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Allen and Greenough/ New Latin Grammar


451. The Infinitive is properly a noun denoting the action of the verb abstractly. It differs, however, from other abstract nouns in the following points: (1) it often admits the distinction of tense; (2) it is modified by adverbs, not by adjectives; (3) it governs the same case as its verb; (4) it is limited to special constructions.

The Latin Infinitive is the dative or locative case of such a noun1 and was originally used to denote Purpose; but it has in many constructions developed into a substitute for a finite verb. Hence the variety of its use.

In its use as a verb, the Infinitive may take a Subject Accusative (§ 397. e), originally the object of another verb on which the Infinitive depended. Thus iubeō tē valēre is literally I command you for being well (cf. substantive clauses, § 562. N.).

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The ending ( amāre , monēre , regere , audīre ) was apparently locative, the ending ( amārī , monērī , regī , audīrī ) apparently dative; but this difference of case had no significance for Latin syntax. The general Latin restriction of the ī- infinitives to the passive was not a primitive distinction, but grew up in the course of time.