Verbs followed by the infinitive

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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Submitted by Rind.aziz on Wed, 23/03/2016 - 07:15

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The word "love", what takes, an + ing or to + inf. I am confused here.

Hello Rind.aziz,

Both to infinitive and -ing are possible after 'love', but the meaning is different. For examples and explanations please take a look at this page and this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rosario70 on Fri, 22/01/2016 - 20:13

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good evening to everyone teachers, i have these two clauses 1( we hope to be warded the top prize), 2) we hope that we have been warded the topo prize). i am wondering if they are the same meaning. thank yuo so much. rosario

Hello rosario,

No, they are different. The first one is speaking about a prize that has not yet been given, whereas and the second one is speaking about a prize that has been awarded, but which we don't know who won. Note that the verb is 'award' rather than 'ward'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yojana77 on Wed, 06/01/2016 - 12:00

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I would like to ask which sentence is correct and why? 1.she helped her mother to cook food. Or 2. She helped her mother cook food. I thought the first sentence was correct but the second also doesn't sound incorrect. Pls help

Hello Yojana77,

After the verb 'help' we can use either of these.

help someone to do something

help someone do something

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rosario70 on Sun, 13/09/2015 - 11:42

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good morning to everyone i have a question for you: in thise sentences( when do you plane to be done?, or we had hoped to be done sooner) are they correct if i added the object as it follows: when do you plane to be done the race? , we had hoped to be done a good celebration sooner. thank you so much.

Hello rosario70,

No, in 'to be done', 'done' is an adjective, and this adjective can't take an object. The easiest and most natural way to say what I think you want to say is 'When do you plan to finish the race?'

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by noëlle berthon on Fri, 31/07/2015 - 23:08

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Hello Peter M I have a question about the verb "like". Sometimes it is followed by "to" and sometimes by "verb +ing" : I like to play with Paul I like playing with Paul Do the two sentences have the same meaning? Thank you for your answer. Best regards, Noëlle

Hello Noëlle,

You can find the answer to your question, plus more examples of similar verb on this page.

You can also find useful information on the topic here.

I hope that answers your question.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by misam on Thu, 18/06/2015 - 14:07

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hello, regarding causative verbs,if I want to make the verb after object negative,are following sentences correct?and common in English? 1.I get my brother not to come. 2.I have my brother not come. 3.I make my brother not come. if they are not, please kindly direct me the right way. And one more unrelated question for ending letters!is it considered rude to finish letters by the expression "thanks in advance"? best wishes thanks in advance

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 19/06/2015 - 07:34

In reply to by misam

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Hello misam,

The infinitive or bare infinitive after a causative verb are not normally negated. To be honest, I'm not sure if it's considered incorrect to negate them or not, but I can tell you that negative forms sound very strange there because no one, or nearly no one, uses them. To communicate the ideas in your sentences, you could change the second verb, e.g. 3. 'I make my brother stay at home'.

'Thanks in advance' can indeed be used near the end of an email or note, such as in this comment. Most of the time, however, it would come before 'Best wishes'. For example:

Thanks in advance (for your answer)!

Best wishes - misam

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Muhammad Salik on Sun, 07/06/2015 - 18:26

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Hi kirk S+verb+to be + past perticiple What would be the alternative of above.? Also In which situation the above structure use?

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 08/06/2015 - 08:05

In reply to by Muhammad Salik

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Hello Muhammad,

I'm afraid I don't know what structure you're referring to above. Could you please explain what you mean more specifically?

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aleena Neala on Thu, 04/06/2015 - 21:05

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Hi there. I am confused and in need of help. Which of these is correct? (A) Water is important as it helps improve your metabolism, regulate blood circulation and get rid of toxins from the body. (B) Water is important as it helps to improve your metabolism, regulate blood circulation and get rid of toxins from the body. (C) Water is important as it helps to improve your metabolism, to regulate blood circulation and to get rid of toxins from the body. (D) there is another answer. Kindly explain to me why it is the correct answer. Thank you.

Hello Aleena Neala,

'Help' is an unusual verb in that it can be followed by an infinitive ('help [sb] do sth') or an infinitive with 'to' (help [sb] to do sth'). Thus sentences (A) and (C) are correct.

In English it is also possible to miss out words which are repeated ('ellipsis'). Thus, sentence (B) is also correct - the 'to' can be omitted for the second and third verbs.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you. I'm supposed to teach kids basic English. It is embarrassing when the teacher is confused. Thank you again.

Submitted by bnpl on Sun, 17/05/2015 - 19:41

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Dear the LearnEnglish Team members, 1) Would you please tell me if we can leave out “rather” in the following sentence structures? a) I prefer to swim rather than go camping. b) I would prefer to swim rather than go camping. 2) Can “rather than” be used instead of “to” in the following sentence structure? a) I prefer / would prefer swimming to going camping. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you in advance. Rgds, bnpl

Hello bnpl,

1) No, using just 'than' in these two sentences would make them incorrect. A more common alternative is: 'I prefer swimming to camping'. Note that the -ing form of the verbs must be used here – it's as if you are comparing two nouns (e.g. 'I prefer apples to oranges').

