Jun 13 • 4M


Also known as a verb.

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Knowing cognates can strengthen your vocabulary skills.
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infinitive — the basic form of the verb before it is changed for tense or subject (if you can put “to” in front of it, then it’s the infinitive form)

infinitivo — the Spanish cognate of the same meaning

Split infinitives | typerrorsinenglish

In English class sometime in your past, you may have heard the grammar “rule” that tells you not to split an “infinitive,” yet you may never even have been taught what an “infinitive” is. Knowing what one is comes in very handy when studying Spanish, Italian, or many other foreign languages.

Verbs drive languages. They are the heart of every sentence. In fact, it’s not a complete sentence without a verb. You can have one-word sentences that are complete, but only if that one word is a verb. Listen. Run. Sit. Leave. And so on and so on. (That last sentence is not a complete sentence because it doesn’t have a verb!)

Fortunately, the word “verb” has very obvious cognates in both Spanish and Italian where the word is “verbo.”

Learning to correctly use verbs is how you become fluent in a language. You can memorize as many phrases as you like, but until you know how to use the verbs, you’ll never really understand the language. To learn verbs well in Spanish, you must learn the three “infinitivo” endings and then how those endings change when you conjugate the verbs to agree with their subjects and tenses. In Spanish, all “infinitivos” either end in -ar, -er, or -ir.

Thus, you have “hablar” for “to speak,” “comer” for “to eat,” and “escribir” for “to write.”

When I taught Spanish, I would also throw in an English grammar lesson about “infinitives” because my high school students had never heard of them. The rare student would know the grammar rule about not splitting them, but that student wouldn’t know what one was and why you shouldn’t split it.

In Spanish, it is impossible to split an “infinitivo” because it’s one word, but in English when we use the word “to” in front of the basic form of the verb to create an “infinitive,” then it’s easy to insert a word between “to” and its verb.

Example: “I want to really understand this.” The infinitive is now split by “really.” The correct way to say this would be “I really want to understand this.” However, all rules are meant to be broken, so this one often is, also. I wanted to explain it for you, though, if you never understood it.

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Hamlet said it correctly when he soliloquized, “To be or not to be.” He didn’t split that second infinitive and say “To be or to not be.”

“Infinite” and “infinitive” come from the same Latin word, but their meanings are not similar. Sometimes I would joke, though, about the seemingly “infinite” conjugations that exist for “infinitives” in Spanish. The students didn’t really find that to be funny, but I did, and that’s all that mattered. Ha.

I've started to actually slap my knee when I'm laughing. | NeoGAF

If you’ve ever tried to learn Spanish, French, Italian, German, etc., you have experience conjugating those “infinitives.” If you haven’t and never plan to study another language, try at least to understand what “infinitives” are in English. And try not to split them.

To boldly split what no one should split: The infinitive. - The Historical  Linguist Channel

Thanks for joining me today. Until next time.

Tammy Marshall

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