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When is it correct to use the infinitive form of the verb Haber? I see the infinitive used from time to time, but the documentation I found is about the conjugated forms of its use, and have yet to read a rule as to why its infinitive is used at times.

For example:

Gracias por habernos venido a oir.
El gobierno puede haber destruido las armas.
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I assume that at this point you have been taught haber only as the auxiliary verb for compound tenses, that is, as part of the conjugation of the pretérito perfecto and the rest. I also suppose that you have also been taught haber as an existence verb, equivalent to the English phrase there + to be (hay un gato = "there is a cat"). If so, then of course you wouldn't have normally encountered the infinitive of haber.

In your two examples haber is an auxiliary and is followed by a participle. It's in the infinitive because it's subordinated to something else. In the first example, that something is the fixed phrase Gracias por…. As with English "Thanks for…", this should be followed by a nominal phrase, i.e. something that behaves like a noun. One way to do this is to use a verb infinitive. So you could say:

(Ustedes) vinieron a oírnos.Gracias por venirnos a oír.

I trust you've already encountered this kind of sentence. Now, what this means is "Thank you for coming to hear us." It's perfectly OK, grammatically. But some speakers will prefer to use a perfect tense in this case: "Thank you for having come to hear us."

(Ustedes) han venido a oírnos.Gracias por habernos venido a oír.

In the second example there's the verb poder, which as you know, must be followed by an infinitive in this kind of sentence. In this case there's a big difference in meaning if you use a different tense.

El gobierno puede destruir las armas.
"The government can/may destroy the weapons." (present/future)

but

El gobierno puede haber destruido las armas.
"The government could/might have destroyed the weapons." (past)

As with the former example, it could be useful to extract the subordinate phrase (the part of the sentence after puede) and make a simpler sentence out of it, to see the difference:

El gobierno destruye las armas.El gobierno puede destruir las armas.

El gobierno ha destruido las armas.El gobierno puede haber destruido las armas.

I hope this has been more or less clear. In summary, haber is not an exception when it comes to be used in the infinitive: even though it's a somewhat special verb, it behaves the same as any other verb in constructions that force the verbs to appear in the infinitive.

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  • Additional example of haber in the infinitive but not as an auxiliary: *Debe haber dos cebollas en la alacena. – aparente001 Sep 8 '19 at 19:11

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