The Spanish subjunctive and past tenses are known to be some of the most difficult grammar points for people learning Spanish as a foreign language. However, the infinitive verb form should not overlooked, as it can be sneakily tricky. Check out just how many different uses the infinitive has.


In the Spanish language, we sometimes see certain non-personal forms of the verb in the infinitive, as well as in the gerund and in the participle. These can be used to express a meaning similar to the verb itself, however, they do not indicate tense, quantity or gender.


Thus, it’s necessary to learn about the different usages of these forms, in order to prevent us from becoming completely lost. So, let’s review them together.


We need to keep in mind that the infinitive has two methods of expression:


  • Infinitivo simple (simple infinitive): trabajar, hacer, ir.

Quiero trabajar - I want to work

  • Infinitivo compuesto (compound infinitive): haber trabajado, haber hecho, haber ido.

Deberías haber trabajado más - You should have worked more.

Usages of the infinitive

1. Grammar structures: Verbs + Simple infinitive.

2. Simple infinitive as a grammar subject.

3. Prepositions + Simple infinitive.

4. Simple Infinitive vs. Subjunctive.

5. Compound Infinitive (Perfect Infinitive).

1. Grammar structures: Verbs + Simple infinitive.

There are a lot of these types of grammar structures. Below we are goingo to review some of them. 

1.1 Grammar structures to express wishes.

  • Querer + infinitivo - Quiero vivir en un pueblo - I want to live in a town.
  • Desear + infinitivo - Deseamos aprobar el examen. - We want to pass the exam.
  • Necesitar + infinitivo - Necesitas trabajar menos - You need to work less.

1.2 Grammar structures to express an action in the future.

  • Ir + a + infinitivo - Mañana voy a ir al cine - Tomorrow I'm going to go to the cinema.
  • Empezar + a infinitivo - Tan pronto como pueda empezaré a comer - As soon as I can I will start eating.

1.3 Grammar structure to express being able to do something .

  • Poder + infinitivo - Mi jefe me puede despedir en cualquier momento. - My boss can fire me at any time.

1.4 Grammar structures to express the need of doing something (obligation).

  • Tener + que + infinitivo (personal) -Tengo que limpiar mi casa - I have to clean my house.
  • Haber + que + infinitivo (impersonal) -Hay que escoger el tipo de tela que quieres para el traje - We have to choose the type of fabric you want for the suit.
  • Deber + infinitivo - Debes estudiar más - You should study more.
  • No + infinitivo (is equivalent to a command or a general statement in signs, posters, and ads ) - No pisar el césped - Keep off the grass.

1.5 Grammar structures to express feelings.

  • Gustar. Encantar + infinitivo - Me encanta estar de vacaciones - I love being on vacation.
  • Tener ganas + de + infinitivo - Hoy tenemos ganas de comer pizza - Today we feel like eating pizza.
  • Apetecer + infinitivo - No me apetece ir al trabajo - I don't feel like going to work.


2 Simple infinitive as a grammar subject.

In Spanish, infinitives can be used as the subject of a verb. When infinitives are used as subjects, they usually appear before the verb and can optionally be preceded by the definite article el (the). Notice that in English, when the verb shows action, it uses a gerund “-ing.”


  • Amanecer - dawn’ -> - El amanecer aquí es tranquilo - Dawn here is quiet
  • ‘Anochecer - dusk’ -> El anochecer - The dusk.- El anochecer en invierno es muy pronto - Dusk in winter is very early. 
  • Beber - drink’ -> (El) Beber agua es bueno para la salud - Drinking water is good for health.
  • Dormir - sleep’ -> (El) Dormir cuando hace calor, es duro - Sleeping when it 's hot is hard.
  • Aprender - learn’ -> (El) Aprender un nuevo idioma es muy interesante - Learning a new language is very interesting.


3 Prepositions + Simple infinitive.

In Spanish when we use a verb after a preposition, we always need the simple infinitive form. Notice that in English you use an “-ing” in some cases.    

  • Regresó a su país para estar más cerca de su familia - He returned to his country to be closer to his family..
  • Se marchó sin decir adiós - He left without saying good-bye.
  • Apaga las luces antes de salir - Turn the lights off before leaving.
  • Está cansado de discutir - He is tired of arguing.
  • Sueña con tener un día su propio negocio - She dreams of having her own business.
  • A saber - La mano tiene cinco dedos, a saber: el meñique, anular, corazón, índice y pulgar - The hand has five fingers, namely: the little finger, ring finger, middle finger, index finger and thumb.
  • Al (a + el) entrar, dijo hola - Upon entering, he said hello.


4 Simple Infinitive vs. Subjunctive.

To express wishes to the same subject, the simple infinitive is needed avoiding the subjunctive tense.


(YO) Deseo que (YO) viaje (subjunctive present) por todo el mundo ->

(YO) Deseo viajar por todo el mundo - I want to travel around the world

(ELLA) No quiere que (ELLA) (subjunctive present) trabaje en su casa ->

(ELLA) No quiere trabajar en su casa - She doesn't want to work at home.


Also, some influential verbs can be followed by the simple infinitive. This structure can be used as an impersonal alternative to the subjunctive. However, you should be very careful! In many of these cases, the passive voice is used in English.


El magnate mandó construir una pirámide.

It 's accepted subjunctive: Mandó que construyeran una pirámide.

The tycoon ordered a pyramid to be built 

El gobierno prohibió mostrar las imágenes.

It 's accepted subjunctive: El gobierno prohibió que mostraran las imágenes.

The government didn't allow the pictures to be shown.

5 Compound Infinitive (Perfect Infinitive).

The compound infinitive is created by combining the infinitive form of the auxiliary verb 'haber' (meaning 'to have') with the past participle of a different verb. This construction is employed alongside another verb to convey an event that took place prior to the main verb's action. To employ this form, both actions must share the same subject. Compound Infinitives are utilized in identical situations as basic infinitives (either as the subject, following a conjugated verb and after a preposition).

El haber estudiado todos los días me ayudó a pasar el examen.

Having studied every day helped me pass the exam.

Espero haber resuelto tus dudas.

I hope I have resolved your questions.

Salió sin haber terminado la tarea.

He left without having finished his homework.

You can use the preposition ‘de’ followed by the compound infinitive to state a condition.

De haber estudiado todos los días, no habría pasado el examen.

If I hadn’t studied every day, I wouldn’t have passed the exam.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments in the chat. I'll be glad to answer them. 

I hope the article has helped you better understand the uses of the Infinitive.

If you'd like to delve deeper into this topic, or any other, let's begin an iTalki classroom. I am more than happy to work together.

Thanks for reading.