I have exploring several books on English language and some of them mix two notions: an infinitive and "basic form of a verb".

I would like to ask, if there are any difference between them or there is only an infinitive, which is a verb without face, time and number?


The same form of the verb is used in infinitive, subjunctive, and imperative constructions. Your options are to treat this as wide-scale syncretism (all three forms exist but are identical for all verbs) or claim that there is only one form used in all three types of construction.

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL) does the latter. They call this single form the plain form rather than infinitive-subjunctive-imperative form because the latter is unwieldy and because the plain form is generally unadorned by inflection to agree with tense, number, etc.

It's up to you whether you want to treat these as separate forms or not, but treating them as one plain form is theoretically simpler.


I think the infinitive form of a verb is the verb in its basic form only! To make it even simple to understand, this is the verb's version we find in a dictionary!

The infinite form of verb generally follows to (for instance, to work, to study, to eat...and so on). However, it's not always (I must learn English) the case.

On the other hand, finite verb is something that functions as the main verb - I eat everyday. Based on this, an infinite verb is the verb that is not finite and cannot serve as the main verb.

Useful note: An infinitive can also serve as an adverb, a noun or an adjective.

Good read here.


The link above (# 18705) does not mention the term base form. There are various grammar terms in use for the verb form you find in dictionaries:

1 infinitive - the standard Latin term

2 plain form

3 base form - not very precise because we normally have three base forms, some verbs have more, e.g. to be and to do.

4 And as this is not enough, CGEL must introduce a fourth term: infinitival.

English uses one and the same form as infinitive, as present subjunctive and as imperative. Other languages often have three different forms.

  • "Infinitival" is not a verbform but a clause type. CGEL is very big (and correctly so, to my mind) on distinguishing forms and uses of forms. – StoneyB Oct 4 '15 at 2:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.