The infinitive form of a verb is its basic unconjugated form. In English, the full infinitive includes the word “to” before the verb. To run. To chase. To pet.

Aimer, c’est vivre.

“To love is to live.” Two French infinitives at work.

There are three main groups of French infinitives, distinguished by their endings: -er, -ir, -re.

The -er group is the biggest, so it’s the first group our French textbook teaches us to conjugate. Parler (to speak), aimer (to like), and aller (to go) are some common -er verbs.

Je parle = I speak
Tu parles = you speak (familiar, singular you)
Vous parlez = you speak (formal, plural you)
Nous parlons = we speak
Il/elle parle = he/she speaks
Ils/elles parlent = they speak

The same conjugations for present tense apply to present progressive. So “Je parle” also means “I am speaking.” Exciting news for cats who conjugate like dogs.

A “split infinitive” has an adverb in between “to” and the verb.

infinitive: to meow
split infinitive: to loudly meow

(Some English teachers’ claws come out if your habit is to unnecessarily split infinitives.)

Question for French speakers: Getting way ahead of myself here, but is there such a thing as a split infinitive in French? Est-il possible?

Most adjectives come after the nouns they modify. But where do adverbs go?


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