Level: beginner

Verbs with to-infinitives

We use the to-infinitive after certain verbs (verbs followed by to-infinitive), particularly verbs of thinking and feeling:

choose
decide
expect
forget
hate
hope
intend
learn
like
love
mean
plan
prefer
remember
want
would like/love

They decided to start a business together.
Remember to turn the lights off.

and verbs of saying:

agree promise refuse threaten

We agreed to meet at the cinema.
Promise to call me every day.

Some verbs are followed by a direct object and then the to-infinitive:

advise
ask
encourage
expect
intend
invite
order
persuade
remind
tell
want
warn
would like/love
would prefer


 

He encouraged his friends to vote for him.
Remind me to give Julia a call.

Verbs with to-infinitive 1

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Verbs with to-infinitive 2

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Infinitive of purpose

We also 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 can also express purpose with in order to and in order not to:

We started our journey early in order to avoid the traffic.
They spoke quietly in order not to wake the children.

or so as to and so as not to:

We started our journey early so as to avoid the traffic.
They spoke quietly so as not to wake the children.

Infinitive of purpose 1

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Infinitive of purpose 2

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Level: intermediate

Adjectives with to-infinitives

We use the to-infinitive after certain adjectives:

able
unable
anxious
due
eager
keen
likely
unlikely
ready
prepared
willing
unwilling

Unfortunately, I was unable to work for over a week.
I'm really tired. I'm ready to go to bed.

Sometimes the to-infinitive gives a reason for the adjective:

amazed
delighted
disappointed
glad
happy
pleased
proud
relieved
sad
sorry
surprised
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.)

We often use it + be followed by an adjective to give opinions:

clever
difficult
easy
foolish
hard
kind
nice
possible
impossible
right
wrong
silly

It's easy to play the piano, but it's very difficult to play well.
He spoke so quickly that it was impossible to understand him.

We use the to-infinitive with these adjectives to give opinions about people:

clever
foolish
kind
nice
right
wrong
silly
 

She was right to complain about that hotel.
You were clever to find the answer so quickly.

We use the preposition for to show who these adjectives refer to:

difficult easy hard possible impossible

It was difficult for us to hear what she was saying.
It is easy for you to criticise other people.

With the other adjectives, we use the preposition of:

It's kind of you to help.
It would be silly of him to spend all his money.

Adjectives with to-infinitive 1

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Adjectives with to-infinitive 2

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Level: advanced

Nouns with to-infinitives

We use the to-infinitive as a postmodifier (see noun phrases) after abstract nouns like:

ability
attempt
chance
desire
failure
need
opportunity
refusal
wish

They gave him an opportunity to escape.
He was annoyed by her refusal to answer.
I have no desire to be rich.
There is no need to shout.

We often use the to-infinitive as a postmodifier after 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.

Nouns with to-infinitive 1

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Nouns with to-infinitive 2

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Comments

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

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 Andrii,

These sounds like headlines for news articles. Headlines often miss out words. In this case, the subject of each sentence 'is to do something', which means they plan to do something.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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?

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