2) With 'prefer', yes. With 'would prefer' it sounds a bit unnatural to me, though I believe it's correct.

By the way, we'll get to your other comments as we can. This one is about as long as we can normally handle.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by tuhintalukder71 on Mon, 27/04/2015 - 00:05

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hello,,, i have well finished these exam... i got 64 points out of 64 !!!!

Submitted by mi_lo90 on Thu, 11/12/2014 - 16:56

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Hi Teacher Please explain to me why these type of grammar are used in these sentences 1. "Non-defining relative clauses are more often used in written English than in spoken English." What is the reason why you write it down in "written english", but not "writing english" 2. " Why not be the first person posting your comment on this website, and see it posted here". Why is the word "posted" used as an past participle form? Is it correct if i use "posting" word in this sentence? Thank you so much

Hello mi_lo90,

I'd suggest you look up 'written' and 'writing' in our Cambridge Dictionaries Online search box on the right. You'll see that 'written' is a past participle or adjective (in this case, it's an adjective telling us what kind of English) and that 'writing' is a noun or part of a verb. Neither a noun or verb makes sense in this position.

'See it posting here' is a possible form, though a bit strange. Verbs of perceptions such as 'see' are often followed by a noun and an -ing verb form, e.g. 'I saw Sarah doing her homework'. This implies that I saw the action in process. Unless there is some kind of internet problem, normally a comment on a website is posted very quickly, so it's a bit strange to say 'I see it posting'. We'd also more likely use a passive form in this case: 'I see it being posted'.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lakshusha on Fri, 05/12/2014 - 13:24

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He knows to drive .Isn't the word 'know ' a verb, and drive a 'to infinitive

Hello lakshusha,

Yes, you are correct. However, the correct sentence would be 'He knows how to drive'.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JMRA. on Sat, 01/11/2014 - 10:38

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Hi Sir, What is the criteria for using a to infinitive after like or love verbs, they are really appearing in the first list of the verbs which have to be followed by a -ing form. (see next chapter) thank you in advance.

Hello JMRA.,

In general, there is no difference in meaning between the use of the infintive or -ing form after 'like' and 'love', though the -ing form is preferred when we are speaking about a single specific occasion (e.g. I liked playing the piano with her last week) and the infinitive is preferred when speaking about choices or habits (I liked to play the piano with her when I was in primary school).

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by neha_sri on Mon, 15/09/2014 - 18:46

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Hi, So what is the difference between two of the examples? >He was found to be carrying undecleared goods. >He was found carrying undecleared goods.

Submitted by neha_sri on Fri, 12/09/2014 - 17:16

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Hi Sir, Can we use past participle with the verb 'seem'? She seems worried. Instead of >She seems to be worried. My second question is that the sentance given below is of gerund form or participle form? >He was found to be carrying undecleared goods. >He was found carrying undecleared goods. This form of the sentance is correct or not?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 13/09/2014 - 10:19

In reply to by neha_sri

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Hi neha_sri,

The word 'worried' here is actually an adjective, though it has the same form as the past participle. You can see this if you consider that we could use other adjectives here such as 'happy', 'enthusiastic' and so on.

In the second sentence the -ing form is a participle form, not a gerund. Both of your examples are correct forms.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by neha_sri on Thu, 11/09/2014 - 10:52

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Hi Teacher, what is the difference between two sentences given below? 1 she seems to comprehend my problems. 2 she seems comprehending my problems.

Hi neha_sri,

The main difference is that the first sentence is correct and the second is incorrect! 'Seem' is followed by an infinitive with to, not by an -ing form.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by maggiemariebrewer1 on Mon, 28/04/2014 - 03:23

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I feel as thought I must have learned this at some point! Please clarify for me which is correct: I encourage you to treat the event as a networking opportunity and invite potential customers. OR I encourage you to treat the event as a networking opportunity and to invite potential customers. Thank you! Maggie

Hello Maggie,

Both of these are correct.  The verb 'encourage' is followed by an infinitive with 'to', so 'to invite' is correct; however, where there are two identical forms in the sentence then we often omit the repeated 'to' for stylistic reasons, and so 'invite' is also possible.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Livon4090 on Sun, 08/12/2013 - 03:06

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Dear Teachers,

I have a confusion whenever the following words come together : to be. For example, It needs to be done. Second, the battery may need to be replaced.

Until now , I have not understood why we use ' to be' and when we use it .Are they use for passive, active ,future , advice or purpose.

Kindly please clarify it for me and provide an explanation so that I can use it appropriately according to the context.

