the three tenses of the infinitive / by Anthony Gibbins

The infinitive of a Verb is the Form that means, when translated into English, to run or to sleep or to read or to help. They are easily enough recognized in Latin as - for all Regular Verbs at least - they end in an -re; currere to run, dormire to sleep, legere to read and iuvare to help. There are a handful of Irregular Verbs in Latin, and these can have unusual looking Infinitives, such as esse to be. When looking up a Latin Verb in a dictionary you will be given the Verb’s Four Principal Parts, the second of which is the Infinitive. If you have a Latin dictionary, give it a try.

curro, currere cucurri, cursum to run; to hasten, fly

lego, legere, legi, lectum to gather, pick; to choose, select, to read, recite

sum, esse, fui to be, exist (no fourth Principal Part)

The Infinitive Verb is very useful in ‘filling-out’ an idea begun by another Verb. Here are some examples; currere debeo I ought to run currere constituo I decide to run currere possum I am able to run currere cupio I want to run currere nequeo I am unable to run currere nolo I refuse to run currere amo I love to run

Infinitive Verbs also play an important part in Indirect Statements. Here is a Direct Statement; Jessica currit Jessica is running. Now, let’s turn that into the Indirect Statement Miranda sees that Jessica is running Miranda videt Jessicam currere. A more literal translation would be Miranda sees Jessica to be running. Think ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident…’.

Latin has three tenses of the Infinitive, and while they do turn up in other places, their most common use in in Indirect Statements. They are currere to run, cucurisse to have run and cursurus esse to be going to run.

Miranda scit Jessicam currere Miranda knows that Jessica is running.

Miranda scit Jessicam cucurisse Miranda knows that Jessica ran.

Miranda scit Jessicam cursuram esse Miranda knows that Jessica will run.

The Future Infinitive is a smidge more complicated than the others, because cursurus has to change its form to cursuram to Agree-With Jessicam. eheu!

However, it seemed certain to me that a book of such importance was not the property of one man but of all people. Soon therefore I decided that I myself would find the book.