The Infinitive

by Asher Hawkins

I. General

The infinitive is a noun form of a verb.

II. History

Originally, it was meant to be either a dative or locative case-wise. A substantive clause with a subject accusative, for example iubeo te valere, literally means "I bid you for being well," valere being a dative of purpose. That is why the infinitive has dual citizenship as both noun, like a gerund or a participle, or as verb, like a subjunctive.

III. Uses

Syntactically, the infinitive has five main catagories:

IV.  Further Thoughts

The infinitive is a noun form of a verb that slowly turned back into a verb: the earliest form of the infinitive was as a subject or predicate nominative. Next, it served as the complementing connection between a noun and a verb ("I bid you for being well"), and evolved from there, until it became a verb with its own clauses. For this reason, it is hard to deem the infinitive a mood, although most would. A mood, at least as Websterís defines it, is the way in which a verb governs a sentence; subjunctives, indicatives, and imperatives make the sentence hypothetical, actual, or overridingly urgent, respectively (coincidentally, Websterís only lists these three as moods). That which is in its basest form a noun cannot really control the type of action of the sentence, however great its agility at modifying the main verb. We would never really think of designating a mood for gerunds or participles. It is only by chance that we treat the infinitive as a veridical verb.

Jenney, Charles Jr., Rogers V. Scudder, and David D. Coffin.  Third Year Latin (Newton, MA.  Allyn and Bacon Inc.  1963)