With kind regards,

Livon    

 

Hello Livon,

What you are essentially asking is what the infinitive is used for, and the answer is that it is used for many things.  The infinitive can be used in all of the ways which you list, and more besides.  To list, explain and exemplify them all would require a very long and detailed response, which is really what the grammar pages are for here on LearnEnglish.  For example, here is the page on the infinitive, which contains, I believe, just the information you are looking for.  With a little seaching in the grammar pages you should be able to find the right section (here is the section on verbs, for example) and the relevant material; the comments sections of LearnEnglish are really for more specific questions on particular examples or rules.

I hope the links are useful.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by maya01 on Sat, 07/09/2013 - 15:22

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Hello,

good evening,

It is a wonderful informative site which gives all basic knowldge.Thanks a lot.

I want to do speaking practise more.It will build my confidence.so what would you suggest for that?

 

Hello maya01,

The best thing will be to practise with a partner who is also learning English, so think about your friends and acquaintances - could you practise with any of them?  You can also practise by yourself!  That might sound a little strange, but just talking to yourself at home can be a very effective way to develop fluency and build your confidence.  I know, because it is a method I use when I learn a foreign language!  Finally, you can use the transcripts that we have with our audio (and video) materials to practise speaking.  Try to say speak after, or at the same time as, the speakers so you can get used to speaking at natural speed.  It isn't easy, but it can really help.

I hope those ideas are helpful.

Best wishes,


Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello peter! you wrote that' when i learn a foreign language' i don't understand that. i mean it is about prsent or something like that..because i think when it is past it shoud be 'when i learnt a......'

Hello bimsara,

If I was talking about one particular time in the past then I would use the past simple ('when I learnt...').  However, I was talking in general terms, about something I do every time, and so the present simple is suitable ('when I learn...').

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Quadri Dilnawaz on Tue, 20/08/2013 - 16:45

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Hello, I'm doing upper intermediate with British council in Hyderabad( India). Actually, I was sugessted to do the advance course, by one of your colleague, because I had applied for CELTA. Due to some reasons I can't continue the course till advance( C1) Now, will you please suggest to me, what I should do to improve myself. I have only 2 months with me,coz next session for CELTA is after 2 months. So, please give your best suggestion. Thank you

Hello Quadri Dilnawaz,

I can suggest some higher-level materials for you here on LearnEnglish:

If you're planning on taking the CELTA course and becoming a teacher, then you might find our sister-site Teaching English useful.  You can also join in the discussions on the Teaching English Facebook page.

I hope those links help you.

Best wishes,


Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aniletom on Thu, 30/05/2013 - 22:48

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Hello,

Please help me to understand the following English phrase:"There was nice work to be done." Unfortunately, I don't quite understand this phrase: is it about the future or past? Are there any grammatical errors?

Thank you very much for your help!

PS: To refer to the present or future, I believe it should be, as there is nice work to be done. To refer to the past we use perfect infinitive: "There was nice work to have been done."

Best regards,
Alex

Hello aniletom,

The sentence is correct.

We can say 'there is nice work to be done' if we are talking about the future.

Your sentence also talks about the future.  However, it refers not to the future from now, but rather the future at the time of speaking, which for us may not be the future any more because some time has passed.  In that case we have to say 'there was (at that time in the past) some nice work to be done (in the future, looking from that time)'.

You can find more on talking about the future here (click).

You can find some more examples of future in the past on this page about talking about the past (click).

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by GiveHer on Tue, 30/04/2013 - 15:35

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Hello,

I came to this page because I have seen "make sure to" a lot recently. Is this grammatically correct? Should "make sure" always be followed by "that"?

Thanks.

 

Hello GiveHer!

 

Yes, this use of make sure is perfctly OK. You can use make sure with an infinitive:

Make sure to finish your homework!

 

or with a complete clause, with a subject and a verb:

Make sure (that) you finish your homework!

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marikit on Thu, 31/01/2013 - 11:54

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Hi,  I have a question that relates to the proper use prepositions of "to", "for" and "of" in a sentence.  Can you send me the link on the proper use of these prepositions or tips on how to get this right? 

Based on this example, which one is correct?

1. She is the executive secretary to the Programme Director.
2. She is the executive secretary for the Programme Director
3. She is the executive secretary to Michael Smith.
4. She is the executive secretary of Michael Smith.
5. She is the executive secretary for Michael Smith.

I hope you can help me on this. - Marikit

Submitted by Honscho on Thu, 20/12/2012 - 14:28

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Hello,

 

is it possible to say:

s.o. announced to do s.th.

or do I have to say

s.o. announced that...

Hello Honscho!

I'm afraid you have to use the second pattern, not the first. You can drop the 'that', though:

He announced that he would marry Emily.

OR

He announced he would marry Emily.

... are both OK. We use 'would' because we are using announced as a reporting verb for reported speech.

Regards

Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hayat khan on Tue, 18/12/2012 - 20:18

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thanks for your site for it gives us a number of information about English grammar