Bare Infinitives Revisited

In many languages, the first of two consecutive verbs is conjugated (to match the subject) and the second verb is an infinitive.

Remember to pick up a gallon of milk at the store on the way home from work.

Here, “remember” is an imperative verb with the subject “you” being understood, and “to pick up” is the infinitive.

Yet, in many cases, particularly in spoken English, we leave off the word “to” from the infinitive, resulting in what is called a “bare infinitive.”

Go get a gallon of milk from the store. I told you before you left work….

Here again is the imperative, “go,” but the word “to” has been left off the infinitive “to get.”

Sometimes people will substitute “and” for “to,” which makes it a compound verb, not an infinitive.

Go and get a gallon of milk from the store. I need it for the macaroni and cheese for dinner.

Another way this can be written is:
Go, get a gallon of milk from the store now. No, I can’t fix something else. I already opened the box. The noodles are boiling. See?

The first sentence is a compound sentence, with the first complete sentence being “go.”

Personal Anecdote:
My family used to go through a gallon of milk a day when I had three teenage boys
in the house. All that calcium built strong bones all right, because they are 6 ft 4 in. tall. I gotta stand on tiptoe to kiss ’em.

So, how shall we remember what a bare infinitive is?
Let’s let the Walt Disney movie Jungle Book run through our minds:

Look for those BARE Infinitives,
Those simple bare infinitives,
Forget about the preposition “to,”
Just use those bare infinitives.
It something that’s definitive,
It’s just the bare necessities for you.

Poetry Quote of the Day:

“The cow is of the bovine ilk;
one end is moo, the other milk.”
– Ogden Nash, American poet, 1902-1971


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