Learn about the infinitive form of a verb and do the exercises to practise using it.

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:

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:

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


Verbs with to-infinitive 2


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


Infinitive of purpose 2


Level: intermediate

Adjectives with to-infinitives

We use the to-infinitive after certain adjectives:


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:


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:


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:


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


Adjectives with to-infinitive 2


Level: advanced

Nouns with to-infinitives

We use the to-infinitive as a postmodifier (see noun phrases) after abstract nouns like:


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


Nouns with to-infinitive 2


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Submitted by Lorenzo311 on Mon, 21/11/2022 - 16:39


From the book 'THE ALCHEMIST': "What he needed to do was review all he had learned...". Why not 'to review'? Thanks.

Hi Lorenzo311,

It could also be "to review". That would be grammatically correct too.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Liam_Kurt on Wed, 12/10/2022 - 07:18


Are these infinitives an adverb modifying the adjective to add information?
He was willing to carry the bags for me.
I am happy to win.
I do not think they are modifying the verb and showing the reason.

Hi Liam_Kurt,

Yes, right! They are modifying the adjective. They aren't infinitives of purpose.


The LearnEnglish Team

I just found out that they are reduced clauses from another website
Like: He was excellent (for us) to work with.
So are these infinitives changing what they're doing?
He was excellent for us to work with(It's modifying a noun)
He was excellent to work with(It's modifying an adjective)

Hi Liam_Kurt,

Yes, right. I would just add that these constructions are not always reduced clauses (e.g. I am happy to win).


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zuzanna on Tue, 30/08/2022 - 11:35


Dear Sir,

Could you please tell me whether I should say: (1) Only after washing the dishes did she have time to relax or (2) Only after washing the dishes had she time to relax. I am unsure whether I should make an inversion by changing the place of a subject and a verb or make an inversion as in question by "did".

With regards

Hi Zuzanna,

For most verbs the way to invert is (1) - by adding an auxiliary verb (if there isn't one already) and putting it before the subject. 

However, the verb "have" as a main verb is sometimes used without an auxiliary verb where one is normally used, for example in the negative sentence "I haven't any time" and the question "Have you any time?" (instead of the usual structures "I don't have any time" and "Do you have any time?"). These sound more formal than usual, and are relatively uncommon. So, your sentence (2) is acceptable too, but with the same note that it sounds a bit formal.

I hope that helps to understand it.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jorgepavlo on Wed, 10/08/2022 - 01:21


i have a doubt about the infinitives , sometimes i notice that the "TO" which is part of the infinitive, feels more like a preposition in some of the examples of this topic, and it happens because am translating the sentence to spanish and if i translate the infinitive literally it doesn't bring a full idea; for instance:
in this follwing sentence i feel that the "TO" is more like a preposition:
They gave him an opportunity to escape.
in this ohter sentence, wich is not of any of the previous examples , i feel that the infinitive is more factual.
His health appeared to be better.
please help me with this , thanks in advance.

Hello jorgepavlo,

You'll know better than me, but, for example, I'd translate 'an opportunity to escape' as 'una oportunidad de escapar' (though please let me know if you think that's not a good translation). You're right in thinking that in Spanish, the preposition 'de' is needed, but note that the preposition is followed by an infinitive. In English, we skip the preposition and go straight to the infinitive.

In fact, if 'to' were a preposition, then the form after it would have to be an '-ing' form (*'an opportunity to escaping') because prepositions require subsequent verb forms to be in the '-ing' form in English. This is one of the few rules that has no exceptions in English!

As for 'appear', I'm not sure what you mean by 'more factual', but here too, the 'to' is definitely and infinitive form.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by thankyouuu on Wed, 03/08/2022 - 10:32


Hello! I'm a biginner so if I make any mistake, could you please correct me? Here it's my question: "Don't seek for anything to happen as you wish it would." In this centences, I don't know if 'to-inf' is to express purpose or it follow the structure "seek for sth to inf"? Thank you!

Hi thankyouuu,

It's the second reason - it's part of the structure. :)

We don't correct user's comments here, but you are welcome to post any questions if you have them. Thanks!


