'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=

Average
Average: 4.1 (26 votes)

Submitted by Gendeng on Fri, 01/12/2023 - 06:38

Permalink

What does "to" mean in this sentence? Does it have a modal meaning? I'm confused whether "is" is dropped here? The full sentence would be "A perfomance is to be proud of, Maxy".

A perfomance to be proud of, Maxy.

Hi Gendeng,

Actually, this is not a sentence, because a sentence requires a subject and a verb. Grammatically speaking, it's a noun phrase, and a sentence fragment. But it's common to say things like this, since in real life people don't always speak in complete sentences. The full version would be: It was a performance to be proud of, Maxy.

When remarking on something, people may just say a noun phrase and drop the subject and the verb "be", e.g. somebody may say "beautiful picture" upon seeing a picture (rather than a complete sentence such as "It's a beautiful picture"). 

Here, "to" introduces an infinitive "to be proud of" that is understood with the preceding noun "performance" as its object. A simpler example of the same structure is "something to eat" (where "something" is the object of "to eat").

I hope that helps to understand it.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Basheer Ahmed on Tue, 28/11/2023 - 10:30

Permalink

Hello LearnEnglish Team,

I want to enquire about the difference between the following sentences:

1) We hope to finish the job by next Saturday.
2) We hope to have finished the job by next Saturday.

Is there any difference between these two or do they give the same meaning and sense?

Thank you.

Hello Basheer Ahmed,

'to have finished' is an example of a perfect infinitive. When used after the verb 'hope', it generally refers to an action that will be or could be completed in the future.

It adds just a little extra information compared to the regular infinitive 'to finish' -- just a slight focus on the state of the job being finished (perfect infinitive) versus the neutral idea of finishing the job ('to finish').

Other than that, there is no difference in meaning.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Hosseinpour on Tue, 14/11/2023 - 05:44

Permalink

Respected team,
Hello,
Furthermore, as a step to reducing the use of private vehicles, the government ought to encourage the use of public transport.
Is "to introducing" a correct structure?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

Yes, 'to reducing' is fine. You could also say 'towards reducing'. 'to' and 'towards' are prepositions here and so a verb following them goes in the '-ing' form.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Username656602 on Fri, 20/10/2023 - 01:24

Permalink

hello, I have a question:
In the sentence "I'm bringing some candies to eat on the plane", does the infinitive "to eat on the plane" modify candies or bringing? They both seem to make sense to me.

Hello Username656602,

The infinitive clause here has an adverbial function and explains the reason for the action (why the person is bringing....). It therefore modifies 'bringing' as this is the action.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lost_in_Thought on Wed, 13/09/2023 - 01:20

Permalink

Hello!

I have a question. Is there a difference between infinitives that function as adjectives and infinitives of purpose?

Like these examples:
I went to this place to send a letter.
She said she was going somewhere to buy some books.
I’m going to a place to get some eggs, bread and milk.

Are these examples just infinitives of purpose?

Thank you.

Hello Lost_in_Thought,

Infinitives can be used with adjectives but they do not function as adjectives.

In all of your examples the to-infinitive shows the purpose of the action and so are infinitives of purpose.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by englishlearnin… on Wed, 12/07/2023 - 11:49

Permalink

Hello team! Could you tell me about this? Here the sentence ‘Work is the application of a force to move an object in the direction of the force’ is the to infinitives (to move an object in the direction of the force) about expressing purpose or noun with infinitive like an opportunity to
escape.

Hi englishlearningenglish,

It's an expression of purpose (= in order to move ...). :)

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by arcebelando on Thu, 18/05/2023 - 02:59

Permalink

Hello! Could you please elaborate the difference between these two sentences?
I like to go to the park.
I like going to the park.

Hello arcebelando,

The first thing to note is that there is a lot overlap between these two forms and the distinction in use is more a tendency than a hard and fast rule.

  • We generally use like + -ing when we want to say that we enjoy an activity. In other words, I like going to the park means that when you go to the park you feel pleasure.
  • We generally use like + to verb when we are talking about preferences, especially how we like to organise things. In other words, I like to go to the park would normally be used to describe a habit or a choice of activity. This form is often associated with a time or a place: I like to go to the park in the morning rather than the afternoon as there are fewer people around.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mister Chris on Fri, 31/03/2023 - 03:10

Permalink

So, we have "infinitive of purpose", are they any other specific infinitives? "Infinitives of...."?

I hope that makes sense, thank you

Hello Mister Chris,

I can't think of any other 'infinitive of ...' off the top of my head, but please note that it can be used in many, many ways.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Amir__760__ on Fri, 17/03/2023 - 09:55

Permalink

Hi support team
I'm struggling with the two sentences below. Could you help me please?

all they need to do is call off strikes  which are unnecessary and benefit no one. ( this sentence is written by Minister of Britain education).

all they need to do is "to" call off strikes which are unnecessary and benefit no one.( this is my sentence)

I think using "to" is necessary. Am I wrong? If I'm, tell me the reason.

Hi Amir__760__,

Both sentences are grammatically fine. I think "to" can be omitted because it is given earlier in the sentence (All they need to do ...).

In comparison, in the following sentence the "to" is necessary, and cannot be omitted: All they need is to call off strikes ... .

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Wed, 15/03/2023 - 01:19

Permalink

Hello!

Could you please help me with the following:

Could you please tell me which one (if any) is correct:

1. I went to the shop yesterday to buy some chocolate.

2. I went to the shop to buy some chocolate yesterday.

As far as I remember, time phrases usually go to the end of a sentence, but I am hesitant concerning this one.

I appreciate your huge help a lot and yhank you very much for helping me with this issue beforehand!!!

Hello howtosay_,

Both of these are fine. You could also start the sentence with 'Yesterday' and it would also be correct.

There's quite a bit of flexibility with time adverbials (as well as many other types of adverbials). The Cambridge Dictionary Grammar has a useful page on adverb position that I'd recommend having a look at.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Wed, 04/01/2023 - 02:46

Permalink

Hello!

Could you please explain if it is possible to use "in order" in such a way:

"She told me the lies in order I go there" or "I've gone to the bank in order they cannot pay by my credit card"? I'm very hesitant about this structure.

Thank you so much for your precious work and thank you for answering this post beforehand!!!

Hello howtosay_,

Those are not correct, I'm afraid.

The most common way to use this is to say 'in order to' and follow it with a base verb:

She told me the lies in order to make me go there.

She told me the lies in order to send me there.

 

You can also use the construction 'in order that', usually followed by a modal verb:

She told me the lies in order that I would go there.

It's quite a formal expression; so that is much more common and function in a similar way.

 

You can read more about these forms here:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/so-that-or-in-order-that

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello howtosay_,

Those are not correct, I'm afraid.

The most common way to use this is to say 'in order to' and follow it with a base verb:

She told me the lies in order to make me go there.

She told me the lies in order to send me there.

 

You can also use the construction 'in order that', usually followed by a modal verb:

She told me the lies in order that I would go there.

It's quite a formal expression; so that is much more common and function in a similar way.

 

You can read more about these forms here:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/so-that-or-in-order-that

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink

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.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink

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.

Jonathan

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).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink

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.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink

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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink

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!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink

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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink

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.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink

Can any tell me why we can use 'to' and why we need to use it;
Example:
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.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink

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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink
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.