'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

GapFillTyping_MTY0MjY=

Verbs with to-infinitive 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0Mjc=

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

Matching_MTY0Mjg=

Infinitive of purpose 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0Mjk=

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

ReorderingHorizontal_MTY0MzA=

Adjectives with to-infinitive 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0MzU=

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTY0MzY=

Nouns with to-infinitive 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0Mzc=

Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.

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

Submitted by Samin on Thu, 03/09/2020 - 15:25

Permalink
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
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 04/09/2020 - 07:42

In reply to by Samin

Permalink

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

Submitted by Reemtb on Sun, 30/08/2020 - 10:14

Permalink
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.

Hello again Reemtb,

Yes, you can use other link verbs in sentences like this one.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kim Hui-jeong on Wed, 26/08/2020 - 22:37

Permalink
A. She is likely to start her new project. She has to move. She is pretending to be a man. She tends to scratch her head. She may start her new project. Are the senses and the roles of the to inf.s the same as 'start her new project' of 'may', complementing the (modal) verbs and indicating the action of the subject? Do we speak them in the same sense? If we classify the main verb of modal verbs ad the complement of the modal verbs, do we also classify the inf.s above as the complements of the 'be + adj.'s? B. I'm dying to eat that cake./I'm dying for that cake. I'm eager to try out our new suit./I'm eager for the suit. Do we speak the to inf.s above in the same sense as the 'for~'s? Do they mean the same, expressing the subject's wish, desire, or plan as adverbials? C. I hoped for some money./I hoped to take the train. I begged for more candy./I begged to go to the movies. I longed for an A./I long to get an A. I volunteered for the job./I volunteered to help the kids. I was aiming for the trophy./I was aiming to receive the trophy. Do all of this kind of 'for + N's, meaning 'In support of' or 'in favor of', can also be replaced as a to-inf.? C. I agreed with the plan./I agreed to go tomorrow. Is this to-inf. a noun phrase as an object, or an adverbial showing the object the verb is regarding?

Hello Kim Hui-jeong,

With respect to your first question, I'm afraid I'm not exactly sure what you're asking here. The only modal verb here ('may') is in the last sentence, and here it 'behaves' as with any other modal, i.e. the verb after it is a base form. The infinitive after the other verbs is one of multiple possible collocations after those verbs. Perhaps they are all similar in some sort of classification, but I'm afraid we don't present grammar using such classifications on our site.

Some of the sentences in B and C sound a little odd to me (e.g. 'I'm eager for that suit'), and I'm not sure I wouldn't say that those phrases beginning with 'for' mean 'in support of' or 'in favour of'. I'd encourage you to study the example sentences in a good dictionary to see the different ways these words are used.

If you have any other questions, could you please make them a bit shorter and focused on just one thing? It would help us answer your comments more efficiently. Thanks in advance for your understanding.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reemtb on Sun, 23/08/2020 - 20:36

Permalink
Hello Mr. I have a question First seen in London in 2005, the Orchestra returned in 2007, to produce electrifying performances bringing wide-spread critical acclaim. In this sentence why there is a comma before to infinitive( , to produce electrifying performances bringing wide-spread critical acclaim.)
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Mon, 24/08/2020 - 03:21

In reply to by Reemtb

Permalink

Hi Reemtb,

I can't be sure about the writer's intention, but I guess that the writer added the comma because the sentence is quite long (19 words). The comma helps to break it into smaller groups of words that make sense, which makes it easier to read and understand.

There's no grammatical reason for putting a comma there, and many writers wouldn't.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Reemtb on Mon, 24/08/2020 - 12:40

In reply to by Jonathan R

Permalink
Thank you a lot Mr. I have another question if you don’t mind. -To be successful, the show will need to be financed by a wealthy sponsor. In this sentence is (to) preposition or not? What’s the type of this to infinitive ? And in the cases do we need to invert if the verb was (verb to be).

