How to Use Spanish Infinitives as Nouns
Spanish infinitives may surprise you. Spanish-speaking people use this verb form more often than English speakers, and sometimes in totally unexpected ways.
Do you know the three endings of Spanish infinitives? Can they work as nouns? Do they have a plural form? How do you use them in a sentence?
If you aren’t sure about the answers to these questions, keep reading! I promise to solve all your doubts in this short guide to using common Spanish infinitives as nouns.
What are Spanish Infinitives?
Infinitives are the first verb forms you get to know while starting your learning journey in Spanish. How do you say “to speak” in Spanish? Hablar. That’s the infinitive form of the verb.
- amar – to love
- comer – to eat
- vivir – to live
Today, you’ll learn that you can also translate Spanish infinitives into English words that are not infinitives. Weird, isn’t it? Wait and you’ll understand.
To learn more, read What is an Infinitive in Spanish.
How Can a Verb Function as a Noun?
A noun—sustantivo or nombre in Spanish—refers to people, places, things, or ideas. You use it in a sentence as a subject, object of a verb, or object of a preposition.
Spanish nouns are either feminine (la mesa – the table) or masculine (el pájaro – the bird). They also have singular and plural forms and are preceded by indefinite (un, una) or definite articles (el, la).
Now, let me explain how Spanish infinitives, which are verbs, occasionally function as nouns. They work in a sentence the same way. For example:
I need work.
I need to work.
First, let’s notice what’s different.
Spanish infinitives that function as nouns do not need an article, nor do they vary in gender or number. They work as singular masculine nouns, as confirmed by the form of the adjective that accompanies them.
Trabajar es bueno.
Working is good.
Add an article for emphasis:
El comer bien es importante.
Eating well is important.
Over time, people use certain infinitives as nouns so often that they are converted into real nouns with plural forms:
- el ser (being)
- los saberes (knowledge)
- el deber (duty)
- el placer (pleasure)
For this reason, they assume all proper functions of nouns: subjects, direct objects, prepositional objects, and predicate nominatives.
5 Ways to Use Spanish Infinitives as Nouns
Now, let’s take a closer look at all the situations when they work as nouns in a sentence.
1. Spanish Infinitives as a Subject
Often, you use them as a subject and translate it into English as a verb in gerund form (-ing).
El fumar es malo.
Smoking is bad.
Beber agua es muy bueno.
Drinking water is very good.
Dancing relaxes you.
Está prohibido nadar aquí.
Swimming here is prohibited.
2. Spanish Infinitives as the Object of a Verb
It’s also common to use them as a verbal object.
Quiero leer este libro.
I want to read this book.
Necesitas trabajar más.
You need to work more.
Te vi hablar con el enemigo.
I saw you talk to the enemy.
3. Spanish Infinitives as a Prepositional Object
You surely know that prepositions link verbs with nouns—Vivo en Madrid (I live in Madrid)—but they also link verbs with other verbs, in the infinitive form of course.
In most cases, you translate them after prepositions into a gerund (but not always).
Pienso en dormir.
I think about sleeping.
Al entrar a la casa me acordé que no había cerrado el coche.
Upon entering the house, I remembered that I had not locked the car.
No quiero volver a enfermarme.
I don’t want to get sick again.
Gracias por llamarme.
Thanks for calling.
Te llamé para explicarte algo.
I called you to explain something.
Acabo de levantarme.
I just got up.
4. Spanish Infinitives as a Predicate Nominative
They also finish the idea of a linking verb, usually the verb ser (to be). They appear with an indefinite, masculine article un in this case:
Trabajar aquí es un sufrir.
Working here is a pain.
Es un decir, no te enojes.
It’s a saying, don’t be mad.
5. Spanish Infinitives as a Verbal Complement
Infinitives can also finish the idea of a linking verb without adding an article, just by being a complement to a linking verb.
Lo importante es saber dónde están las salidas de emergencia.
The important thing is to know where the emergency exits are.
Lo que quiero es bailar toda la noche.
What I want is to dance the night away.
Él parece estar cansado.
He seems to be tired.
Spanish Infinitives as Nouns Quiz
Now that you’ve learned about Spanish infinitives as nouns, test out your new knowledge with this multiple-choice quiz.
1. What part of speech are Spanish infinitives?
2. What are the possible endings for Spanish infinitives?
3. You can never use articles with Spanish infinitives.
4. What is the usual gender and number of Spanish infinitives used as nouns?
5. ___________ es malo. (Smoking is bad.)
6. Me gusta ________. (I like speaking.)
7. La vida aquí es _________. (Living here is a pain.)
8. Solo piensas en ________. (You only think about eating.)
9. Gracias por ________. (Thank you for calling).
10. Ella parece _______ alguien famoso. (She seems to be somebody famous).
Congratulations! You’ve just learned an important Spanish topic that gets you closer to Spanish fluency. Spanish infinitives are basic but essential forms in Spanish grammar and knowing how to use them correctly is crucial.
Using Spanish infinitives is challenging at first, as they work differently from English infinitives. But knowing how to do it improves not only your Spanish but also your cognition and decision-making abilities. Being bilingual is beneficial in so many ways.
If you want to give a boost to your Spanish infinitive skills, sign up for a free trial class with one of our professional, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. Ask them to review and practice your skills with basic Spanish infinitives.
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