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Infinitely more infinitives in Italian

The present infinitive form of verbs is used much more in the Italian language than in English. First a few examples of similar constructions, then all the different uses.

'Essere o non essere' caption

Similar Usage in both Languages:

1. After modal verbs and sapere when it means 'know how to'

Dobbiamo studiare = we have to study

Non possono venire = they are not able to come

So cucinare = I know how to cook

Vorrei andare in Italia = I would like to go to Italy

2. After many impersonal verbs and expressions

Che bello essere qua = how nice it is to be here

Bisogna riprovare = you need to try again

È importante studiare = it's important to study

È difficile capirlo = it's hard to understand him

3. After 'da' where English often, but not always, uses the infinitive as well

Ho molto da fare = I have a lot to do

Lucca è una città da vedere = Lucca is a city worth seeing

Hai un appartamento da affittare? = Do you have an apartment to rent?

Non c'era da preoccuparsi = there was nothing to worry about

Vuoi qualcosa da bere? = do you want something to drink?

Different Usage in Italian

1. After prepositions and conjunctions where English uses the gerund (ing)

È partito senza salutarci = he left without saying goodbye

Oltre a visitare Lucca = besides visiting Lucca

Invece di mangiare a casa = instead of eating at home

Prima di uscire = before going out

Piuttosto che prendere la macchina, usa la bici = rather than taking the car, use the bike

2. After verbs of emotion where English often uses the gerund

Preferisco stare a casa stasera = I prefer staying at home this evening

Ti dispiace cucinare oggi? = do you mind cooking today?

Non m'interessa imparare l'Italiano = I'm not interested in learning Italian

Non vale la pena farlo = it's not worth doing

3. After 'fare' and 'lasciare' (far fare will be covered in a separate article)

Ti faccio sapere = I'll let you know

Fammi vedere = let me see/show me

Mi ha fatto arrabbiare = he made me angry

Lascia perdere = let it go

Lascia stare = drop it

Ho lasciato passare il camion = I let the truck overtake

Lasciami finire il lavoro = let me finish my work

4. At the beginning of emphatic statements, also where English often uses the gerund

Noleggiare una macchina in Italia è semplice = renting a car in Italy is easy

Guidare a Napoli è pericoloso = driving in Naples is dangerous

Vivere con una donna italiana è complicato = living with an Italian woman is complicated

5. After verbs of opinion and belief where the subject is the same and therefore Italian uses the present infinitive after 'di' not the subjunctive after 'che'

Penso di venire più tardi = I think I'll come later

Non credo di poter venire = I don't think I can come

Crede di avere un raffreddore = he thinks he's got a cold

Loro hanno paura di prendere l'aereo = they're afraid of flying

6. Exclamations where English sometimes uses the gerund

Ciro essere puntuale? Quando mai? = Ciro being on time? When has that ever happened!

Io vivere in Francia? Assolutamente no! = me living in France? No way!

Perdonarlo? Mai! = forgive him? Never!

7. As a noun

Lamentarsi non serve a niente = complaining is useless

Col passare del tempo il dolore si attenua = as time passes the pain eases

Non sopportava l'abbaiare del cane = he couldn't stand the dog barking

8. When forming the negative imperative in the 2nd personal singular

Non dimenticare le chiavi = don't forget the keys

Non fare casino stasera = don't go crazy/let it get out of hand this evening

Non andarci = don't go there

Non correre = don't run

9. As an imperative/instruction

Tirare = pull

Soffriggere le patate = fry the potatoes

Spingere = push


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