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Second-Year Spanish Class: Using Infinitives in Nominal Functions

written by: Heather Marie Kosur • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 2/13/2015

The following article outlines a general lesson plan for teaching second-year Spanish students to use infinitives as nouns. The nominal functions on which the article focuses are subject, subject complement, direct object, and prepositional complement.

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    Spanish Infinitives

    Just as verbs can perform nominal functions (functions prototypically performed by nouns) in English, verbs in the form of infinitives Engage Your Students! can also perform nominal functions in Spanish. The four nominal functions of Spanish verbs are:

    1. Subject
    2. Subject complement
    3. Direct object
    4. Prepositional complement

    The following sections can be used by Spanish teachers to teach first year English-speaking Spanish students to use Spanish infinitives as nouns. For more information on the infinitive in Spanish, please read the article Teaching Spanish Verbs: The Infinitive. For a comparison with the functions of verbs in English, please refer to the article The Functions of Verbs and Verb Phrases in English.

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    Infinitives as Subjects

    First teach Spanish students to use infinitives as subjects. Subjects are words, phrases, and clauses that perform the action of or acts upon the conjugated verb. The italicized infinitives in the following Spanish sentences are examples of subjects:

    • Fumar es peligroso. "Smoking is dangerous." OR "To smoke is dangerous."
    • Estudiar es necesario. "Studying is necessary." OR "To study is necessary."
    • Me gusta leer. "I like to read." OR "Reading pleases me." OR "To read pleases me."
    • Nos disgusta trabajar. "We hate to work." OR "Working displeases us." OR "To work displeases us."

    Note that the subject of the sentence follows the conjugated verb when the verb is a gustar verb. Also point out to students that an infinitive in Spanish can translate to either an infinitive or a present participle in English.

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    Infinitives as Subject Complements

    Secondly teach Spanish students to use infinitives as subject complements. Subject complements are words, phrases, and clauses that follow the verb ser "to be" and refers back to describe the subject. The italicized infinitives in the following Spanish sentences are examples of subject complements:

    • Mi actividad favorita es leer. "My favorite activity is to read."
    • La tarea es escribir un ensayo. "The homework is to write an essay."
    • Tu responsabilidad es lavar los platos. "Your responsibility is to wash the dishes."
    • Mi sueño es llegar a ser un bibliotecario. "My dream is to become a librarian."
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    Infinitives as Direct Objects

    Thirdly teach Spanish students to use infinitives as direct objects. Direct objects are words, phrases, and clauses that follow and receive the action of a transitive verb. The italicized infinitives in the following Spanish sentences are examples of direct objects:

    • Necesito bañarme. "I need to bathe."
    • Te prohíbo conducir. "I forbid you to drive."
    • Mi hermano decidió nadar hoy. "My brother decided to swim today."
    • Tu padre quiere pescar. "Your father wants to fish."

    For a printable list of common Spanish verbs followed directly by an infinitive, please download Spanish Verbs Download: verb + infinitive.

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    Infinitives as Prepositional Complements

    Finally teach Spanish students to use infinitives as prepositional complements. Prepositional complements are words, phrases, and clauses that directly follow a preposition and complete the meaning of a prepositional phrase. The italicized infinitives in the following Spanish sentences are examples of prepositional complements:

    • Aprendí a cocinar. "I learned to cook."
    • Tu hermana insistía en tomar el tren. "My sister insisted on taking the train."
    • No gana nada con mentir. "One gains nothing by lying."
    • Pienso de salir contigo. "I am thinking about leaving with you."
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    Prepositional Verbs

    In English, prepositional verbs are intransitive verbs consisting of a verb phrase followed by a prepositional phrase. The prepositional phrase functions as a verb phrase complement. Many Spanish verbs also require specific prepositions to directly follow the verb. The following downloadable verb sheets list some common prepositional verbs in Spanish. All of the listed Spanish verbs require an infinitive when a verb phrase follows the preposition.

    For a printable list of common Spanish verbs followed by the preposition a and then an infinitive, please download Spanish Prepositional Verbs Download: a + infinitive.

    For a printable list of common Spanish verbs followed by the preposition de and then an infinitive, please download Spanish Prepositional Verbs Download: de + infinitive.

    For a printable list of common Spanish verbs followed by the preposition con and then an infinitive, please download Spanish Prepositional Verbs Download: con + infinitive.

    For a printable list of common Spanish verbs followed by the preposition en and then an infinitive, please download Spanish Prepositional Verbs Download: en + infinitive.

    For a printable list of common Spanish verbs followed by the preposition por and then an infinitive, please download Spanish Prepositional Verbs Download: por + infinitive.