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

Hi bimsara,

I'm afraid there's no trick to learning which verbs are followed by one form or the other - you must simply learn them by heart.

Good luck!

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello!
 
I have seen sentence like this,
 
'We look forward to helping you'. Is this sentence correct and can we use to + ing?
Thank you.

Hi bimsara,

The word "to" in "look forward to" is a preposition, not part of an infinitive. Since verbs that follow prepositions go in the -ing form, the sentence you ask about is indeed correct.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir,
"he wept to see the desolation caused by the flood"
how 'to see' is expressing cause? I interpret it as purpose not cause.

Hi rishikesh3nov,

The explanation of to + infinitive on this page isn't exhaustive - in other words, it does not cover every possible use of this form. The verb weep is a fairly literary word, and can be used with an infinitive after it. This phrase is another way of saying "he wept when he saw the desolation caused by the flood."

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear grammar experts,
Should we use second TO if two infinities connected with AND or OR?
Please, write back as soon as possible.
Alyona, Kazakhstan

Hi Alyona,
I suppose you are asking about a sentence such as:
He would like to shake the president's hand and to speak with her.
That is correct, though people also say:
He would like to shake the president's hand and speak with her.
If I haven't answered your question, please give an example of what you mean so that I can help you better.
Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,
Please help me to understand the usage of ' keen to &  keen on ' why because I wrote a sentence in my CV with keen to ( keen to work with a dynamic organization...............). 

Hello ABIN JOSE,
'Keen to' is used to talk about something you want to do but have not yet done:
'I'm very keen to meet him.' [= I haven't met him yet, but I want to]
'Keen on' is used to talk about something that you like very much right now:
'I'm really keen on cooking.' [= I enjoy cooking]
The sentence you quote from your CV looks fine as it describes your hopes and goals in the future.
I hope that clarifies it for you.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,
Thank you very much for your prompt reply.  

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