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zuzanna on Tue, 26/07/2022 - 09:39


Could you please tell me wheter I should say: I'd prefer tea to coffee or I'd prefer tea rather than coffee. I mean is there any difference if I use "to" or "rather than"?

Submitted by Verbis on Thu, 07/07/2022 - 20:38


Dear Team,
Reading the subtitles of a Danish series on Netflix, I came across something like "It pays off to have a network of contacts". Is it acceptable to use an infinitive after a phrasal verb? Thank you.

Hello Verbis,

I expect that you might be able to hear someone say this, and it's certainly completely intelligible, but strictly speaking, it's not correct.

As far as I know, when 'pay off' means 'to result in success', it's an intransitive verb, i.e. it has no object, and so it's not correct to say 'it pays off to have' or 'it pays off having' or anything like that.

I hesitate to make a generalisation about all phrasal verbs, but off the top of my head, I'd say they should not have an infinitive as an object, but rather an '-ing' form. Please note, however, that I might not be thinking of exceptions to this -- there are so many possibilities! -- and, more importantly, it's quite possible that people's grammar is a little loose at times. After all, phrasal verbs are a typical feature of informal speech, which sometimes breaks grammatical rules.

Hope this helps clarify it for you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hailey on Tue, 10/05/2022 - 02:38


Hello, I was wondering if the following sentence has ambiguity in structures:

We need more money to buy what we want.

I think this sentence can only be interpreted or classified as infinitive of purpose as follows:
To buy what we want, we need more money.

Can this to-infinitive clause ‘to buy what we want’ be used to modify a noun phrase ‘more money’?(as an adjectival infinitive)

Thank you for your reply in advance:)

Hello Hailey,

This looks like an infinitive of purpose to me as well. While it is possible to use an infinitive adjectivally after 'money' (e.g. 'She has lots of money to burn' or 'If only the school had more money to spend on books'), here I'd say it's quite clear the it expresses purpose.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Plokonyo on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 12:33


I'm confused by the construction of the sentence "to choose from" here. I think "from" needs an object here such as "I'm from England, but there is not and so it's confusing me

Second, does the relative infinitive have a modal meaning?

...diffrerent option to choose from = ...different option can/need/should/will choose from.

We often use 'would' to describe different options to choose from.

Hi Plokonyo,

In the sentence, the object of 'to choose from' appears earlier in the sentence - 'different options to choose from'. You may see sentences or clauses that end with prepositions for this reason. Here are some more examples:

  • I have nobody to go to the party with.
  • That's the thing I was looking for.
  • There is nothing to worry about.

Yes, we can interpret a modal meaning. It depends on the words and context. For example:

  • If you have any questions, Sarah is the one to talk to. (= you should/must talk to Sarah if you have any questions)
  • I have nobody to go to the party with. (= nobody who I can go with)
  • The shop has clothes to suit all occasions. (= clothes that will suit all occasions)

In the sentence you mentioned, 'can' makes the most sense.

I hope that helps.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jaja on Sun, 23/01/2022 - 02:45


Can any tell me why we can use 'to' and why we need to use it;
1. I want to talk to her. = "to talk to"
2. I want to help her. = "to help"

Hello Jaja,

'To talk' and 'to help' are infinitive forms. They are used because they follow the verb 'want' and the pattern for 'want' is:
want + to verb (infinitive)

The second 'to' in the first sentence is a preposition which is attached to the verb 'talk'. You can talk to someone, talk with someone or talk about something.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wazina on Sat, 25/12/2021 - 07:52


Dear Mr. Kirk
Would you please help me to explain the grammar point of " expressing the purpose/ aim/ goal / duty...."?
Ex: The purose of Asian Games is to promote the solidarity among ......
The Purpose of Asian Games is promoting the solidarity among ......
My question is that which is correct or both are correct.
Thank you very much.

Hello wazina,

Most of the time the sentence with the infinitive ('to promote solidarity') is going to be better than the other one. We use an infinitive of purpose for just this reason, i.e. to explain the purpose of something.

It may be acceptable in some circumstances to use the other form ('promoting solidarity') here, and it would, for example, be the better form if the sentence began with this idea: 'Promoting solidarity is the purpose of ...'

