In Spanish, when "activities" are the subject or the object of a sentence, we use the infinitive form. Note that in English the equivalent sentences tend to use the gerund (-ing ending) instead.
Have a look at some examples:
Fumar es malo para la salud.Smoking is bad for your health.
Tener una dieta equilibrada es conveniente para todos.Having a balanced diet is advisable for everyone.
Los médicos recomiendan beber mucha agua en verano.Doctors recommend drinking lots of water in summer.
If you ask the question ¿quién? (who?) or ¿qué? (what?) about the verb it will give you the subject or the object of the verb. In these cases, to know about the subject you always ask ¿qué? (what?) because we are talking about "activities".
- What is bad for your health? Smoking (the subject of "es") = "Fumar".
- What is advisable for everyone? Having a balanced diet (the subject of "es") = "Tener una dieta equilibrada."
- What do doctors recommend? Drinking (the object of "recomiendan") = "beber mucha agua".
Look at how infinitives act as objects when using some modal verbs, like "preferir" and "necesitar". For example:
Necesito ver al médico.I need to see the doctor.
Prefiero comprar en tiendas independientes.I prefer to buy in independant shops.
A typical case that uses the infinitive for any activity expressed after the verb is gustar and verbs that work like gustar.
Remember that the activity is always the subject of the sentence with these types of verbs, i.e "Doing something pleases/interests/bothers... someone".
Here are some examples:
Le apasiona conducir coches de carrera.He is passionate about driving racing cars.
Nos gusta mucho caminar por el parque cada tarde.We really like walking around the park every evening.
Using the infinitive with impersonal statements, e.g. "Es bueno...", "Es importante..." is also very common. Here, the subject of sentence is the infinitive, for example:
Es importante apagar las luces cuando no son necesarias.It is important to switch off the lights when they are not necessary.
Es bonito soñar.It is nice to dream./Dreaming is nice.
Es perjudicial beber en exceso.Drinking excessively is bad.
Do not use any preposition in any of the cases specified above:
- Prefiero a/ de/ en comprar en tiendas independientes.
- Necesito a/de/en ver al médico.
- Me gusta a/de/en cocinar.
- Decidió a/de/en estudiar arquitectura.
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