Infinitive as a Subject

The infinitive of the verb is the unconjugated verb form whose English meaning expresses “to” — to sing, to dance, to laugh, and so on. Although the infinitive is a verb form, it may be used as a subject, as a command, and as part of interrogative and exclamatory phrases. Certain French verbs are followed directly by the infinitive, while others require a preposition before the infinitive. Almost all prepositions are followed by an infinitive. Adjectives and nouns that are modified by an infinitive require a preposition before the infinitive.

The infinitive may be used as the subject noun of a verb and may be translated as an English gerund (the ‐ing form of the verb) or an English infinitive (the to form of the verb):

  • Cuisiner est un art. ( Cooking is an art.)
  • Voir c'est croire. (Seeing is believing.)
  • Dire la vérité est important. ( To tell the truth is important.)

Note that ce is used before être + infinitive. In the following example, the infinitive vouloir follows c'est:

  • Vouloir c'est pouvoir. (To want to is to be able to.)