same time or shortly after to the action of the main clause:
    • Vorrei andare in Italia per imparare l’italiano – (I’d like to go to Italy to learn Italian)
  • It can be coupled with pronouns by dropping its last vowel:
    • Mi devo lavare le mani -> Devo lavarmi le mani – (I need to wash my hands)

Passato | (Past Tense)

The infinitive past tense varies depending on whether the verb is transitive or intransitive. If the verb is transitive then the past tense would be formed with the auxiliary verb avere, while if it is intransitive then it would use the the essere auxiliary verb.

Transitive Verbs

The past infinitive of transitive verbs is formed with the infinitive of avere + the past participle of the verb.

Aver(e) mangiatoAver(e) lettoAver(e) dormito
For Example:
  • Aver mangiato tutti quei dolci mi ha fatto stare male – (Having eaten all those sweets made feel sick)
  • Non posso credere di avere letto tutto il libro – (I can’t believe I have read the entire book)
  • Devo aver dormito per un bel po’ – (I must have slept for a while)

Intransitive Verbs

The past infinitive of intransitive verbs is formed with the infinitive of essere + the past participle of the verb.

Essere andatoEssere piaciutoEssere partito
For Example:
  • Essere andato al mare mi ha fatto sentire meglio – (Having gone to the beach made me feel better)
  • Ti deve essere piaciuto molto quel libro – (You must have liked that book a lot)
  • Mario non può essere partito – (Mario can’t have left)

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