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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 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. 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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.

 

Peter

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.

 

Peter

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.

Hello again Mussorie,

OK, that helps to clarify what you want to say. First of all, I think 'gift her on...' is not the most natural way to phrase it. A better way would be this:

What could you get her for her birthday?

The sentence is cetainly about possibility rather than ability. It's asking about ideas for possible presents.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hi team I have 2 questions
1)"I went to bed not to watch TV"Why this sentence is wrong? After
a-positive to-Can't we use a- negative to-?
2)"They moved to İtaly in 2015 to get a better job ." In this sentence where we must use preposition? After a verb or At the end of the sentence?

Hi Nuro,

When you place 'not' before an infinitive it has the meaning 'not because...' and you need to provide an alternative in the form of a positive infinitive:

I went to bed not to watch TV but to sleep.

You could also use the phrase 'so as not to', with the meaning 'in order to avoid':

I went to bed so as not to watch TV.

This has the same meaning as ' in order to not':

I went to bed (in order) to not watch TV.

 

Your second sentence is fine. I'm not sure which preposition you mean, however.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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