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'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

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Verbs with to-infinitive 2

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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

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Infinitive of purpose 2

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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

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Adjectives with to-infinitive 2

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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

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Nouns with to-infinitive 2

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Comments

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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