to + infinitive

 

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

Comments

Hello,

Could we use "already" with past simple and past perfect and "still" with past simple sentences?

ex: WE already met
We already had met
Still I didn't wear it.

Thank you for your help.

Hello,

"10 people to be selected." Is this a correct sentence? If it is correct where is the verb of this sentence?
But I think it should be "1O people are to be selected"

Thank you.

Hello naaka,

This is not a complete sentence but rather a sentence fragment. That does not mean it is incorrect - we often use sentence fragments in commmunication where the context makes the missing information clear and there is no need to repeat it.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
I got some idea. But I'm confused about those sentences. I mean is it okay I use that pattern in writing. Or is it only valid for spoken.

Thank you.

Hello The LearnEnglish Team,

I have a couple sentences to clear up.

My goal is to have become a doctor in seven years.
My goal is to become a doctor in seven years.

I read in a book that we use the present perfect infinitive (to have become) to talk about an action that will/might take place before a specified time in the future. However, using the simple infinitive (to become) looks okay too.

Are both sentences okay?

I hope that I am posting on the correct page. If not, I apologize.

Agent_009

Hello Agent_009,

Yes, both sentences are fine. The first means 'some time before seven years' and the second means 'when seven years has passed'. You might use the second if you know that it will definitely take seven years - for example, you have a seven-year course of study ahead of you. You might use the first if you do not know how long it will take, but see seven years as being the maximum possible time you will take.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

What a rally to win / What a rally to win a set/match / What a match to win =
=It is used in excalamatory sentences, which is why it is typically used in commentary and speeches.

Is it possible to use this structure when I have enough time to think about it? Beacuase I heard Federer say: It was incredibly hard shot to hit. It was a post match interview at Wimbledon.

Thank you for your reading my comment! It is the last think I am curious to know about it!

Hello Dominik9966,

That is possible, but it is a different construction to the 'What a... to...' that you asked about in your first question!

The infinitive can be used after adjectives in this way:

It is easy to do.

We were stupid to try that.

You can also include a noun:

It is an easy thing to do.

We were stupid idiots to try.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much Peter!

Can I ask you for one more help?

1) What a shot to win a rally = exclamatory (e.g. tennis matches)

2) ..incredibly hard shot to hit = when do I usually use this structure?

My last question is focused on previous post :)

Wawrinka beats Federer to win MC tournament.

1) You said it is similar to infinitiv of purpose. Does it really work the same way even though it isn´t 100% infinitiv of purpose? I wish to know it to be 100% sure when I can use it.

Thank you once again! :)

Hello Dominik9966,

The structure here is [adjective + to infinitive]. In some contexts it is similar in meaning to an infinitive of purpose, which can be a useful way to think of it, but it is a different structure. The use of this is similar to a gerund subject:

Swimming in this river is easy.

It's easy to swim in this river.

Hitting that shot was incredibly hard.

It was an incredibly hard shot to hit.

I'm not sure what else I can tell you. I suspect that there is a similar structure in your own language, if that language is Czech. Certainly there is a similar structure in other European languages, including Slavic languages such as Polish.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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