Infinitives in TOEFL Grammar

Understanding infinitives in TOEFL grammar helps you minimize your speaking and writing errors.

Infinitives in TOEFL Grammar

Characteristics of infinitives

Infinitives have no inflection and do not express verb tense. Notice how infinitives stay the same even when the verb tense changes in the following sentences:

  • Present tense: My friend likes to run every morning.
  • Past tense: My friend wanted to run in a race last week.
  • Future tense: My friend will be going to run in a race in one month from now.

Infinitives can be preceded by to such as in to fish, to read, and to drive.

  • My friends and I like to fish at Lake Arrowhead during the summer.
  • Students who want to read their assigned chapters before class participate more fully during discussions.
  • You are not allowed to drive with a suspended license.


Characteristics of bare infinitives

Bare infinitives can show up as single verbs after modals such as should, could, and must.

  • You should complete your writing projects before their respective due dates.
  • The former defense secretary’s book could appear in stores soon.
  • You must be present in class when completing examinations.

In addition, you can also find bare infinitives used after certain verbs of perceptions such as see, feel, sense, hear, or watch.

  • I saw my friend run a 5K last week.
  • Paula watched her dad deliver a powerful political speech.

Finally, bare infinitives follow certain verbs of causation or permission: make, let, and have.

  • I made my friend apologize for what he said to my brother.
  • Will you let others drive your car?
  • Kent had others meet at his house for a neighborhood service project.

How do you know whether a verb is a bare infinitive or the present tense form of the verb?

  • Infinitives always come after modals (i.e., might go, can attend)
  • Replace the verb with another verb whose infinitive form is different from its present tense. If you can replace a verb with words such as remain, grow, appear, or become with be, then those verbs are bare infinitives such as “We watched the thunderstorm grow”, which can also be expressed as “We watched the thunderstorm be stronger.”
  • Change the subject from singular to plural or vice versa to see what effect that has on the verb. Keep in mind that bare infinitives are not affected by the subject. Hence, a sentence with a singular subject expressed as “John is watching his friend play the best basketball game of her life.” can also be cast as with a plural subject as “John and his family are watching his friend play the best basketball game of her life.” without changing the bare infinitive form of play.

Read the below sentences and identify the italicized words as bare infinitives or as present tense verbs.


  1. Lana saw her mother perform in the Pantages theater in Los Angeles.

  1. The students might understand this grammatical concept better if they read some authentic texts.

  1. Many schools make their students complete homework assignments.

  1. I will have my friend apologize for interrupting the professor so many times during her lecture.

  1. The teachers let their students finish the projects a week after the deadline.

  1. Many are hearing the politician speak, but they do not agree with his message.

  1. The spectators watched the singer perform “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a tribute to Freddy Mercury and Queen.

  1. During the invocation, I could sense my friend linger all around us.

  1. Cade felt the energy hang in the air for several minutes.

  1. I want to attend the concert, but paying $500 for a ticket is out of the question.


Infinitives in TOEFL Grammar Quiz One: Infinitives or bare infinitives?

In each answer, choose whether infinitives or bare infinitives are needed to complete each sentence.

1. Lara made her friend__________the gift that she received from Tommy.

A. to return

B. return


2. Many animals prefer_________in temperate climates which have abundant rain.

A. dwell

B. to dwell

3. Everyone in the group agreed to let the new members____________in the disco activity last Friday.

A. to participate

B. participate

4. After several reports of students using group chat to share answers during the exam, the professor decided_______a new version of the exam.

A. administer

B. to administer



5. I had Tom________my car since he borrowed it to drive to Los Angeles last week.

A. wash

B. to wash



6. Based on preliminary results, engineers will need________the city’s emergency preparedness plans.

A. review

B. to review


7. We saw Saad_________his oral presentation last week in his composition course.

A. to complete

B. complete


8. Should you refuse_______at this school, you will need to have your 1-20 visa form sent to another school.

A. to stay

B. stay


9. During the Satanic ritual in which we called on the presence of deceased mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, we felt his evil presence________among us for several minutes.

A. linger

B. to linger


10. Don’t forget to get some qualified TOEFL speaking and writing feedback before registering________the TOEFL exam.

A. take take


11. After Marianna told him to get lost, John watched the tail lights of her car_________into the horizon.

A. to vanish

B. vanish


12. Geronimo thought he could pass the TOEFL exam without consulting a speaking and writing mentor, but he was not able__________his desired overall and subtotal scores.

A. reach

B. to reach

Answer = B


13. After they decided________to Oro Valley, Arizona, they purchased some sanitizer and face masks to keep them protected during the quarantine.

A. drive

B. to drive


14. Shoko heard the intruder­_________a window in the living room area.

A. break

B. to break


15. Some say that New York City residents intend__________newcomers by yelling at them when they are driving too slowly on the freeways.

