We 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 sometimes say in order to or in order not to:

We set off early in order to avoid the traffic.
They spoke quietly in order not to wake the children

… or we can say so as to or so as not to:

We set off early so as to avoid the traffic.
They spoke quietly so as not to wake the children.

• after certain verbs (see verbs followed by infinitive), particularly verbs of thinking and feeling:

choose, decide, expect, forget, hate, hope, intend, learn, like,
love, mean, plan, prefer, remember, want, would like, would love

… and verbs of saying:

agree, promise, refuse

They decided to start a business together.
Remember to turn the lights out.

Some verbs are followed by a direct object and the infinitive(see verbs followed by infinitive):

advise, ask, encourage, invite, order, persuade, remind, tell, warn,
expect, intend, would prefer, want, would like

She reminded me to turn the lights out.
He encouraged his friends to vote for him.

• after certain adjectives.

Sometimes the to-infinitive gives a reason for the adjective:

  • disappointed
  • glad
  • sad
  • happy
  • anxious
  • pleased
  • surprised
  • proud
  • 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

Other adjectives with the to-infinitive are:

  • able
  • unable
  • due
  • eager
  • keen
  • likely
  • unlikely
  • ready
  • prepared
  • unwilling
  • willing

Unfortunately I was unable to work for over a week.
I am really tired. I’m ready to go to bed.

We often use the to-infinitive with these adjectives after it to give opinions:

  • difficult
  • easy
  • possible
  • impossible
  • hard
  • right
  • wrong
  • kind
  • nice
  • clever
  • silly
  • foolish

It’s easy to play the piano, but it’s very difficult to play well.
He spoke so quickly it was impossible to understand him.

We use the preposition for to show who these adjectives refer to:

  • difficult
  • easy
  • possible
  • impossible
  • hard

It was difficult for us to hear what she was saying.
It is easy for you to criticise other people.

We use the preposition of with other adjectives:

It’s kind of you to help.
It would be silly of him to spend all his money.

• As a postmodifier (see noun phrases) after abstract nouns like:

  • ability
  • desire
  • need
  • wish
  • attempt
  • failure
  • opportunity
  • chance
  • intention

I have no desire to be rich.
They gave him an opportunity to escape.
She was annoyed by her failure to answer the question correctly.

• We often use a to-infinitive as a postmodifier after an indefinite pronoun (See 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.




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


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone
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,
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.

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,
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,

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.



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,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you. Also could you please explain the difference between to catch a view and to catch a sight ? For example if I want to say : I had to stand in the balcony to catch the whole view/ sight of the parade. Thank you