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Tue, 31/08/2021 - 19:59

Hi incredible team! I want to know something about following sentence 'Sylvie is bringing the cow home to be milked.' Here I don't think' to be milked ' is the infinitive of purpose. I understand that somebody is going to milk the cow. But I haven't known that usage of' to infinitive 'yet. Which usage of the - to infinitive-is used in that ' to infinitive'phrase? I wonder if you could help me to understand. I'd really appreciate it.

Hello Nevi,

'to be milked' is a passive infinitive. I'd call it a kind of infinitive of purpose in the sentence you ask about because it clearly expresses the purpose of the first part of the sentence, though some grammars might disagree with this idea.

Although I wouldn't say it's incorrect, this sentence sounds a little unnatural to me. I would probably say 'Sylvie is bringing the cow home for it to be milked' or 'so that it is milked' instead. We tend to use a 'for' structure (as in my first alternative) when talking about a purpose that speaks about the action of another person, and 'so that' is another way of talking about purpose.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hmm Teacher you said it's the infinitive of purpose. But mustn't subjects be the same in the 'to infinitive' clause. I mean, for example, I am studying English to pass the exam. Here who is studying? Me who wants to pass the exam? Me Sylvie is bringing the cow home to be milked.' Here who is bringing the cow home? Sylvie Whos going to be milked? Cow This sentence really ambiguous maybe it can be understood like Sylvie is to be milked, which is completely wrong. I don't know if you understand what I mean. What's your thoughts about that ambiguity? Best wishes!
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 02/09/2021 - 06:18

In reply to by Nevı


Hi Nevi,

I said that it's a kind of an infinitive of purpose to try to show that it doesn't fit the usual description of how an infinitive of purpose works. If there's a precise term for the infinitive in use here, I'm afraid I don't know what it is.

I can understand your concern about the ambiguity, but I don't see the sentence as ambiguous at all. It is very unusual for someone to speak of a woman 'being milked' (and quite inappropriate as well, I might add), but not at all for a cow to be milked. With this in mind, I don't see any ambiguity, and if the sentence is considered within a likely context, even less so. This is a good example of how syntax and lexical usage converge to produce meaning.

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Thu, 08/07/2021 - 11:03

Hi fantastic team! I am writing to find out more about to infinitive phrases. I saw following sentence while reading a text. "His office was the next room to clean." But I don't understand why '... the next room to be cleaned.' is not used here. You'd be really helping me out. Best wishes!

Hello Nevi,

You can use either the active or passive infinitive here without any difference in meaning:

the next thing to do / the next thing to be done


This is true of any sentence like this provided the verb is transitive; inttransitive verbs do not occur in the passive, of course. Thus you can say both of these:

the next place to see / the next place to be seen

but you have to use the active form with a verb like go:

the next place to go



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your reply teacher. I think when we say '... the next room to clean", to-infinitive clause indicates the purpose. On the other hand, when we say '... the next room to be cleaned. " Like somebody clean the next room. Does subject of the 'to-infinitive clause ' change when we say phrase in passive? I'd really appreciate it. Best wishes!

Hello again Nevi,

No, the choice of form here (to clean or to be cleaned) does not change who is performing the action.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Thu, 18/03/2021 - 09:15

In this causative sentence, what does the verb "has had" denote? Whether it denotes the continuation of action for a certain period or repetition of the same action in regular intervals. He has had his car repaired. The second doubt is about the usage of "having" in continuous form. Does the meaning of the word "having" in this sentence have the same meaning as "taking"? Can we replace it with the word taking? I was having my hair cut when my phone rang.

Hi Mussorie,

In your first sentence, it's probably a single action with a result in the present. (The result is that the car is now repaired.) We would need to know the context when somebody said this sentence to know for sure.

In your second sentence, the meaning is similar to 'receiving' or 'getting'. No, we can't replace it with 'taking' because the correct phrase is 'have (my) hair cut', not 'take (my) hair cut'. Also, this meaning of 'have' is not specific to the continuous form. It can be used in other verb forms too (e.g. I have my hair cut every month).


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Wed, 17/03/2021 - 06:06

Thank you, Kirk. Then, is the phrase "watching the game" in the sentence acting as an object complement to the word busy?

