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

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

What about the infinitives without To....... Like let etc

I am really happy to find this page.

Could you help me please how this form of TO works? I haven´t found it in any book. :(

Here are examples:

What a rally to win. (IN TENNIS - commentator during a match)

What a rally to win a set/match (the same)

What a match to win. (IN TENNIS - commentator during a match)

Wawrinka beats Federer to win Monte Carlo tournament.

I have already written similar post on WR forum but I was told I had better to ask for help here.

Thank you very much for your time!

Hello Dominik9966,

You have several examples here. The first three are examples of the 'to infinitive' used to signify the achievement of doing something. It is used in excalamatory sentences, which is why it is typically used in commentary and speeches.

What a rally to win / What a rally to win a set/match / What a match to win.

The meaning here is 'what a (wonderful/amazing) rally that was, and how great an achievement it was that the player won it. We can use other question words in the same structure:

How great an achievement to finish the marathon! / How long it took to write this book!

You other example is a little different. Here we have an example of the 'to infinitive' used to express purpose:

Wawrinka beats Federer to win Monte Carlo tournament.

The meaning here is similar to 'in order to':

Wawrinka beats Federer in order to win Monte Carlo tournament.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for clarifying!

1)

How long it took to write this book!

Is it still the same? I can not image saying it differently. What makes it tougher for me to understand it is I don´t find it as the same example as: What a rally to win. I am missing an adjective. I thought it was possible to say it like: "What a rally to win" every time I can add an adjective e.g. "What an (amazing/wonderful) rally to watch" but your sentence: How long it took to write this book is a bit different. There isn´t possible to add an adjective!

2)

Federer beats Wawrinka to win MC tournament.

So it works the same way as inf. of purpose does? So there is no need for me to create a new category for this, is it?:)

Thank you in advance :)

Hello dear BC team,
every time when I ask a question I get an appropriate answer that apsolutely clear out my doubts, and thank you for that!!

Now I am not quite sure about this sentence: "Wawrinka beats Federer in order to win Monte Carlo tournament."

1. In dictionary, there is an explanation translating "to beat" as "to defeat". So in this context, Wawrinka is loser? Right?
2. Why should we use present simple then. Is this a narrative speaking, so it that context we use present for something happened in the past?
3. The verb "beat", actually have in most casses two meanings "to defeat" and "to hit", right? However, when I translate "beat" into my native language, sometimes it sounds like "to win" which is completelly opposite from the verb"defeat".

Thanks a million!!

Hello swxswx,

Thanks for your comment - that's what we're here for, and it's always nice to know that our work is appreciated!

1. 'to beat' does indeed mean 'to defeat', but it sounds as if you've misunderstood 'to defeat'. If W defeats or beats F, W wins. I'd suggest you check the dictionary again - there's a handy search box on the lower right side of this page.

2. The present tense can be used to talk about the past when we are telling a story of speaking about the story of a film or book. Here, the match is presented as a story, and so the present is used. This is quite common in talking about sport.

3. As I mentioned before, I think you've misunderstood 'to defeat' and 'to beat', because they mean 'to win'. Notice that you win a match, game, tournament or trophy, but you defeat or beat another person or team. And yes, 'beat' can also mean something like 'hit'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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