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.




Hi, all.

I can't stand listening to music.
I can't stand to listen to music.
Is there is difference in meaning? because they are two phrases in the dictionary.
Can you stand listening to music?
I s this correct question ? or simply I should say :Do you like listening to music?

Hello Inas,

As far as I know, 'stand' with this meaning is followed by a noun phrase or a verb in the -ing form, not a to + infinitive. So the first sentence is correct, but the second is not. The question you ask about is grammatically correct, but is not used because 'stand' with this meaning is only used in the negative. As you suggest, you should use the verb 'like' to ask a question instead. You can see more example sentences by looking up 'stand' in the Cambridge Dictionary using the search box on the right side of this page.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Inas,

I see! I had checked the Cambridge Dictionary entry, which lists only the -ing form. The example in Macmillan does sound correct to me now that I read it. As far as I can tell, there is no difference in meaning between them, though perhaps you will be able to correct me on that as well!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

teacher I looked up this head line on a news paper
It was" president to stay neutral at polls"
but on this site, as we are learned ,
that head line should change as "president stays neutral at polls"
can you explain what's the wrong or different in this case?
(if i made any grammatically wrong or any unusual manner when I ask question, kindly indicate me about those.)

Hello Tharanga pud,

'be + to + infinitive' is commonly used in formal contexts to indicate a plan. The headline could also be 'President plans to stay neutral', but 'to stay' is shorter.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

but sir.. isn't that grammatically incorrect? and in my opinion , "president stays" is shorter than "president to stay" isn't that? other hand.... "president does stay " goes "president stays" but the point which looks like went wrong is... " to" comes between subject and verb, replacing "does"
that's the major problem which i have and could we use this form for any verb as..
01, I to go home
02, he to drive the car
03, The engineer to build the house( I think this one is pretty much fair to that form,
I mean i feel like that) pardon me sir could you explain again?
in addition to those I've seen a grammatical form like this

" he is to go home" "I'm to build the house"
what's the different this form and above form?

Hello Tharanga pud,

I'm afraid you've misunderstodd the form. In your examples you have the subject directly followed by 'to + verb', but the correct form uses the verb 'be' before 'to + verb':

Not 'I to go home' but rather 'I am to go home'.

The first is incorrect; the second is correct. The verb 'be' can be in any form (past, present etc).

The meaning, as Kirk said, is an established plan or expected behaviour.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

thank you sir
well, but as my first question, in the sentence "president to stay neutral at polls",
I can see "to+infinitive" (to stay) but I cannot see 'verb be'....?
I picked up that from English news paper
so Mr.kirk said "that is shorter" that's why i asked, in that way,

could i short "I'm to build a house" into "I to build a house" exactly The problem which i have
What happen to "verb be"? please sir can you explain again?