Bare Infinitive

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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):

We use the bare infinitive after modal auxiliaries


However, we do not use the bare infinitive after need to, dare to and ought to, due to their nature (these modal auxiliaries are connected to ‘to’): 

CanI can tell you where he is if you like.
CouldThey could know.
MayShe may head out to the party tonight.
MightSophie might understand it better.
WillWill you please be quiet?
ShallThey shall know by tomorrow.
MustHarry, you must not cross a red light!
WouldWould you be able to help me?
ShouldGeorge 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. 

We use the bare infinitive after many verbs of perception, verbs used to perceive.

(These verbs of perception can also take the gerund form): 

WatchI watched you leave/leaving yesterday.
SeeI didn’t see you work/working.
HearHarry can hear me speak/speaking.
NoticeI notice you quarrel a fair bit.
FeelI felt you check/checking my ears.
SenseI sensed them come/coming.
SmellThe dog can smell you eat/eating. 

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?

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