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11.8: Structure - Constructions infinitives

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    In this section, you will learn how to combine a conjugated verb with an infinitive

    Media Alternative

    Listen to the audio clips that follow on this page to hear the French pronunciation of vocabulary and examples presented.

    On étudie !

    In this video, we will go over a few examples of sentences constructed with infinitives. 

    • To practice, you can listen and repeat the sentences. 

    In unit 3 we saw how to join two verbs together in infinitive constructions:

    Construction infinitive
    verbe conjugué infinitif
    Tu peux (You can) utiliser ma voiture. (use my car.)
    Je vais (I am going) boire du thé. (to drink some tea)

    We have seen expressions like these, where the conjugated verbs are followed directly by an infinitive:

    J’aime danser le Tango.

    Tu sais nager dans la piscine.

    Elle veut manger de la pizza.

    Nous allons prendre le train.

    Other verbs, however, are followed by the preposition à or de before the infinitive.

    The verb apprendre (to learn), for example, needs an à before an infinitive:

    Il apprend à danser. Elles ont appris à conduire. (He is learning to dance. They learned how to drive.)

    The verb décider (to decide) needs a de:

    Elle a décidé de prendre une douche. Le Royaume-Uni décide de quitter l’Union Européenne. (She decided to take a shower. The United Kingdom decides to leave the European Union.)

    Here is a good summary of verbs that do and do not require a preposition:

    • aimer
    • adorer
    • aller
    • détester
    • espérer
    • pouvoir
    • préférer
    • savoir
    • vouloir

    Here are verbs that require the preposition à before an infinitive :

    Verbs followed by à before an infinitive
    Français Anglais
    aider à to help to
    s’amuser à to pass the time
    apprendre à to learn (how) to
    arriver à to manage (to)
    commencer à to begin to
    continuer à to continue to
    hésiter à to hesitate to
    se préparer à to prepare (to/for)
    réussir à to be able to, manage to


    Verbs followed by de before an infinitive
    Français Anglais
    arrêter de to stop
    décider de to decide
    éviter de to avoid
    finir de to finish
    s’occuper de to take care of
    oublier de to forget to
    permettre de to allow (to)
    refuser de to refuse to
    rêver de to dream of
    venir de to just (do)
    essayer de to try to

    You will notice that some of these verbs take on a different meaning when you add or subtract the prepositions à or de. Compare, for example :

    Je m’amuse. Je m’amuse à lire des magazines. (I have fun. I pass the time reading magazines.)

    J’ai fini mes devoirs. J’ai fini de lire le roman. (I finished my homework. I finished reading the novel.)

    Elle a oublié ses clés. Elle a oublié de fermer la porte. (She forgot her keys. She forgot to close the door.)

    In general, you should practice paying attention to how prepositions connect verbs to other parts of speech. For example, the verb penser does not need de nor à before an infinitive, but it is followed by à when you think about something (i.e., a noun):

    Nous pensons aller au Petit Bistro ce soir. Nous pensons à nos amis. (We’re thinking of going to Le Petit Bistro tonight. We are thinking about our friends)

    Arriver à could mean to arrive somewhere or to manage to do something.

    Il arrive à New York. (He arrives in New York.)

    J’arrive à faire mes courses rapidement. (I manage to do my grocery shopping quickly.)

    Rêver de could be followed by a noun just as well as a verb:

    Je rêve de la plage. (I dream about the beach.)

    Je rêve d’aller à la plage. (I dream of going to the beach.)

    And, of course, we have already seen how venir de can mean either (1) to just do something or (2) to come from somewhere, depending on the context!

    Here are some verbs that often require à after them when followed by a an object:

    Verbs followed by à before an object
    Français Anglais
    assister à to attend
    réfléchir à to think about
    répondre à to answer
    participer à to participate in
    penser à to think about
    réussir à to succeed at, to pass

    Elle a réussi à son examen. Vous assistez au cours. Je pense à toi. (She passed her test. You attend class. I think about you.)

    À quoi tu penses ? (— What are you thinking about?)

    — Je réfléchis à la question que le professeur nous a posée. (— I’m thinking about the question the professor asked us.)


    Study the Quizlet vocabulary flashcards. Listen and repeat the French pronunciation. 

    With these verbs, you can also use y to replace (1) prepositional phrases referring to a place and (2) à + a noun indicating an idea or thing:

    replaces prepositional phrases referring to a place
    Français Anglais
    J’y asiste souvent. I often attend it.
    Il y a fait deux semaines d’entraînement. He did two weeks of training there.
    Sophie espère y aller bientôt. Sophie hopes to go there soon.

    Y replaces à + a noun indicating an idea or thing
    Français Anglais
    J’y pense souvent. I think about it often.
    Nous allons y réfléchir. We are going to think about it.
    Il y participe régulièrement. He participates in it regularly.

    The infinitive is also used after the prepositions sans (without) and pour (for, to, in order to) :

    Nous sommes venues pour jouer. Elle part sans manger. (We’ve come to play. She’s leaving without eating.)

    Je t’appelle pour te dire que je taime. Ne ferme pas le fichier sans le sauvegarder. (I am calling to tell you I love you. Don’t close the file without saving it.)

    Once you get used to combining a conjugated verb with an infinitive, it opens up a whole universe of possibilities. So let’s practice !

    On pratique !


    Décidez où il faut mettre un à, un de/d’ ou rien.

    1. Tu sais ________ faire une bonne sauce béchamel.
    2. Il s’occupe ________ ses clients.
    3. Nous apprenons ________ jouer à la pétanque.
    4. Vous pouvez ________ arrêter quand vous voulez.
    5. J’hésite ________ parler avec Xochitl.
    6. N’oublie pas ________ éteindre le four.
    7. Patrick et Valérie ont décidé ________ faire une randonnée.
    8. Est-ce que tu continues ________ lui donner des cours particuliers ?
    9. Elle a appris ________ conduire.
    10. Jacques déteste ________ ranger sa chambre.
    11. Elles vont ________ prendre un café avec moi.
    12. J’ai essayé ________ le trouver.

    On approfondit !

    Ressources en ligne

    Use the following resources to type accents and/or search for words:

    • Accents: ç, à, é, è, â, ê, î, ô, û, ù, ë, ï, ü 
    • Dictionnaire français-anglais

    Exercice 1 : constructions infinitives

    This page titled 11.8: Structure - Constructions infinitives is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by William J. Carrasco, Shahrzad Zahedi, & Caren Barnezet Parrish.