We forecast the scientific capabilities to improve our understanding of cosmic inflation of CORE, a proposed CMB space satellite submitted in response to the ESA fifth call for a medium-size mission opportunity. The CORE satellite will map the CMB anisotropies in temperature and polarization in 19 frequency channels spanning the range 60–600 GHz. CORE will have an aggregate noise sensitivity of 1.7 μK⋅ arcmin and an angular resolution of 5' at 200 GHz. We explore the impact of telescope size and noise sensitivity on the inflation science return by making forecasts for several instrumental configurations. This study assumes that the lower and higher frequency channels suffice to remove foreground contaminations and complements other related studies of component separation and systematic effects, which will be reported in other papers of the series "Exploring Cosmic Origins with CORE." We forecast the capability to determine key inflationary parameters, to lower the detection limit for the tensor-to-scalar ratio down to the 10−3 level, to chart the landscape of single field slow-roll inflationary models, to constrain the epoch of reheating, thus connecting inflation to the standard radiation-matter dominated Big Bang era, to reconstruct the primordial power spectrum, to constrain the contribution from isocurvature perturbations to the 10−3 level, to improve constraints on the cosmic string tension to a level below the presumptive GUT scale, and to improve the current measurements of primordial non-Gaussianities down to the fNLlocal < 1 level. For all the models explored, CORE alone will improve significantly on the present constraints on the physics of inflation. Its capabilities will be further enhanced by combining with complementary future cosmological observations.