Hi Reemtb,

No, in this sentence it's not a preposition. It's the to that comes before an infinitive verb. It's used because it follows the verb need (... need to be ...). The verb need isn't listed on the page above, but it belongs in the first group, verbs of thinking and feeling.

About inversion, it's only needed if the sentence structure requires it (e.g. if it's a question).

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by clearbright25 on Fri, 21/08/2020 - 18:17

Permalink
Hello, I would just like to ask a question. I am currently studying Infinitive phrases I understand that an Infinitive phrase starts with To + Verb. I understand how an Infinitive phrase can be the subject of a sentence. What I don't really understand is, why Infinitive phrases operate as nouns? Could anyone clarify this. Thanks.
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Sat, 22/08/2020 - 04:58

In reply to by clearbright25

Permalink

Hi clearbright25,

Do you mean something like this?

  • To ignore him would be rude.
  • To err is human. 

 

If the infinitive phrase is the subject of a sentence, it must be a noun. Only a noun or a pronoun can be the subject of a sentence. By doing this, we can avoid mentioning any person or other subject who is doing the action (since the sentence already has a subject, which is the action itself). So, we might use this structure if we want to focus the sentence on the action itself, without mentioning anyone doing the action.

Have I understood your question correctly?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nagwa Ragab El… on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 18:11

Permalink
is it possible to have gerund after to such as to modifying..

Hi Nagwa Ragab Elsakhawy,

To is actually two different words. One is to that comes before an infinitive verb. The other is to as a preposition.

 

To before an infinitive verb

This always has an infinitive verb after it, never a gerund. See the page above for examples of this.

To as a preposition

Some words require the preposition to. This needs to have an -ing form after it. Some examples:

  • I'm looking forward to seeing you.
  • We're close to finishing the project.

In these examples, to is a dependent preposition. It is linked to looking forward and close. So, to answer your question, yes! It is possible if to is a preposition.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kim Hui-jeong on Wed, 12/08/2020 - 11:17

Permalink
I am willing to help you. The bomb is going to blow. I was hesitant to accept his presence. /I can swim. What do these to infinitives act like? Do they act exactly like the verb with a modal verb?

Submitted by DesKal on Sun, 12/07/2020 - 01:46

Permalink
Hello! I would like to ask what is the meaning of to + verb in the below sentence: "Greece to put sanctions on Turkey"

Hello DesKal,

This looks like a newspaper headline. Words are often omitted from headlines to save space. In this case, I expect the full sentence is 'Greece is to put sanctions on Turkey'. In formal speaking and writing, 'be' + infinitive can be used to express official planned actions (such as those carried out by a government).

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Luke warm on Sat, 27/06/2020 - 14:04

Permalink
Hi sir, 1.You seem nervous. 2.You seem to be nervous. What is the difference between the two sentences. With to be and without to be.
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 27/06/2020 - 16:14

In reply to by Luke warm

Permalink

Hello Luke warm

2 is the full form, but very often people omit 'to be' and use just 1. There is no difference in meaning.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Luke warm on Tue, 26/05/2020 - 11:14

Permalink
Hi sir, Please explain why there is "to be" in following sentence. What does "to be" mean. In the following sentences does "to be" functioning as verb or adjective. 1. I didn't claim to be an authority. 2.The present is a gift, and I just want to be. 3.the duty of every athlete to be aware of what he or she is taking. 4. She is learning to be more discipline.
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 26/05/2020 - 13:18

In reply to by Luke warm

Permalink

Hello Luke warm

Re: 1, the verb 'claim' is often followed by a noun or a phrase beginning with a 'to' infinitive. 'to be' is not adjectival here. The same is true of 'learn' in sentence 4.

