Level: beginner

Many verbs in English are followed by the infinitive with to. Some of these verbs take the pattern:

  • Verb + to + infinitive

We planned to take a holiday.
She decided to stay at home.

Others verbs take the pattern:

  • Verb + noun + to + infinitive

She wanted the children to learn the piano.
I told him to ring the police.

Two very common verbs – make and let – are followed by the infinitive without to. They take the pattern:

  • Verb + noun + infinitive

My parents made me come home early.
They wouldn't let me stay out late.

The verb dare can be followed by the infinitive with or without to:

  • Verb (+ to) + infinitive

I didn't dare (to) go out after dark.

verb + to + infinitive

Some verbs are followed by the infinitive with to:

I decided to go home as soon as possible.
We all wanted to have more English classes.

Common verbs with this pattern are:

  • verbs of thinking and feeling:
choose
decide
expect
forget
hate
hope
intend
learn
like
love
mean
plan
prefer
remember
want
would like/love
  • verbs of saying:
agree promise refuse threaten
  • others
arrange
attempt
fail
help
manage
tend
try
 
Verb + to + infinitive 1

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Verb + to + infinitive 2

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verb + noun + to + infinitive

Some verbs are followed by a noun and the infinitive with to:

She asked him to send her a text message.
He wanted all his friends to come to his party.

Common verbs with this pattern are:

  • verbs of saying:
advise
ask
encourage
invite
order

 
persuade
remind

 
tell
warn*

 

* Note that warn is normally used with not:

The police warned everyone not to drive too fast.

  • verbs of wanting and liking:
hate
intend
like
love
mean
prefer
want
would like/love
  • others:
allow
enable
expect
force
get
 
teach
 

Many of the verbs above are sometimes followed by a passive infinitive (to be + past participle):

I expected to be met when I arrived at the station.
They wanted to be told if anything happened.
I don't like driving myself. I prefer to be driven.

Verb + noun + to + infinitive 1

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Verb + noun + to + infinitive 2

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Level: intermediate

make and let

The verbs make and let are followed by a noun and the infinitive without to:

They made him pay for the things he had broken.
The doctor made me wait for almost an hour.
They let you go in free at the weekend.
Will you let me come in?

But the passive form of make is followed by the infinitive with to:

He was made to pay for the things he had broken.
I was made to wait for almost an hour.

let has no passive form. We use allow instead:

We were allowed to go in free at the weekend.
I was allowed to go in.

dare

The verb dare is hardly ever found in positive sentences. It is almost always used in negative sentences and questions.

When it is used with an auxiliary or a modal verb, dare can be followed by the infinitive with or without to:

I didn't dare (to) disturb him.
Who would dare (to) accuse him?

But when there is no auxiliary or modal, dare is followed by the infinitive without to:

Nobody dared disturb him.
I daren't ask him.

make, let and dare

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Comments

Hello Abdullah,

Thanks for looking that up in the dictionary. I don't think using 'to' instead of 'until' would cause too much confusion for most people, though really 'to' tends to be used to explain the purpose of a postponement and 'until' is used to indicate the new time/date. For example, 'The meeting was postponed until Monday to give the chairwoman time to arrive'. 'for' is also common, though used to talk about a length of time rather than the new time/date, e.g. 'The meeting was postponed for three days to allow the chairwoman ...'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Would you please explain to me how and when to use 'to be' in a sentence? I often see it in sentences but not sure what does it really mean.

Hello Abidani,

It might help to think that 'to be' is an infinitive, and so, for example, as is explained on this page, it can be used after verbs like 'want' that can be followed by infinitives (e.g. 'I want to be a poet'). Infinitives are also commonly used to talk about purpose (e.g. 'I went to the market to buy some eggs').

There are so many different ways 'to be' and other infinitives can be used in a sentence that I don't think anyone could explain them all! If you find any specific examples you want ask us about, feel free to do so.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Kirk, for your reply.

I would be grateful if you make me clear about the use of specific 'to be' (not other infinitives or am/is.....) in sentences. For example:

''Waste water is sent to the water treatment plant to be processed.''

My query is
1) what does this sentence mean?
2) what if I don't use to be as such instead write '......................plant to process'?
3) Is it better to use such form in sentences to make them more formal or it has no impact?

Thanks again :)

Hello Abidani,

The infinitive in your example shows purpose - it tells us why the waste water was sent to the plant. You can replace 'to be processed' with 'in order to be processed' or 'so that it could be processed' without fundamentally changing the meaning. The key here is that it is an infinitive; 'be' is included because it is a passive form (to process = an infinitive; to be processed = a passive infinitive).

You can read more about this and other uses of the infinitive on this page.

You cannot use the formulation you have in your second question. You could say 'to the plant for processing', using a preposition and a gerund.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you peter for the nice clarification and thanks to the @LearnEnglish team as well.

Best regards

Hi Teacher,
How to Improve English Grammar? Tell me some easy tips. Recently I prepare from this site. can you have something more to add in this Guide.

Hello Mahi69,

I'd recommend you read our Frequently asked questions page, which has advice on how to get the most out of our site. You're welcome to study this Grammar section and our Quick Grammar to improve your grammar, but I'd also recommend you try a series like Elementary Podcasts, where you will see grammar in context and also learn vocabulary, improve your listening, etc.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

sir
please help me... clear my doubt
i can't differentiate btw when to use "to+infinitive" and when to use "gerund" .......... a list of word given in many books to cram those word and use accordingly......... but i want to know the main concept behind it. i will read all thing please give me guidance

Hello tonystar95,

The gerund form (which is one kind of -ing form) always functions as a noun. The infinitive can have many roles in the sentence (nominal (noun), adjectival and adverbial being the most common).

You can read information on the -ing form here and on the infinitive here. Very often it is the verb which precedes these forms which determines which form is appropriate.

I hope those links are helpful. If you have any particular uncertainties then I think it would help if you provided a concrete example. It's not possible for us to explain all uses of forms in the comments sections.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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