A. welcome

B. to welcome


16. Shiqian watched the storm__________while lightning danced across the sky.

A. approach

B. to approach


17. Mohammed urged his classmates_________him prepare for the final exam.

A. help

B. to help


18. On our way back to California, we decided_______in Phoenix to get some gas.

A. stop

B. to stop


19. Facheng made his friend__________him on his birthday.

A. call

B. to call


20. Professor Doug Smith decided__________his chemistry unit test since many students were not prepared.

A. to postpone

B. postpone

Infinitives in TOEFL Grammar Quiz Two: Infinitives or conjugated verbs?

In this exercise, choose whether infinitives or conjugated verbs best complete each sentence.

1. At the bank tomorrow, I will deposit the tax refund I_________from the Federal government.

A. to receive

B. received


2. Many experts say that it is important________social distancing of staying six feet apart from others during a pandemic.

A. practice

B. to practice


3. Although it________rather hot in Southern California during the summertime, the nights are cool and dry.

A. gets

B. to get


4. The Mojave Desert____________an abundance of cacti, one of which is the Joshua Tree.

A. has

B. to have


5. Often I listen to the radio________myself of the good ole times when my life was carefree.

A. reminded

B. to remind


6. I cannot go back to a time in which I________no job or education.

A. had

B. to have


7. Do you think that everyone in the world will be able_______along?

A. gets

B. to get


8. Most students who are_________for the TOEFL exam consult a speaking and writing mentor, especially if they need to score higher than 26/30 and 24/30 points.

A. preparing

B. to prepare


9. I wanted________you that I was leaving to study abroad, but I knew how upset you would be.

A. told

B. to tell


10. My friend__________her bike almost every day.

A. to ride

B. rides


11. During Halloween, children love to go to neighbors’ houses________for candy.

A. asks

B. to ask


12. Many people_______that spending time with family is the most important activity that they can do.

A. believe

B. to believe


13. In order______high on the reading section of the TOEFL iBT, you will need a vocabulary base of 2,000 words.

A. performed

B. to perform


14. Mary had already______her internship by the end of last year.

A. completed

B. to complete


15. Most workers have already been able__________advantage of their stimulus checks that they received from the government.

A. taken

B. to take


16. Blythe is the last town in California that travelers______before they enter Arizona.

A. see

B. to see


17. The common cold______itself about every two months, which is why there is no vaccine for this frustrating ailment.

A. to mutate

B. mutates


18. ______getting exposed to serious sicknesses like the Coronavirus, you should wear a mask when going to public places during quarantine.

A. To avoid

B. Avoided


19. I think it prudent to never buy something that you think you may______to throw away later.

A. have

B. to have


20. My father once told me that having five loyal friends will_______your life.

A. complete

B. to complete

Infinitives in TOEFL Grammar Quiz Three: Infinitives and modal verbs

This exercise will test your mastery of both infinitives and modal verbs. Completing this quiz will help you learn infinitives in TOEFL Grammar.

1. You must_________all of these practice exercises if you want to master infinitives in TOEFL grammar.

A. complete

B. to complete


2. Susan ought________class at least 75% of the time.

A. to attend

B. attend


3. I told my friend that he should___________to the professor to see if he can get permission to submit his writing project after the due date.

A. talk

B. to talk


4. Kenneth had_______all week since he had taken a vacation the week before.

A. work

B. to work


5. Lance might_____to the movies if he doesn’t have a Zoom meeting with his biology class.

A. go

B. to go


6. I knew that Greg and his friends would___________the conference.

A. attended

B. attend

C. to attend

Answer = B


7. It was not a matter of whether Michael could_______a marathon; it was a question of whether he would run the grueling distance.

A. run

B. to run


8. The principal said that the students on probation had better_________up with a solution to bring up their low grades.

A. come

B. came


9. Everyone will_________with honors so long as they score an A in all their classes this semester.

A. graduate

B. to graduate


10. The test-takers mustn’t_________during the test, or their dishonest actions will invalidate their scores.

A. to cheat

B. cheat


11. Chao can________to the movies with his friends since he has already finished his homework for today.

A. go

B. to go


12. Alice Cooper would__________songs to his audience that evoked feelings of emotion and nostalgia.

A. sing

B. to sing

13. Mountains in Southern California above 10,000 feet will often________snow until late spring.

A. see

B. to see

C. saw


14. Many beaches in Southern California were________during the Coronavirus pandemic.

A. closed

B. to close


15. Students may_________to delay taking the TOEFL until it is safe to enter the testing centers.

A. have

B. to have


16. Upset with the murder of suspect George Floyd, anarchists decided_______down the police station in Minneapolis.

A. burn

B. to burn


17. Most people_________weight by exercising regularly and by eating moderate amounts of healthy food.

A. lose

B. to lose


18. Going on a vacation to Las Vegas will help you__________from all the stresses you have.

A. relaxed

B. to relax

Answer = B


19. His invention was a patented innovation designed to help people_________a better night’s sleep.

A. will get

B. get

C. to have gotten


20. The police fired tear gas in an effort_________the violence.

A. quash

B. to quash

Thank you for visiting my TOEFL Blog! I hope that this web page has helped you improve your knowledge of Infinitives in TOEFL Grammar.

Michael Buckhoff,

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