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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

Hello.
Why isn't it possible to make a negative statement with just to+infinitive? Why is it only possible with the other expressions (in order to and so as to)?
Thanks in advance!

Hello Alicelle,

It is possible to use just + to + infinitive with negative forms. It's not very common, but it is possible.

Just + to + infinitive has the sense of 'for only this reason' or 'for no other reason'. For example:

He left early just to be sure he would be on time.

The meaning here is that the only reason he left early was to be on time; there was no other reason.

 

We can use a negative before 'just':

He left early not just to be sure he would be on time (but also because he wanted to stop for a coffee on the way).

 

We can also use a negative later in the sentence:

He left early just to be sure he wouldn't be late.

 

It's also possible, though very unusual, to use a negative infinitive:

He left early just to not be late (and for no other reason).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, Peter! Two more questions based on your answer. You use "to not be" in the last sentence:
1. Why do you use that order if the negative form of an infinitive is "not to be"?
2. Why is it unusual to use a negative infinitive?

Thanks!

Hello Alicelle,

You can use either 'to not be' or 'not to be'. There is no difference in meaning.

 

It's more common to use a positive infinitive with the opposite meaning. In other words, a form like 'in order to be on time' is more common than 'in order not to be late'. This is not a rule, but simply a question of frequency of use.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
A bank uses this phrase.
'Good people to bank with'
what does it mean ?

Hi SonuKumar,

To bank with (a particular bank) means to do banking activities (e.g. opening or closing an account, transferring money). So, Good people to bank with means (We are) good people for you to do your banking business with.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
Some banks use phrases like these:-
'Good people to grow with or Good people to bank with' what do they mean ?
Do they mean 'Good people should or will bank or grow with us or they are advised, expected or requested to grow or bank with us' ?

Hi SonuKumar,

It's an interesting phrase! Good people refers to the bank, and to grow with refers to you, the reader or customer. We can paraphrase it like this: (We are) good people (for you) to grow with.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I'm looking for a grammar rule to explain this construction:

The government to announce new measures

Thanks

Hello Anatoly,

This looks like a newspaper headline. One of the features of headlines or titles is that words are often left out. In this case, I understand the full sentence to be 'The government is to announce new measures'.

In this sort of construction, the 'to'-infinitive has a future meaning. It's often used to speak about official plans and is typically used in a formal style.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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