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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 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

Hello
pls clarify this, which one is correct as past perfect
Jerin had decided to walk home ,for she wanted some exercise.
Jerin had decided to walk home for she had wanted some exercise.
Can we use two 'had' in one sentence

Hello Samin,

The past perfect is used when we want to describe an action which happened before another relevant action in the past. That means that when we use the past perfect there must be another past time action (using past simple or continuous) to act as a point of reference.

 

Your first sentence is correct: the past perfect action (had decided) occurs before the past simple action (wanted) ended.

Your second sentence is not correct without some other context - an action to provide a point of reference in the past simple or continuous. That's not to say it couldn't be correct. It is possible to use two or more past perfect verbs in one sentence provided there is another action to act as the point of reference. However, in your sentence this is missing.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Mr.
I have a question.
When (to infinitive ) is the subject of the sentence, can we use all the linking verbs or just verb (be) ?
For example, can l say
To play with Manchester United seems an impossible dream.

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