Hello Mussorie,

Yes, it's a complement of the adjective 'busy', though I'm not sure I'd call it an 'object' complement since 'is' is a linking verb.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Sun, 14/03/2021 - 11:18

Hello Peter, this long question (different questions) requires your patience to answer. 1.What is the difference between the two sentences? 1.He is busy watching the game ( correct) 2.He is busy in watching the game (incorrect) Why the second statement is incorrect? 2.Is this statement correct? Watching the game, Ravi is busy. 3.I am a bit confused after seeing this statement because the present participle (going) in the participle phrase is not modifying the subject in the main clause. Could you please elaborate on this? Statement: Going by recent studies and anecdotal field reports, food inflation has impacted the health of the poor.

Hello Mussorie,

1. That's right -- the second statement is not correct. The structure we use here is 'to be busy doing something' -- no preposition is used between 'busy' and the '-ing' form.

2. I would recommend inverting the two phrases ('Ravi is busy watching the game'), which sounds much more natural. The sentence as it is written could be a little confusing, since 'watching the game' isn't really working in the way a participle clause usually does.

3. I'm afraid I can't explain the writer's choice here, but it might help to think of it as beginning with 'If we look at recent studies ...'. I would avoid writing the sentence like this for the reason you mention.

By the way, please don't ask us to reply sooner. We have a limited amount of time to reply to the numerous comments we get every day, and we prioritise comments that have a direct relationship to the page they are on. We try to get to others, such as this one, as soon as we can, but it can take some time. Asking us to answer them with another comment just slows everything down.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Tue, 09/03/2021 - 19:37

Hi team, I want to know one more thing. For example, when I write these two sentences; a)We waited ages for a table. b)We waited ages to get a table. Are there any diffrences between those two sentences? Their purpose is the same which is 'table'. Thanks a lot!
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 10/03/2021 - 08:06

In reply to by Nevı


Hi Nevı,

In this context I see no difference,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aysn on Tue, 09/02/2021 - 15:08

Hi brilliant team, I want to learn one more thing. When I sometimes saw a verb pattern, which is especially "verb+somebody/something +to do something" I am confused about "to+infinitive" is a part of a pattern or infinitive of purpose.I mean For example "I used computer to look my school grades." -use something to do something- is one of the patterns of use, but it also have meaning of purpose. Is "to infinitive" part of the pattern or infinitive of purpose? Could you explain, please?

Hi Aysn,

I'm not sure it's really important which category a phrase falls into provided it is used correctly.


The infinitive of purpose explains the reason for an action:

I went to the shop to get some milk.

The sentence is still grammatically correct without the infinitive. It simply does not provide any explanation of the action.


The infinitive in a used to phrase does not explain a purpose or a reason. It provides the action which a person did, not why they did it. 

The infintive is also required; you cannot form a sentence with this meaning of 'used...' without it. 



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Sun, 07/02/2021 - 17:38

Peter, I am grateful for your patient replies. Thank you, Peter.

Submitted by Mussorie on Thu, 04/02/2021 - 17:57

Could someone explain what is the difference between the below given sentences? 1. I am waiting for the movie to start. 2. I am waiting for the movie to be started.

Hello Mussorie,

In terms of grammar, the first sentence uses an active infinitive while the second uses a passive infinitive.


In terms of meaning, the second sentence means that someone has to start the film. The speaker is putting responsibility on the projectionist, for example. In the first sentence, the focus is on the film itself, without any suggestion of a person being responsible.


In terms of use, the first sentence is far more likely. If you are waiting for a film on TV or at the cinema then this is the sentence you would use. If, on the other hand, you want to say that someone is causing a delay by not starting the film when they should, then you might use the second sentence. Even in this case, however, I think the first version is more likely.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, Peter, for answering my question. I have another question to ask. Is it correct to say this sentence in terms of "Possibility" in modals? What could you gift her on her birthday?

Hello Mussorie,

The sentence is grammatically possible but whether or not it is correct or appropriate depends on what you want to say. If you can provide a context then we'll be able to say if the sentence is suitable for that context or not.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, Peter. The context is that if a friend of mine is asking me about the possibility of gifting things to a female friend. That means what could you possibly gift her, or whether or not are you gifting her? It's not about the ability of me gifting her, but it is rather a possibility.