I'm afraid that sentences 2 and 3 are grammatically incorrect. If you put 'is' before 'to be' in 3, then the phrase 'to be aware ...' is a nominal (noun-like) complement of the verb 'is'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by amanrihana on Wed, 01/04/2020 - 14:21

Permalink
Hello everyone! I'm often confused... I mean, i dont really know when i should use a verb in ing form and when to+infinitive. For example: I'm really tired. I'm ready to go to bed. I'm really tired. I'm ready going to be. This one is just for example, there are many. So what is the difference? Thanks

Hello amanrihana,

There are some verbs which are followed by to + infinitive and others which are followed by -ing.

I'm afriad there's no way to tell what any particular verb is followed by – you just have to memorise the patters.

Fortunately, we have pages on these to help you:

Verbs followed by the infinitive

Verbs followed by the '-ing' form

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by John Mccan on Tue, 21/01/2020 - 20:14

Permalink
Hello Sir You have explained before that there is no need to differentiate if Nonfinite is working as modifier or a noun, we just need to figure out correct use of infinitive/infinitive phrase vs ing phrase. But still since i want to understand exactly why and how we are using an infinitive/ing thus following questions, please help/just verify: -I want to sing (answers what) noun, correct -I heard him sing/singing- as adjective modiying objective pronoun -I study to learn(answers why/infinitive of purpose ) - Adverbial modifier of verb study - he teaches people just to help - Adverbial modifier (answers why) not an adjective of people -I want him to sing a song- Adjective modifier/adj clause. Providing more info about objective pronoun him. -Doctor prescribed him to take medicine - Adjective modifier 'him'(unnatural English but just to understand from grammars point of view) -He is prescribed to take medicine - Adjective modifier of he/predicate nominative. -Different prospects are studied to learn more about the universe - Adverbial modifier fo studied. thankyou

Submitted by John Mccan on Wed, 22/01/2020 - 19:24

In reply to by John Mccan

Permalink
Sir, My approach is if it answers what(as verbs object) then its a noun, if it answer why when who which how what about a noun/pronoun than an adjective, if modifies an adjective or verb by answering why what when how than is an adverb, is this correct? Also can participles work as adverbial modifiers, i read pariticiples cannot be adverbial modifiers but i think it can for eg. He came screaming(adverb) into the room, he is feeling ignored(adverb) or he died aged(adverbial modifier) 80, so we cam use participles as adverbial mod. right? Thanks

Submitted by xandrsx on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 20:46

Permalink
Hi All, I have to report daily activities in writing, normally I put the start and finish time of the activities my question is how do you report past activities in a clear and simple way. For example: A) 08:00-09:00 Team briefing, report to the site manager and obtain access to the building. B) 08:00-09:00 briefed team, reported to the site manager and obtained access to the building. Many thanks,
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 15/01/2020 - 07:19

In reply to by xandrsx

Permalink

Hi xandrsx,

To report your earlier activities in this way, the normal form is to use the past simple without a subject, as you do in the second version (B). It's possible to use some nouns as well (Team Briefing).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Magnus on Mon, 07/10/2019 - 11:57

Permalink
Dear Peter and Kirk, I wonder whether the following two sentences containing the verb "lead" are acceptable and if so which of the two sentences would be more common in written English: 1. Her advice leads him to accept himself. 2. Her advice leads to him accepting himself. I would be very grateful if you could explain the difference between "lead somebody to do something" and "lead to somebody doing something" with reference to the above sentence. Thank you very much! Best wishes Magnus

Hello Magnus

In most situations, the expressions would effectively mean the same thing, though they have a slightly different focus. 1 suggests that he takes the advice and actively accepts himself, whereas 2 is less specific and focuses more on the result; it could be, for example, that he resisted accepting himself for a long time, but then finally did so in the end.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Patnala akshay on Sat, 07/09/2019 - 11:29

Permalink
Hi sir I have a doubt that how can we use ' to infinitive ' with after prepostion.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 08/09/2019 - 07:09

In reply to by Patnala akshay

Permalink

Hello Patnala akshay,

It is possible to use the infinitive after certain prepositions, but the preposition must have an object (noun or pronoun) before the infinitive. For example:

The woman asked for the dress to be changed. [passive infinitive]

Paul is waiting for Sue to arrive.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MandyM on Sat, 31/08/2019 - 10:38

Permalink
Hello, I wonder if you can help - I'm trying to find the grammar basis to a sentence such as: She was the first woman to be elected to parliament, where we use 'to be elected' in the place of: She was the first woman 'who was elected' to parliament. Thank you for your insights!

