Using Infinitives After Conjugated Verbs in Spanish

Usually, infinitive refers to subject of sentence

Two siblings, brother and sister, running across España square,Seville, Spain

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The Spanish infinitive is used quite frequently after conjugated verbs, and sometimes in a way that has no direct equivalent in English. Although the Spanish infinitive is sometimes translated as an infinitive in English, it isn't always, as the following examples show:

  • Quiero salir. (I want to leave.)
  • Èl evita estudiar. (He avoids studying.)
  • Necesito comprar dos huevos. (I need to buy two eggs.)
  • El que teme pensar es esclavo de la superstición. (The one who fears thinking is enslaved to superstition.)
  • Intentó ganar el control. (He tried to gain control.)

Note that in the above examples, both verbs (the conjugated verb and the infinitive that follows) refer to action by the same subject. This is usually the case when infinitives follow other verbs; the main exceptions are detailed in our lesson on using infinitives with a change of subject. Thus a sentence such as "Dice ser católica" ("She says she herself is Catholic") doesn't have the same ambiguity that a sentence such as "Dice que es católica" would have (it could mean that the Catholic person is someone other than the subject of the sentence).

Using Infinitives

As discussed in our lesson on infinitives as nouns, the infinitive has characteristics of both a verb and a noun. Thus, when an infinitive is used after a verb, some grammarians view the infinitive as an object of the conjugated verb, while others see it as a dependent verb. It doesn't matter much how you classify it — just note that in either case both the conjugated verb and the infinitive normally refer to action taken by the same subject.

If another person is performing the action, the sentence needs to be recast, usually by using que. For example, "María me aseguró no saber nada" (María assured me she knows nothing), but "María me aseguró que Roberto no sabe nada" (María assured me that Roberto knows nothing).

In many cases, either the infinitive or a sentence using que can be used when the person is performing the action of both verbs. Thus "sé tener razón" (I know I'm right) is basically the equivalent of "sé que tengo razón," although the second sentence construction is less formal and more common in everyday speech.

Common Verbs Followed by Infinitives

Following is a list of some of the verbs that most commonly are followed directly by an infinitive, along with sample sentences. It is not intended to be a complete list.

  • aceptar (to accept) — Nunca aceptará ir a los Estados Unidos. (He will never accept going to the United States.)
  • acordar (to agree) — Acordamos darle dos dólares. (We agreed to give him two dollars.)
  • afirmar (to affirm, to state, to say) — El 20% de los mexicanos entrevistados afirmó no hablar de política. (Twenty percent of the Mexicans interviewed said they don't talk about politics.)
  • amenazar (to threaten) — Amenazó destruir la casa. (He threatened to destroy the house.)
  • anhelar (to yearn, to long for) — Anhela comprar el coche. (She yearns to buy the car.)
  • asegurar (to assure, to affirm) — Aseguro no saber nada. (I affirm I know nothing.)
  • buscar (to seek, to look for) — Busco ganar experiencia en este campo. (I am looking to gain experience in this field.)
  • creer (to believe) — No creo estar exagerando. (I do not believe I am exaggerating.)
  • deber (ought to, should) — Para aprender, debes salir de tu zona de comodidad. (In order to learn, you ought to leave your comfort zone.)
  • decidir (to decide) — Decidió nadar hasta la otra orilla. (She decided to swim to the other shore.)
  • demostrar (to demonstrate, to show) — Roberto demostró saber manejar. (Roberto showed he knows how to drive.)
  • desear, querer (to want, to desire) — Quiero/deseo escribir un libro. (I want to write a book.)
  • esperar (to wait for, to hope for, to expect) — Yo no esperaba tener el coche. (I was not expecting to have the car.)
  • fingir (to pretend) — Dorothy finge dormir. (Dorothy is pretending to be sleeping.)
  • intentar (to try) — Siempre intento jugar lo mejor posible.) (I always try to play my best possible.)
  • lamentar, sentir (to regret) — Lamento haber comido. (I regret having eaten.)
  • lograr (to succeed in) — No logra estudiar bien. (He does not succeed in studying well.)
  • negar (to deny) — No niego haber tenido suerte. (I do not deny having been lucky.)
  • pensar (to think, to plan) — Pienso hacerlo. (I plan to do it.)
  • poder (to be able, can) — No puedo dormir. (I can't sleep.)
  • preferir (to prefer) — Prefiero no estudiar. (I prefer not to study.)
  • reconocer (to acknowledge) — Reconozco haber mentido. (I admit having lied.)
  • recordar (to remember) — No recuerda haber bebido. (He doesn't remember having drunk.)
  • soler (to be habitually) — Pedro solía mentir. (Pedro would habitually lie.)
  • temer (to fear) — Tema nadar. (She is afraid of swimming.)

As you can see from some of the above examples, the infinitive haber followed by the past participle is frequently used to refer to action in the past.

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Erichsen, Gerald. "Using Infinitives After Conjugated Verbs in Spanish." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Erichsen, Gerald. (2023, April 5). Using Infinitives After Conjugated Verbs in Spanish. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Using Infinitives After Conjugated Verbs in Spanish." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).