edited by Meagan Ayer et al.

The Infinitive

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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, Note).


1. 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.

An Introduction to the Latin Infinitive

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