Hello MandyM,

The structure here is 'be the first person to do something' and it is a quite common stylistic choice in biographical or historical texts. The meaning is the same as the simpler 'be the first person who did something'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amy18295 on Sun, 25/08/2019 - 15:38

Permalink
Hi Sir, Do your page have a topic about additional words such as: another, other, additional, extra, more, futher...If not, .I would be more thankful if you could take your time to clarify all these mentioned words. Many thanks for your great assistance !!
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 27/08/2019 - 08:39

In reply to by Amy18295

Permalink

Hello Amy18295,

We're happy to answer specific questions in the comments sections of our pages but we can't provide long explanations of multiple structures, I'm afraid!

Some of the words you mention are quantifiers, so a good place to start would be our section on those:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/quantifiers

You can also use the search function at the top of the page to find pages which reference the words you are interested in.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Goktug123 on Tue, 20/08/2019 - 18:24

Permalink
Hello Team! I have a question. What is the meaning and grammatical function of "to" in this sentence? "The integration of structural steel elements to inspire, bring people together, and shade the building demonstrates that engineering can be beautiful as well as functional and sustainable. Thank you!

Hello Goktug123

'to inspire' is an infinitive of purpose here. The 'to' also goes with 'bring' and 'shade'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Goktug123 on Thu, 18/07/2019 - 19:05

Permalink
Hello Team! I have a question. Is "to ensure" adjective in the sentence below? I thought it define "machining". "Weld metal maybe deposited on the inside or outside of the piping component to provide sufficient material for machining to ensure satisfactory fitting of rings." Thank you!

Hello Goktug123

'to ensure' is an infinitive that describes the purpose of the material deposited on the outside of the piping component. This material will be machined, and this machining will ensure that the rings fit (as far as I can tell).

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anng1909 on Wed, 17/07/2019 - 20:14

Permalink
Hello, sir, could you please tell me if this sentence has the corect structyre and tenses? Thank you. “Cayden’s hands somehow manage to have one land on the table with a smack, the other swiped across the surface and ending up behind the edge.”

Hello anng1909

If this sentence is describing something that already happened, then 'manage' should be in the past simple and I'd probably also put 'ending up' into the past simple as well ('ended up'). Some kind of conjunction after the comma would also improve the sentence in my opinion.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Fri, 14/06/2019 - 08:17

Permalink
Hi,sir. Could you tell me whether i can use these sentences and what the difference is 1. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo 2. Amelia Earhart became the first woman flying solo. Thank you,
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 14/06/2019 - 08:39

In reply to by Risa warysha

Permalink

Hello Risa warysha

The first one is correct and the second one is not -- the structure is 'be' or 'become' + 'the first (noun phrase optional here) to do something'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amy18295 on Mon, 10/06/2019 - 11:45

Permalink
Dear Sir, Thanks so much for your lessons, could you please help me to clarify the function of " to Infi" as well. For example: 1. He bought some flowers to give to his wife. =>" to give to his wife " has the function as adv of V- bought or complement of flowers? 2. They gave him an opportunity to escape.=> " to escape" has the function as complement of opportunity, is that right?

Hello Amy18295,

In the first sentence 'to give to his wife' is an infinitive of purpose. It explains why the man bought the flowers and has the same meaning as 'in order to'. It has an adverbial function in the sentence.

In your second sentence, the infinitive acts as a post-modifier to the noun 'opportunity'. As it completes the meaning of 'opportunity', creating one concept, it is a complement.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team