### abstract

- We re-examine large scalar fields within effective field theory, in particular focussing on the issues raised by their use in inflationary models (as suggested by BICEP2 to obtain primordial tensor modes). We argue that when the large-field and low-energy regimes coincide the scalar dynamics is most effectively described in terms of an asymptotic large-field expansion whose form can be dictated by approximate symmetries, which also help control the size of quantum corrections. We discuss several possible symmetries that can achieve this, including pseudo-Goldstone inflatons characterized by a coset $G/H$ (based on abelian and non-abelian, compact and non-compact symmetries), as well as symmetries that are intrinsically higher dimensional. Besides the usual trigonometric potentials of Natural Inflation we also find in this way simple {\em large-field} power laws (like $V \propto \phi^2$) and exponential potentials, $V(\phi) = \sum_{k} V_k \; e^{-k \phi/M}$. Both of these can describe the data well and give slow-roll inflation for large fields without the need for a precise balancing of terms in the potential. The exponential potentials achieve large $r$ through the limit $|\eta| \ll \epsilon$ and so predict $r \simeq \frac83(1-n_s)$; consequently $n_s \simeq 0.96$ gives $r \simeq 0.11$ but not much larger (and so could be ruled out as measurements on $r$ and $n_s$ improve). We examine the naturalness issues for these models and give simple examples where symmetries protect these forms, using both pseudo-Goldstone inflatons (with non-abelian non-compact shift symmetries following familiar techniques from chiral perturbation theory) and extra-dimensional models.