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 been 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.
Dawn in this southern village is beautiful.

Los amaneceres en este pueblo sureño son preciosos.
Dawns 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

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


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


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


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


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


El amanecer en este pueblo sureño es precioso.
Dawn 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.


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


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


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.


Q&A

Robin

Kwiziq community member

1 June 2018

1 reply

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

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

12 June 2018

12/06/18

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

Robin

Kwiziq community member

1 June 2018

2 replies

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

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

1 June 2018

1/06/18

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

Robin

Kwiziq community member

1 June 2018

1/06/18

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. 

Andy

Kwiziq community member

8 April 2018

1 reply

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

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

8 April 2018

8/04/18

Hola Andy,

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

Gracias

Inma

Thinking...