Russian Language Grammar


The infinitive ends in either one of the following suffixes:  -ть, -ти, -чь.


to read


to carry


to keep, to safeguard

The endings of the infinitive are: -ать, -ять, -еть, -уть, -оть, -ыть, -ти, -чь, -зть, -сть, -ить. 

The ending may concide with the suffix:  нести

Or may not:   читать, говорить.

The infinitive of verbs ending in -ть may be stressed on any syllable:  читать, работать.

The infinitive of verbs ending in -ти or -чь is stressed on the endingнести, беречь.

The only exceptions to this are perfective verbs with the prefix вы- which is always stressed:   вынести – to take (to carry) out.

Usage of the Infinitive

A.   The following types of constructions do not differ from the English ones:

1.   With one subject for both verbs:

Я хочу спать.

I want to sleep.

Она любит читать.

She likes to read.

Он решил уехать.

Не decided to leave.

2.   Sometimes, with different logical subjects for each verb:

Она просила меня приехать.

She asked me to come.

Он всех заставляет работать.

Не makes everybody work.


B.   The following constructions illustrate the usage of the infinitive characteristic of the Russian language:

1.   With verbs denoting the beginning, continuation, or cessation of an action – the verb complement stands in the imperfeaive:

Он начинает ходить.

Не is beginning to walk.

Я продолжал писать.

I continued to write.

Мы кончили есть.

We finished eating.

2.   In expressions of purpose, the English "to" is sometimes omitted in translation, especially with verbs of motion:

Он пошёл купить хлеба.

Не went to buy some bread.

Они поехали завтракать.

They have gone to have lunch.

 Otherwise, two clauses may be joined with чтобы or для того чтобы (see Conjunctions):

Он пришёл, чтобы всё узнать.

Не came to find out everything.

3.   The infinitive is used with должен – must, have to;  обязан – obliged;  готoв – ready;  намерен – intend;  рад – glad:

Он должен идти.

Не must go.

Я рад слышать это.

I am glad to hear this.

4.   The infinitive is used with надо – (one) should, has to; нужно – (one) should, has to;  необходимо – it is  necessary;   можно – (one) may, it is possible;    нельзя – (one)  can't,  should  not;  трудно – difficult;   хoрошо – good, nice;  and other predicative adverbs:

Надо учиться.

One has to study.

Это трудно понять.

This is difficult to understand.

Хорошо жить в деревне.

It is nice to live in the country.

5.   As a subject of a sentence, the infinitive often expresses a business-like or peremptory order:

Выдать господину Иванову…

Issue to mister Ivanov…

He курить.

No smoking.


Silence! Quiet!

6.   In  interrogative sentences, the infinitive may express indecision, emotion, doubt, or a question addressed to oneself or to another person.

Что делать?

What shall I do?   (lit.: What to do?)

Зачем сердиться на него?

Why be angry with him?

He сидеть же здесь весь день?

You don't expect (me) to sit here all day?

Пойти или не пойти?

Shall (we) go, or shall we not?

Быть или не быть.

То be or not to be.

Дать вам денег?

Shall I give you some money?

Налить вам молока?

Would you like some milk? (lit.: To pour you some milk?)

7.   With the particle бы the infinitive expresses a wish:

Отдохнуть бы сейчас.

It would be nice to rest now.

Поехать бы куда-нибудь на море.

I’d love to go somewhere to the sea.

8.   With не ... ли the infinitive expresses a mild suggestion:

He послать ли ему денег?

Maybe (we) should send him some money.

He поехать ли в театр?

How about going to the theater?