Infinitives are indeclinable verbal nouns usually indicated in English by “to” + verb (e.g., He went inside to call a friend). A finite verb is one that is limited by a subject. In English, a nonfinite verb, or infinitive, is not limited by a particular subject.
In Greek an infinitive may take a subject, an object or be modified by some qualifier. For example, “He came to put the ball in the box” uses “the ball” as the object of the infinitive and “in the box,” which describes location, to modify the infinitive “to put.”
As a noun, an infinitive may function as the subject of a sentence (e.g., To swim in the summer is fun) or the object of a finite verb (e.g., He told him to come.) However, infinitives are not declined with case, gender or number like nouns. They are indeclinable.
Thus Summers notes that in Mark 9:26, w!ste tou>j pollou>j leEssentials, 157).
As a verb, the infinitive may take an object (e.g., I came not to destroy the law). It may substitute for the imperatival verb sometimes. In Greek an infinitive may go with a noun in the accusative that functions as its subject. It comes as either a present or aorist and takes voice but not person.
As David Black has said, it should be noted that the infinitives may “be rendered as participles or as indicative verbs” on occasion, although most often the English infinitive (to + verb) will work (It’s Still Greek to Me, 115). A Greek infinitive may also function adverbially by telling when (before, after, while) a verbal action took place, cause (because), purpose (in order that) or result (so that, with the result that).
Greek Infinitive Introduction
The Greek infinitive is found in the present, aorist, and perfect tenses. The infinitive’s “tense” is determined by the stem from which it is built and from the context. In the infinitive, the ending indicates aspect and have little to do with actual tense (time). mh< is used, instead of ou], to negate an infinitive as we have seen for the participles. ou] is largely for the indicative and mh< for everything else.
Tense Means Aspect of Action
A movement must be made away from seeing infinitives as related to time. The tense of the infinitive indicates aspect, or type, of action, rather than time. The present represents action in progress. The aorist indicates complete action that simply says something happened without indicating when. The perfect is used for state of being.
While learning infinitives, when the aspectual function of the infinitive is highlighted, translate present tense infinitives “to continue to x,” Aorist tense “to x,” and perfects “to have x+ed.”
Present = to continue to call (this is clumsy, so we will just use “to call”)