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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

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,

Kirk

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!

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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

 

Peter

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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