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

Hi, British Council!

I am confused with these use cases I read on some website:
"Gillian Flynn TO write female-led heist film for 12 Years a Slave director."
"Man likely TO sell 'dream house' because Comcast won't give him internet."
Could you help me? Thank you in advance.

Hello teachers.
You are not referring to the country or city, but to something in it.

Is it OK to use "to something" without a verb?

Hello Dwishiren,

Although it looks like part of an infinitive, 'to' here is actually a preposition and so it is fine to follow it with a noun. The verb in the second part of the sentence is the same as that in the first part, and it is omitted to avoid repetition:

You are not referring to the country or city, but (your are referring) to something in it.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Respected sir,

Please look at the sentence below

I am fortunate to have him as my friend.

Does the above 'to' infinitive work as a reason?

I means does it mean I am fortunate because I have a friend like him? Or does it mean something else?

Thank you.

Hello deepuips,

Yes, you are correct: it is is an example of an infinitive giving the reason for the adjective.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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