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

Thank you very much!!

Hello!!

I would like to ask about a structure of "would prefer".

When referring to the present, it is ok to use it with full infinitive, both when the subject is the same and when there is a change of subject.
Eg.
I would prefer to stay here.
I would prefer you to stay here.

How about using a similar structure when referring to the past in both cases?
Eg.
I would have preferred to have stayed here.
I would have preferred you to have stayed here.

Thank you very much!!

Hello kelly,

When referring to the present, the full infinitive is correct in the first sentence but a little unusual in the second. There a past simple form is typically used, and I'd say 'would rather' is more commonly used than 'would prefer' (e.g. 'I'd rather you stayed here').

In the second set of sentences, the first is correct and but the second sounds strange to me. I'd recommend something like 'I´d have preferred that you stayed' (or even 'had stayed').

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello.
What is the difference between the base form and the infinitive of the verb? I know that the base form is the most simple form of a verb, e.g. "go" whereas the infinitive is "to go". With modals verbs, should one say, e.g. "can + base form" or "can + infinitive without to"?

Hello amirfd,

'base form' and 'bare infinitive' and 'infinitive without 'to'' all refer to the same form. It would certainly be easier if thre were just one term, but I'm afraid that's just not the case!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank's a lot.

Hello.
Infinitive: "to + base form of a verb" or "base form of a verb"?
Different references have different definitions.

Hello amirfd,

There isn't much consistency, I'm afraid. It can be either both words ('to' + base form) or just one word (base form). Here we generally speak of a 'to' infinitive or a 'bare infinitive' to try to make things clear, but it's also a good idea to look for examples to be sure.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Please describe following question. (with reason)
The friendly atmosphere of the school ............... .
1.made there a pleasure studying
2.where it was a pleasure studying
3.made it a pleasure to study there
4. that it was made a pleasure to study there

Hello amirfd,

What do you think the correct answer is? We are happy to help you learn, but we ask that you explain to us what you think the answer is and why so that we can better help you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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