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! I am wondering whether this sentence means the person has to do something: "the food to be eaten shall be three meals per day." In other words, is this a command? Or how would you describe it grammatically? Thanks!

Hello ballinke,

This form 'the [noun] to be [past participle]' is a formal form generally used in instructions, regulations and laws, so it may well be a command, depending on the context. It is a passive infinitive formed with [to be + past participle].

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi

In the first page of your "English Grammar" you say
"Each section has interactive exercises to help you check understanding"
Could you please explain to me why there is "check" rather than "to check" or "checking"
and what is the general rule for that..(if there is one).

Many thanks

Hi Ilared,

When a verb is followed by another verb, the form of the second verb depends on what the first verb is. In the sentence you ask about, the first verb is help, which is a bit of an unusual case because it can be followed by a to + infinitive or a bare infinitive (i.e. infinitive without to). Both of the following sentences are correct:

Thanks for helping me to paint my flat.
Thanks for helping me paint my flat.

Normally you can't choose what form to use after a verb: generally, the second verb must be either in the to + infinitive form (explained above) or the -ing form.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

thanks for your reply,
so what are you saying is that in general a verb could be followed by the to+infinitive or by the ing-form (and it depends from the verb) but there are some verbs that could be followed by a bare infinitive. Can I ask you if there are other verbs like "help" that allow a bare infinitive after them.

Thank you in advance,

Ilared

Hi 

The bare infinitive is used after modal verbs such as 'should', 'can', 'will' and so on.  It is also used after certain verbs in the structure [verb + object + bare infinitive]. These verbs include let, make, see, hear and feel.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you teacher for this lesson, I have an interesting question, what about rest of adjectives that is followed by to + infinitive... you haven't mentioned them, only you've mentioned group of them.. I hope you'll comment for my question as soon as possible..

Hi Nawaf student,

You're right when you say that there are other adjectives that are like those explained above, but the purpose of our grammar pages is to help people learn the English they need for ordinary situations, not to provide an exhaustive list of every possible form. The list would be very long, indeed!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,
                My name is Sumeet. I have seen the following three patterns in which the verb 'prefer' can be used.
1) Prefer + Noun + to + Noun
2) Prefer + Gerund + to + Gerund 
3) Prefer + Full infinitive + rather than +  Full / Bare infinitive 
I am confused about the 3rd pattern. Do we use full infinitive or bare infinitive after rather than in this pattern ? Some books say that we use full infinitive and some say that bare infinitive is used after rather than. Can you please exemplify it? Thank you so much in advance.

Hi Sumeet,

The third pattern you mention, with a full infinitive after rather than, e.g. "I would prefer to stay at home rather than to go to the party", doesn't sound right to me, but perhaps there are varieties of English in which that structure is correct.

What I have seen is prefer + full infinitive + rather than + bare infinitive / -ing form:
"I would prefer to stay at home rather than go (or going) to the party".

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

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