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'to'-infinitives

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

Infinitive means to+V1
Do we have other structures??

Dear pyramid,

I've already answered this question on another page. Please post your questions only once – we will get to them.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,

I would like to ask, is it common to put To as the first of sentence?
For example : "To avoid discrepancy and dualism, both party agree to waive the rules
What is the right structure?

Thank you

Hello Namdwit,

Yes, that is perfectly fine. In fact, one of the most famous lines of Shakespeare begins with an infinitive: 'To be or not to be: that is the question'.

Your sentnece is an example of an infinitive of purpose - you can think of it as meaning 'In order to avoid discrepancy...'

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

I have been looking for answers to a question regarding to two verbs in one sentence ... "... that is here to help you to enhance ... ". I never know how and why this works. Do I use "to help you to enhance ..." or just "to help you enhance ..." and why? Thank you.

Hi seeker,

Some verbs are followed by [to + infinitive], some by [verb-ing] and some by [verb]. There's no way to work out which is which - you need simply to memorise them. Some verbs, such as 'help' can be followed by more than one form:

I helped him to paint the door.

I helped him paint the door.

In the case of 'help' there is no difference in meaning.

For more information on this take a look at these pages:

verbs followed by to + infinitive

verbs followed by -ing clauses

verbs followed by that clause

verbs followed by ‘ing’ or by ‘to + infinitive’ 1

verbs followed by ‘ing’ or by ‘to + infinitive’ 2

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I am an English teacher and one of my students has stumped me with this question... Why is the word "to" used after the verb and before the pronoun in sentences 1, and not in sentences 2?

1. Let me explain to you something.
2. Let me make you a cake.

Thanks!

Hi caseyw,

These sentences have direct ('something' and 'a cake', respectively) and indirect objects ('you'). Some verbs require the indirect object to be in a prepositional phrase (generally with 'to' or 'for') and 'explain' is one of these verbs. 'Make' can also have a similar construction if you put the indirect object at the end:

Let me make a cake for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello, could somebody explain me about the structure and the sense of this sentences?
-She is to study marketing and management.
-He is to marry Susan.

Hello manuel24,

The structure here is [be to + verb]. It is a way of talking about the future and is generally used to talk about things which a person is supposed to or scheduled to do. It has a similar meaning to 'supposed to' or 'meant to'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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