Verbs followed by the infinitive

Learn about verbs that are followed by the infinitive and do the exercises to practise using them.

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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Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 29/03/2019 - 21:04

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Hi. Is "admit doing" completely equal to "admit to doing" or there is a difference? Thank you
Hi Ahmed Imam, As far as I am aware there is no difference. The form without 'to' is more common, I would say. Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Goktug123 on Mon, 25/02/2019 - 13:42

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Hello team! I have a question. Do these two sentences have same meaning? "Bravery is not to be afraid of being afraid" "Bravery is not being afraid to be afraid" Thank you.

Hello Goktug123

Yes, I'd say them mean the same thing.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sat, 09/02/2019 - 19:44

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Could you please help me? Is the following sentence correct in meaning? Try putting the aerial over there. It might work better. Or it must be "Try to put"" Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam

Yes, that is correct. In this case, 'try' followed by the -ing form means to put the aerial over there so we can see if it works better.

If you said 'try to put', it would be grammatically correct, but would have a different meaning: see if you can put the aerial over there (perhaps it's in a difficult place to reach or a place where the aerial might fall).

You can see more examples in the Cambridge Dictionary -- the first entry (attempt) refers to 'try to do' and the second entry (test) refers to 'try doing'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Alex_R on Sat, 09/02/2019 - 13:16

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Hello, Not sure if it is the right topic. But Id like to learn the rule behind this sentence. ''We help bring attention to your business''. Why there is no TO before bring? Thank you
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 10/02/2019 - 07:21

In reply to by Alex_R

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Hello Alex_R

Some people use a 'to' before the infinitive here, and some people do not. In the US, for example, people tend not to use 'to' there.

In any case, both are accepted as correct. If you'd like to see some more examples of how 'help' is used, there are several in the Cambridge Dictionary.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Wed, 06/02/2019 - 03:45

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Could you please help me? If you can't find the key, try (to open - opening) the lock with something else, like a knife or a screwdriver. I think both choices are OK. If so, when to use each one? You are so helpful. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both choices are possible grammatically, but there is a difference in meaning.

 

try to do - this means attempt to succeed

try doing - this means see if you like it

 

In this context, try to open is the correct choice, I would say.

 

You can read more on the topic on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar/verbs-followed-ing-or-infinitive-2

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Momocompanyman on Sun, 10/06/2018 - 15:56

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Hello Sir , I don't understand the part of sentence in Activity 2: You will remenber to put the cat out, (won't you ? )

Hi medmomo,

'won't you' is a question tag. You can read more about what these mean and how we use them on our Question tags page. I think that should help you understand it, but if you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Karth1 on Mon, 30/04/2018 - 23:50

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I have come across a popular children’s program where the narrator describes a bird. The sentence is as follows “ it is a tiny little bird come to look at sam’s tent” Is this sentence correct? Can you please explain the grammar behind this?

Hello Karth1,

The sentence is correct but I can see why it might look unusual. The speaker has used ellipsis, which means omitting certain words for reasons of style or other rhetorical preference. The 'full' sentence would be as follows:

it is a tiny little bird which has come to look at sam’s tent

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter! On this context, can I say if this sentence works? “You can play the guitar after I mended it?”

Hello Karth1,

The verb form is not correct there. Time words such as after are followed by present forms when we want a future meaning, so you can use a present simple or a present perfect form here:

You can use the guitar after I mend it.

You can use the guitar after I have mended it.

 

You can read more about the verb forms used in time clauses on this page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Vahid82

Submitted by Vahid82 on Sat, 10/03/2018 - 13:31

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I wonder if the verb "use" belongs to the list of verbs followed by infinitive, as in "I used the key to open the door." If so, what is the function of the infinitive? Does it modify "key"?

Hello Vahid82,

It's great that you are trying to make sense of this, but 'use' is a verb that is used in many ways and isn't always used with an infinitive. In the sentence you ask about, the infinitive form is an infinitive of purpose, which is explained on our to + infinitive page. 

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Shaban Nafea

Submitted by Shaban Nafea on Thu, 01/03/2018 - 07:06

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A dog tried to bite me yesterday. What's the passive ? I tried to be bitten yesterday. I was tried to be bitten yesterday. Or I was about to be bitten yesterday.

Hello Shaban Nafea,

The verb 'try' can be intransitive (having no object) or transitive (requiring an object. In this use (meaning 'attempt' and followed by an infinitive) it is intransitive and therefore there is no passive form.

When 'try' is used with the meaning 'sample' or 'test' it is a transitive verb and so has a passive form:

I tried the soup and it was awful!

The soup was tried by me and it was awful!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you,Peter but can't I use the passive form with "bite" ? How can I do this in the sentence " The dog tried to bite me yesterday"?

Hello Shaban Nafea,

It is possible to follow 'try' with a passive form but not to make 'try' itself passive. For example, imagine a situation in which a person wants to be sacked from their job and is doing everything to make their boss angry. We could say the following:

She tried very hard to be sacked from her job.

It's a very unusual form. As far as 'bite' goes, you could need to think of a situation in which a person wants to be bitten but finds it difficult to achieve. Then you might say:

He tried to be bitten.

Again, however, this is a very strange sentence. You need to imagine a highly unlikely context and the whole thing is rather artificial. You can see these sentences with other verbs from time to time:

I want to be informed immediately.

I hope to be chosen for the team.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shivamgetz on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 14:58

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It's being said that used/ought is always followed by infinitive 'to + v1' but in the sentence " They ought to have insisted on some compensation. " why the word "insisted" is of a different form. If "have" is the main verb here then what role "insisted" is playing here. Also please clarify if there are cases where used/ought is followed by verb form other than v1.

Hello shivamgetz,

I'm afraid I don't agree with that rule. While 'ought' and 'used' can both be followed by a present infinitive ('to + v1'), they are also used in other, different ways. The sentence you cite is an example -- in it, 'ought' is followed by a perfect infinitive ('to have insisted') and this is correct. 'used' is not followed by a perfect infinitive.

I'd suggest you read up on 'ought to' and 'used to' by following the links.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team