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

"There was nobody to talk to."
"I hated to be told what to do."
"The job was too difficult to be finished alone."
These things happened in the past, so why is the infinitive in the present tense ("to talk", "to be told", "to be finished")?
I understand that it is correct, but how can I explain it to someone? :)
Cheers!

Hello weezer!
 
The infinitive isn't in the present tense - it's just the infinitive form, and stands outside the tense system. You can just as well say "There will be nobody to talk to", and you will still use the infinitive.
 
Hope that helps!
 
Regards
 
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Jeremy! Could you please explain the use of "need" as a model verb? I've been through the examples given by OALD  and it's kinda confusing. Never in my life have I ever found a grammar rule so confusing. Please explain when exactly we're not required to put 'to' after "need"     Here's the examples:
     "I need hardly tell you that the job is dangerous"
      "If she wants anything, she need only ask" here "need" without 's' is creating problem.
      "All you need bring are sheets"
Here in my part of the world, teachers who teach B.A English, have been telling the students not to put "to" after need. I was surprised to see that every grammar book gives only this one use of "need" and forgetting or denying its use with to.

Hello skinnypigeon,
"Need' is sometimes described as a semi-modal verb - that is, a verb which can function both as a modal and as a regular/normal verb.  When we use it as a modal, its form is similar to other modals, meaning we use a bare infinitive (without 'to`), form negatives by adding 'not', questions by inversion and a perfective form by adding 'have', just as we do with 'should', for example:
Need we go now?
We needn't go yet.
However, the verb is slowly changing from a modal to a regular verb and so the forms above are, gradually, becoming less common and are starting to sound a little archaic.  In fact, the positive form is no longer used in modern English and you can only really see the modal form of 'need' in questions and negatives.  Even with these forms it is much more common these days to use 'need' as a regular verb, similar to 'want':
Do we need to go now?
We don't need to go yet.
Obviously I can't comment on your textbooks or teachers in your country but do remember that English exists in many different standard forms in many countries and what is archaic in, for example, British English may be quite normal in standard English in other countries.
I hope that clarifies it for you.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks very much indeed Peter! I really appreciate that. Your explanation certainly does clarify.

Hi Sir,
I have confusion in using( to Preposition) with verb.
Example : somebody uses the describe verb as " to describe" somebody uses as " to describing " what is the deference between two. and in which instance we can use the above sentence. please explain. 
 ( Same as " to accept " and  " to accepting"
 Thanking you
Student

Hello mohamed!
 
I'm sorry, but without seeing the whole sentences you took your examples from, it's very hard to explain why one sentence uses 'to describe' and one uses 'to describing'. I think you are asking about the difference between to + verb and to (preposition) + verb-ing. You can have a look at my reply to alyuuv below, and see if that helps you understand. If you can give me a bit more information, I might be able to help you more.
 
Regards
 
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

1.Researchers at Iowa State University are testing how well catnip oil works to do the same thing.
In this sentence, does 'to do the same thing' works as an adverb? or a noun? If it works as an adverb, it contains the meaning of purpose, or intent?
2.He grew up to be a good pianist.
 
In this sentence, to-infinitive is used as an adverb. My tutor says 'To' roles as 'and'.
3.To see it, you will not believe it.
In this sentence, to infinitive is used like 'even if', accoding to my KOREAN grammar book. But, my pal says that that's a wrong sentence. Is that wrong?

Hello,
I would agree with your pal - the sentence 'To see it, you will not believe it' sounds very unnatural to me.
Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

And also, most of my teachers(not a native) says that in these sentences, to infinitives and participle phrase is used to indicate a 'reason'.
He must be crazy to leave now.(or leaving)
(My teachers said 'to' acts like 'because')
But, above, there is a just one explanation, that is"give a opinion". And also, there is a no explanation in the book "advanced grammar in use".

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