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Bare infinitive

It’s not so easy to know when and why you need to use the bare infinitive (run, joke, make etc.), a gerund or ‘to’ + infinitive, and whether or not it is correct. There are three rules as to why we use the bare infinitive (infinitive without ‘to’ or -ing):

 

  1. The bare infinitive is used after modal auxiliary verbs (helping verbs; Can & Couldmay & mightwill & shall, mustwouldought to & shouldneed todare to)
  2. We use the bare infinitive after many verbs or perception, verbs used to perceive. (see, notice, hear etc.) 
  3. We use the bare infinitive with ‘why’ Interrogatives; wh-? words and how? (why leave/help/find etc). ,
  • (1) we use the bare infinitive after modal auxiliaries, but not after need to, dare to and ought to, due to their nature (these modal auxiliaries are connected to ‘to’): 

 

Can I can tell you where he is if you like.
Could They could know.
May She may head out to the party tonight.
Might Sophie might understand it better.
Will Will you please be quiet?
Shall They shall know by tomorrow.
Must Harry, you must not cross a red light!
Would Would you be able to help me?
Should George should definitely run the marathon.
Ought to * You ought to know what he said. 
Need to *Sir. please, you need to listen to him. 
Dare to *They dared me to jump off. 
    • (2) We use the bare infinitive after many verbs of perception, verbs used to perceive. (Can also take the gerund form): 
    Watch I watched you leave/leaving yesterday.
    See I didn’t see you work/working.
    Hear Harry can hear me speak/speaking.
    Notice I notice you quarrel a fair bit.
    Feel I felt you check/checking my ears.
    Sense I sensed them come/coming.
    Smell The dog can smell you eat/eating. 
      • (3) We use the bare infinitive with ‘why’: 

      Why did you leave so early last night?

      Why go now?

      Why not learn to sail?

      Why write when you can type?

      Why have I not seen you before?

       

      See also: 

       


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