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 would like to ask which of the following is correct
When we describe something that happened in the past we can say
I was very happy to see her
BUT can we also say
I was happy to saw her?
Thank you in advance

Hi agie

No, I'm afraid not. It is possible to use a perfect infinitive ('to have seen') instead of the simple infinitive. If you said 'I was happy to have seen her', this puts emphasis on the fact that your seeing her came before you were happy (the simple infinitive refers to an action that happened at the same time instead of earlier). In most cases, this kind of emphasis or precision isn't necessary, so we just say 'to see her'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone
Choose:
Which ball will you borrow(me-to me-for me)?

I think it is me but I want to make sure and thank you very much.

Hello Hamdy Ali,

If I understand what you want to say, it should be 'Which ball will you lend me?' This is the question you could ask a person who has a ball and who is going to let you use their ball.

If it's you who is letting another person use the ball, the question would be 'Which ball do you want to borrow?' or something similar.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Could you tell me the difference between these sentences?
I like to travel. I like travelling.
I went through the above website 'to infinitive' but I cannot get a clear idea about the difference between the to infinitive and the 'ing'.form.
Thank you.
Regards
Lal

Hello Lal,

They mean the same thing in many contexts, though people sometimes use form or the other to communicate a subtle difference. We often use the first one (with to+infinitive) to talk about a preference or habit, whereas we use the second one to speak more about the experience itself.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Team.
I am curious about to use two to-infinitives in one clause with the same function.
Here is the example: 'We believe that the ability should be free to change our lifestyles to make it better for us.'

I understand that the first "to-infinitive" ㅡ to change ㅡ function like an adverb to modify adjective ㅡ free ㅡ, but I have no idea about the second "to-infinitive" ㅡ to make ~ ㅡ. I guess the second one is functioning like adjective to modify the noun, lifestyles.

Please let me know what I missed or what I need to learn.
Loads of thanks,
-Bomy

Hello Bombom,

The second infinitive in this sentence is an infinitive of purpose (listed on this page), which is an infinitive used to describe the reason for an earlier action. You could replace to make with in order to make here and the meaning would be the same.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team,
I am confused with the difference in meaning of these two sentences:
"I stayed up late to watch a film last night" vs " I stayed up late watching a film last night''. Kindly explain the difference or which sentence is correct. Than you,

Hi Widescreen,

The sentence with the infinitive of purpose communicates the idea of staying up late with that purpose. The other sentence (with the -ing form) just describes what you did last night, without the idea of purpose -- maybe you were just bored, for example, or maybe you had to watch it before class today.

In some contexts, this distinction might not important, but the subtle difference is there.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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