When I say “Adam will travel tomorrow,” what form is the verb travel in compared to “Adam didn’t travel” and “Alex made Adam travel”?

In other words, what form is the verb travel in example #1 below compared to in examples #2 and #3?

  1. Adam will travel tomorrow.
  2. Adam didn’t travel.
  3. Alex made Adam travel.

Can you please give me an example or two where the “base form” of the verb is used and yet cannot be considered as an “infinitive”? Would any of these count as that, whether with or without the to preceding it?

  1. “Adam, travel tomorrow not today,” advised Alex.
  2. Alex wanted Adam to travel tomorrow.
  3. To travel tomorrow would be easier than to travel today.
  4. For Adam to travel tomorrow would be easiest.
  5. Alex thought it best that Adam travel tomorrow.
  6. Alex insisted that Adam travel tomorrow.
  7. Travel tomorrow and save a lot of money!
  • @tchrist I think you used a ligature for the double ff in the title, as it didn't show up for me - hence the edit.
    – Joachim
    Oct 16, 2023 at 8:47

5 Answers 5


The base form is that form of the verb that usually appears in the dictionary. It is the form from which all other parts of a regular verb are constructed. For example, WORK is the base form of the verb; from it we can construct the forms works, working and worked.

The base form is used unchanged for the first and second persons singular and all plural forms of the present simple of all verbs except BE. It is also used for the bare infinitive (the form which, for example, follows the modals - he can work), the imperative and, for those who use it, all persons of the present subjunctive. The to- infinitive is a form consisting of the particle to and the bare infinitive; It has a variety of uses as in, for example, I want to work, It is pleasant to work, To work for a top accounting form is the dream of many young accountants.

In all your sentences, the bare infinitive travel is used

  • @StoneyB - Thanks. I have added those. Silly of me to not to have thought of them.
    – tunny
    Nov 11, 2014 at 20:58

In English, verbs aren't commonly described as infinitives except by people who are learning English as native speakers of another language (especially Romance languages) or by people who are obsessed with Latin. When people do talk about English infinitives, they're talking about verbs that take their simple, present tense forms and do not have a definite duration. For example:

  • I want to go to Florida.
  • To resist is futile.
  • I could read all day!

The infinitive structure comes to us courtesy of Latin, and its useful to English language learners because many Romance languages employe the structure. For example, verbs in Spanish have actual infinitive forms that get used in specific circumstances in Spanish grammar, like when you talk about something that pleases you. When I say in Spanish, "Me gusta jugar a baloncesto," what I'm literally saying in English is, "To play basketball pleases me." This sounds odd in English because we don't use infinitives the same way Spanish speakers do, but in Spanish, this kind of sentence construction is common.

In your examples, all of your sentences are using "travel" as an infinitive, but trying to figure out why will probably confuse you for no good reason. Learning how to analyze sentences can help you identify infinitives, but learning how to identify infinitives will almost certainly not benefit you in any meaningful way simply because we don't use infinitive structures consistently in English.

Here are the answers to the questions in your title:

  • The infinitive form of a verb, in English, is the form of the verb used to describe action of a non-finite duration, possibly with the word "to" attached to it, as with "to go", "to play", or "to study".
  • The bare infinitive form of a verb is the same as the infinitive form, only without the word "to".
  • The base form of a verb is incidentally the same as the infinitive--the form of the verb used to describe action of a non-finite duration, without "to". We use the phrase base form to describe something different, though. A verb's base form is the form of the verb that has no special endings. You'll find verbs listed in the dictionary by their base forms. "Go" is a base form, but "went" is not. "Play" is a base form, but "to play" is not. "Study" is a base form, but "studies" is not. When you see a base form of a verb in writing, it's probably either acting as a first or second person singular verb ("I go," "You go,"), a plural present tense verb ("We go," "They go,"), and/or an infinitive. Base forms of verbs can be infinitives, but they aren't always.
  • Your example of the Spanish infinitive sentence is interesting, in that in English it is perfectly natural to say "I like to play basketball" using the infinitive to play, but we wouldn't use the infinitive with synonyms of like: "I enjoy to play basketball" (which I think is a closer translation of Me gusta...) is awkward, instead you would use the present participle, "I enjoy playing basketball".
    – AmeliaBR
    Nov 12, 2014 at 1:49
  • -1 for your first sentence, which is quite wrong.
    – ruakh
    Nov 12, 2014 at 2:10
  • Can you please give me and example or two where the base form of the verb is used and yet can not be considered as an infinitive?
    – Alex
    Nov 14, 2014 at 0:24
  • 1
    Infinitives (in the sense of Latin or Spanish infinitives) exist in Germanic languages too. (Reminder: English is a Germanic language.) For example, in German, the infinitive form is what's listed in a dictionary and ends with '-en." It has no tense and is not inflected/marked as part of conjugation/agreement with the person or number of its subject. It is different in morphology from conjugated (finite) verb forms.
    – zunojeef
    Apr 4, 2022 at 0:31
  • @AmeliaBR Some verbs in English "take ing"; others do not. And some even take both. enjoy can only take ing.
    – Lambie
    Oct 16, 2023 at 13:58

Alex, your Question was: Can you please give me and example or two where the base form of the verb is used and yet can not be considered as an infinitive?

This is a good question and one that I had been wondering about. The infinitive "to play" without the word "to" is called a bare infinitive. The bare infinitive and the base form are pretty much the same thing.


"I play in the yard." - base form

"I want to play in the yard." - infinitive form

As was mentioned before, the base form is seen in dictionaries. The word is listed by itself without being in a sentence. For instance the word "Play" would be in the dictionary by itself. After the word, the dictionary may show its uses in a sentence, but it initially simply puts the word out alone. Here it could be said that we are thinking of the base form.

As was mentioned before by R Mac on Nov 11, 2014 - we often think of the infinitive when we are learning languages like Spanish or English for the first time. The word "play" can be a verb or a noun. In a language learning dictionary, the word "Play" might be put out as "Play (to)" or "Play". In a language learning dictionary, they write in "Play (to)" because it is a quick way to let learners know that this is the verb: "to play". They do this so that it can not be confused with the noun "play" (or "a play"). In this instance "Play (to)" is thought of as an infinitive and not a base form.

  • Use citations in answers, if you please.
    – lbf
    Mar 31, 2018 at 16:10

Base form = Bare infinitive. Play, go, read, eat, etc.
Infinitive = TO + base form. To play, To go, To read, To eat, etc.

  • You should include some explanation with references to improve this as an answer. Aug 30, 2022 at 7:09

Infinitives are divided into two parts, To-infinitive and Bare-infinitie. Base form is a verb listed in the headword in the dictionary and the present verb (v1) is the one that can be categerized into two different forms (go and goes, try and tries, stomach and stomachs...)

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