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 Widescreen,

As far as I know, 'catch a view' and 'catch a sight' are not used in standard British English. You can 'catch a glimpse' or 'catch sight' of something (follow the link to see the definition and examples), but not 'catch view' or 'catch a view'.

I'd probably say 'I had to stand on the balcony to see all of the parade', though of course it depends on context.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir
Is it right to say?1. Neither my friend nor my brothers were present. or was present but not were present 2. Neither my brothers nor my friend was present. or were
Please let me know which ones are correct.
Thank you.

Hello Andrew international,

You can find the answer to this in our grammar section with a little search. It's very helpful to us if you can first try to find the answer yourself before posting questions as it enables us to focus on those questions which do not already have an answer on our pages. This page is on an entirely different topic (to + infinitive); the relevant page for your topic, with the information you require, is here.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


It is said that we have such a rule: If an infinitive(intransitive) comes after a noun and that noun is logical object of the infinitive, a prepostion is required:

1. The children need a garden to play in. (followed the rule)
2. There is not enough snow to ski on. (followed the rule)

3. It is difficult to find a place to park. (why not "park in" here? )

Hello sword_yao,

Neither Peter nor I are familiar with this rule. It seems to work in many cases, but not with all. You've already found one counter-example ('place') and the word 'time' (e.g. 'There isn't enough time to go skiing') is another.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I'm wondering whether it is correct to use "are" as a verb for "I". For example

"Neither Peter nor I are familiar with this rule."

Shouldn't be "Neither Peter nor I am familiar with this rule"?

Hello Otevia,

When 'neither' and 'nor' are used like this, we commonly use a singular verb after them, even though there are really two subjects ('Peter' and 'I'). So yes, 'am' (or even 'is') is correct. That said, 'are' is also possible (since logically the subject is plural), especially in a less formal context.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

thanks a lot. I do need to realize existence of exceptions.

Thank you very much!!


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.
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?
I would have preferred to have stayed here.
I would have preferred you to have stayed here.

Thank you very much!!