We use the to-infinitive:

• to express purpose (to answer "Why...?"):

He bought some flowers to give to his wife.
He locked the door to keep everyone out.

We sometimes say in order to or in order not to:

We set off early in order to avoid the traffic.
They spoke quietly in order not to wake the children

… or we can say so as to or so as not to:

We set off early so as to avoid the traffic.
They spoke quietly so as not to wake the children.

• after certain verbs (see verbs followed by infinitive), particularly verbs of thinking and feeling:

choose, decide, expect, forget, hate, hope, intend, learn, like,
love, mean, plan, prefer, remember, want, would like, would love

… and verbs of saying:

agree, promise, refuse

They decided to start a business together.
Remember to turn the lights out.

Some verbs are followed by a direct object and the infinitive(see verbs followed by infinitive):

advise, ask, encourage, invite, order, persuade, remind, tell, warn,
expect, intend, would prefer, want, would like

She reminded me to turn the lights out.
He encouraged his friends to vote for him.

• after certain adjectives.

Sometimes the to-infinitive gives a reason for the adjective:

  • disappointed
  • glad
  • sad
  • happy
  • anxious
  • pleased
  • surprised
  • proud
  • unhappy

We were happy to come to the end of our journey
= We were happy because we had come to the end of our journey
John was surprised to see me
= He was surprised because he saw me

Other adjectives with the to-infinitive are:

  • able
  • unable
  • due
  • eager
  • keen
  • likely
  • unlikely
  • ready
  • prepared
  • unwilling
  • willing

Unfortunately I was unable to work for over a week.
I am really tired. I’m ready to go to bed.

We often use the to-infinitive with these adjectives after it to give opinions:

  • difficult
  • easy
  • possible
  • impossible
  • hard
  • right
  • wrong
  • kind
  • nice
  • clever
  • silly
  • foolish

It’s easy to play the piano, but it’s very difficult to play well.
He spoke so quickly it was impossible to understand him.

We use the preposition for to show who these adjectives refer to:

  • difficult
  • easy
  • possible
  • impossible
  • hard

It was difficult for us to hear what she was saying.
It is easy for you to criticise other people.

We use the preposition of with other adjectives:

It’s kind of you to help.
It would be silly of him to spend all his money.

• As a postmodifier (see noun phrases) after abstract nouns like:

  • ability
  • desire
  • need
  • wish
  • attempt
  • failure
  • opportunity
  • chance
  • intention

I have no desire to be rich.
They gave him an opportunity to escape.
She was annoyed by her failure to answer the question correctly.

• We often use a to-infinitive as a postmodifier after an indefinite pronoun (See indefinite pronouns):

When I am travelling I always take something to read.
I was all alone. I had no one to talk to.
There is hardly anything to do in most of these small towns.


 

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hello, Team.
I am curious about to use two to-infinitives in one clause with the same function.
Here is the example: 'We believe that the ability should be free to change our lifestyles to make it better for us.'

I understand that the first "to-infinitive" ㅡ to change ㅡ function like an adverb to modify adjective ㅡ free ㅡ, but I have no idea about the second "to-infinitive" ㅡ to make ~ ㅡ. I guess the second one is functioning like adjective to modify the noun, lifestyles.

Please let me know what I missed or what I need to learn.
Loads of thanks,
-Bomy

Hello Bombom,

The second infinitive in this sentence is an infinitive of purpose (listed on this page), which is an infinitive used to describe the reason for an earlier action. You could replace to make with in order to make here and the meaning would be the same.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team,
I am confused with the difference in meaning of these two sentences:
"I stayed up late to watch a film last night" vs " I stayed up late watching a film last night''. Kindly explain the difference or which sentence is correct. Than you,

Hi Widescreen,

The sentence with the infinitive of purpose communicates the idea of staying up late with that purpose. The other sentence (with the -ing form) just describes what you did last night, without the idea of purpose -- maybe you were just bored, for example, or maybe you had to watch it before class today.

In some contexts, this distinction might not important, but the subtle difference is there.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you. Also could you please explain the difference between to catch a view and to catch a sight ? For example if I want to say : I had to stand in the balcony to catch the whole view/ sight of the parade. Thank you

Hi Widescreen,

As far as I know, 'catch a view' and 'catch a sight' are not used in standard British English. You can 'catch a glimpse' or 'catch sight' of something (follow the link to see the definition and examples), but not 'catch view' or 'catch a view'.

I'd probably say 'I had to stand on the balcony to see all of the parade', though of course it depends on context.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir
Is it right to say?1. Neither my friend nor my brothers were present. or was present but not were present 2. Neither my brothers nor my friend was present. or were
present.
Please let me know which ones are correct.
Thank you.

Hello Andrew international,

You can find the answer to this in our grammar section with a little search. It's very helpful to us if you can first try to find the answer yourself before posting questions as it enables us to focus on those questions which do not already have an answer on our pages. This page is on an entirely different topic (to + infinitive); the relevant page for your topic, with the information you require, is here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

It is said that we have such a rule: If an infinitive(intransitive) comes after a noun and that noun is logical object of the infinitive, a prepostion is required:

1. The children need a garden to play in. (followed the rule)
2. There is not enough snow to ski on. (followed the rule)

3. It is difficult to find a place to park. (why not "park in" here? )

Hello sword_yao,

Neither Peter nor I are familiar with this rule. It seems to work in many cases, but not with all. You've already found one counter-example ('place') and the word 'time' (e.g. 'There isn't enough time to go skiing') is another.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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