Using infinitives as nouns with the definite article El

We can use the definite article el + infinitivo in order to make the infinitive a noun.

Read and listen to these examples:

El beber en exceso puede ser peligroso.
Drinking in excess can be dangerous.

El caminar todos los días es bueno para la circulación.
Walking every day is good for circulation.

El vivir lejos del trabajo es un inconveniente.
Living far away from work is an inconvenience.

In the examples above, the Spanish infinitive is translated as an -ing verb in English. However it would also be correct if we omit the article:

Beber en exceso puede ser peligroso.
Drinking in excess can be dangerous.

Caminar todos los días es bueno para la circulación.
Walking everyday is good for circulation.

Vivir lejos del trabajo es un inconveniente.
Living far away from work is an inconvenience.

Be careful, infinitives cannot use the plural article (los):

Los caminares todos los días son buenos para la circulación.

However, there are certain infinitives that can be converted to nouns and these can take both the singular and the plural article (el/los). 

Have a look:

El ir y venir de los pasajeros nos entretenía mientras esperábamos nuestro tren.
The coming and going of passengers kept us entertained while we waited for our train.

Los ires y venires de los pasajeros nos entretenían mientras esperábamos nuestro tren.
The comings and goings of the passengers kept us entertained while we waited for our train.

El amanecer en este pueblo sureño es precioso.
Sunrise in this southern village is beautiful.

Los amaneceres en este pueblo sureño son preciosos.
Sunrises in this southern village are beautiful.

It is not correct to omit the articles.

Amaneceres en este pueblo sureño son preciosos.

Extra note:

The indefinite article "un" is also used sometimes with infinitives as part of a "set expression", for example:

Empezó a diluviar en un abrir y cerrar de ojos.
It started to pour with rain in the blink of an eye.

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

El vivir lejos del trabajo es un inconveniente.
Living far away from work is an inconvenience.


Beber en exceso puede ser peligroso.
Drinking in excess can be dangerous.


El amanecer en este pueblo sureño es precioso.
Sunrise in this southern village is beautiful.


El ir y venir de los pasajeros nos entretenía mientras esperábamos nuestro tren.
The coming and going of passengers kept us entertained while we waited for our train.


El caminar todos los días es bueno para la circulación.
Walking every day is good for circulation.


Los amaneceres en este pueblo sureño son preciosos.
Sunrises in this southern village are beautiful.


El saber no ocupa lugar.
Knowledge does not occupy any space.


El beber en exceso puede ser peligroso.
Drinking in excess can be dangerous.


Empezó a diluviar en un abrir y cerrar de ojos.
It started to pour with rain in the blink of an eye.


Los ires y venires de los pasajeros nos entretenían mientras esperábamos nuestro tren.
The comings and goings of the passengers kept us entertained while we waited for our train.


Vivir lejos del trabajo es un inconveniente.
Living far away from work is an inconvenience.


Caminar todos los días es bueno para la circulación.
Walking everyday is good for circulation.


Q&A Forum 3 questions, 5 answers

Hi my dictionary says that el amanecer is a noun, the dawn, so I wasn't clear that this is an infinitive. Robin

Asked 1 year ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Robin,

Amanecer can be either a verb, meaning "to get light", for example: "Ahora en verano amanece muy temprano" (Now in summer it gets light very early) or a noun, meaning "the dawn", which is how we use it in the lesson. As a noun it can take the articles, both the singular and the plural. "Me gusta ver el amanecer."

Un saludo

Hi my dictionary says that el amanecer is a noun, the dawn, so I wasn't clear that this is an infinitive. Robin

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Use of the 'el' with infinitive as noun

hi the lesson seems to say that use of infinitive with or without the 'el' are equally correct, but in the Micrquiz Q2, 'wake up to ...' if I answer without the 'el' its marked wrong.  Is there then more subtlety to this topic than is in the lesson, if so maybe the lesson needs deepening a bit?  Robin
Asked 1 year ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hi Robin,

there is a hint for that question saying "Verb cantar has been converted to a noun", which is the clue to avoid the article "el". There is a note inside the lesson about this, saying:

"However, there are certain infinitives that can been converted to nouns and these can take both the singular and the plural article (el/los)."

"It is not correct to omit the articles."

I hope this helped.

Inma

Thanks Inma.  Surely you mean. 'the clue to USE the 'el'.  In the lesson, it looks as if the 'its not correct to omit the el' just applies to the two examples you gave (Ir and amanecer) - because we've just been told that using the 'el' is optional, with or without both correct.  THis use of infinitive is /always/ noun-like.   This lesson is not clear. 

Looking at the confusion above,

would it be correct to say that Infinitive + el is always correect, but there are some cases where a different form,  the infinitive by itself, is allowed? The clue for English speakers might be it's okay WHEN it also makes lliteral sense in English?  For example:

"Me gustaría despertarme con EL CANTAR de los pájaros" - (...wake up with the singing of the birds)- makes sense, but

"Me gustaría despertarme con cantar de los pájaros" - (...wake up with TO SING of the birds) does not.

where as

"EL beber en exceso..." - Drinking in excess is dangerous OR

"BEBER en exceso..."- (English) To drink in excess is dangerous - both work so in THAT TYPE of situation there are two DIFFERENT  options-

1) Using the form ínfinitive + definite article 'el', or

2) (When makes sense) , using just the infinitive.

                 

Use of the 'el' with infinitive as noun

hi the lesson seems to say that use of infinitive with or without the 'el' are equally correct, but in the Micrquiz Q2, 'wake up to ...' if I answer without the 'el' its marked wrong.  Is there then more subtlety to this topic than is in the lesson, if so maybe the lesson needs deepening a bit?  Robin

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What's more common in spoken Peninsular Spanish - with or without the article?

Asked 1 year ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Andy,

using the article makes it a bit more formal but both ways are correct.

Gracias

Inma

What's more common in spoken Peninsular Spanish - with or without the article?

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