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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 Reemtb,

No, in this sentence it's not a preposition. It's the to that comes before an infinitive verb. It's used because it follows the verb need (... need to be ...). The verb need isn't listed on the page above, but it belongs in the first group, verbs of thinking and feeling.

About inversion, it's only needed if the sentence structure requires it (e.g. if it's a question).

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you a lot Mr.

Hello,

I would just like to ask a question.

I am currently studying Infinitive phrases

I understand that an Infinitive phrase starts with To + Verb.

I understand how an Infinitive phrase can be the subject of a sentence.

What I don't really understand is, why Infinitive phrases operate as nouns? Could anyone clarify this.

Thanks.

Hi clearbright25,

Do you mean something like this?

  • To ignore him would be rude.
  • To err is human. 

 

If the infinitive phrase is the subject of a sentence, it must be a noun. Only a noun or a pronoun can be the subject of a sentence. By doing this, we can avoid mentioning any person or other subject who is doing the action (since the sentence already has a subject, which is the action itself). So, we might use this structure if we want to focus the sentence on the action itself, without mentioning anyone doing the action.

Have I understood your question correctly?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

is it possible to have gerund after to such as to modifying..

Hi Nagwa Ragab Elsakhawy,

To is actually two different words. One is to that comes before an infinitive verb. The other is to as a preposition.

 

To before an infinitive verb

This always has an infinitive verb after it, never a gerund. See the page above for examples of this.

To as a preposition

Some words require the preposition to. This needs to have an -ing form after it. Some examples:

  • I'm looking forward to seeing you.
  • We're close to finishing the project.

In these examples, to is a dependent preposition. It is linked to looking forward and close. So, to answer your question, yes! It is possible if to is a preposition.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

I am willing to help you.
The bomb is going to blow.
I was hesitant to accept his presence.

/I can swim.

What do these to infinitives act like? Do they act exactly like the verb with a modal verb?

Hello Kim Hui-jeong,

A 'to' infinitive is commonly used after many adjectives, including 'willing' and 'hesitant'.

In the sentence about the bomb, 'be going' + infinitive expresses a prediction or plan.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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