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,

"Someone asked a clown......." In this sentence why don't we put "from". I mean in this way, "Someone asked from a clown"

Thank you.

Hello naaka,

That is not how the verb 'ask' works - it takes an object without any preposition. It might be helpful to look it up in our dictionary to see the example sentences there.

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
"He has no right to getting involved to it" Is this sentence grammatically correct? They used 'ing "form after "to".I know there are some sentences like that.for an example" I'm looking forward to helping you"And also I'd like to know how we can identify this thing.

Thank you.

Hello naaka,

I'll explain this, but just so you know, you can often find the answer to questions such as this one in our dictionary. If you look up 'right' there and look through all the entries (there are quite a few), you can see: in the right › [+ to infinitive] You have every right (= you have a good reason) to complain.

Therefore, 'He has no right to get involved in it' would be the correct way to say this. (Note also that the preposition that usually goes with 'involved' is 'in'.)

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello kirk,

I'm sorry for disturbing you again.I understood what you mean, but I' d also like to know how do we identify which one goes with 'ING' form and which one goes with "infinitive?' Can we find that one from dictionary?

Thank you for your help.

Hello naaka,

There's really no easy, reliable way to tell whether 'to' is acting as part of an infinitive or as a preposition just by looking at a sentence. A good dictionary, however, will indicate how to use a word that goes with 'to', though different ones may do it in different ways.

The Cambridge Dictionaries, for example, don't indicate that 'to' is a preposition, but will indicating to use an -ing form. See, for example, the entry for 'look forward', where you can see this in the definition and in the examples. In the entry for 'keen', you can see in the use of an infinitive after 'keen' in the first example sentence.

As you find these forms, I'd recommend you make a list of them. That way you can refer to and even study your list to master these forms more efficiently.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
As far as I know, "for + noun" construction is used to talk about the purpose of an action, so is right to say " he was sent for prison for killing an innocent boy." in stead of " he was sent to prison for killing an innocent boy."? and is there any difference in meaning between the two sentences?

Thanks in advance

Hi zagrus,

The first sentence (with 'for prison') is not standard English. 'to' (and not 'for') is used to indicate direction or movement, which is what is meant here.

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Is 'to' always followed by a simple present tense even when the sentence is in past? ex. We were made to write 10 pages a day to improve our writing skills.

Hello Akshat Sharma,

'We were made' is a passive verb and 'to write' is the infinitive (not the simple present tense). Normally, 'make' is followed by the bare infinitive (without 'to'), e.g. 'Our teacher made us write an essay', but when 'make' is used with this meaning in the passive, a 'to' infinitive is used: 'We were made to write an essay'.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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