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 Delta,

I would say on his stomach. I suppose it's possible that one could lie on the floor on one's back with one's hands behind one's back, but most of the time it would be on one's stomach.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Yes, I agree with you. Thank you, Kirk.

Hi,

Quoting your example above, "He wanted all his friends to come to his party", which illustrates the concept that some verbs are followed by a noun and the to-infinitive. My question are:

a) Concerning the sentence above, is it right to say that the infinitve phrase "to come to his party" is the direct object of the verb "wanted", and that "all his friends" is the actor or subject of the infinitive phrase?
b) Or is it a case where "all his friends to come to his party" is the direct obejct of the verb "wanted"?
c) In addition, my last questions concerns the matter of direct and indirect objects. Using the same sentence, am I right to say that the infinitve phrase "to come to his party" is the direct object of the verb "wanted", and that "all his friends" is the indirect object?

Thanks!

Regards,
Timothy

Hi Timothy555,

These are questions which go beyond the scope of our site. Our goal here is to help learners improve their English, not to provide analysis of this type, which is really a part of linguistics. There are other sites which delve into such questions, such as herehere, here and here, for example.

Be warned that you will find different interpretations as infinitives can have many functions: adverbial, adjectival and nominal, to name but three.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
I looked the word " postpone" up in the Cambridge Dictionary and I found that it is only used with " until", like in "The exams have been postponed until next month." My question is that would it be wrong if I use " to " with " postpone",i.e. Can I say " The exams have been postponed to next month"?

Thanks in advance,
Abdulllah

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

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