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Verbs followed by the infinitive

Level: beginner

Many verbs in English are followed by the infinitive with to. Some of these verbs take the pattern:

  • Verb + to + infinitive

We planned to take a holiday.
She decided to stay at home.

Others verbs take the pattern:

  • Verb + noun + to + infinitive

She wanted the children to learn the piano.
I told him to ring the police.

Two very common verbs – make and let – are followed by the infinitive without to. They take the pattern:

  • Verb + noun + infinitive

My parents made me come home early.
They wouldn't let me stay out late.

The verb dare can be followed by the infinitive with or without to:

  • Verb (+ to) + infinitive

I didn't dare (to) go out after dark.

verb + to + infinitive

Some verbs are followed by the infinitive with to:

I decided to go home as soon as possible.
We all wanted to have more English classes.

Common verbs with this pattern are:

  • verbs of thinking and feeling:
choose
decide
expect
forget
hate
hope
intend
learn
like
love
mean
plan
prefer
remember
want
would like/love
  • verbs of saying:
agree promise refuse threaten
  • others
arrange
attempt
fail
help
manage
tend
try
 
Verb + to + infinitive 1

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Verb + to + infinitive 2

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verb + noun + to + infinitive

Some verbs are followed by a noun and the infinitive with to:

She asked him to send her a text message.
He wanted all his friends to come to his party.

Common verbs with this pattern are:

  • verbs of saying:
advise
ask
encourage
invite
order

 
persuade
remind

 
tell
warn*

 

* Note that warn is normally used with not:

The police warned everyone not to drive too fast.

  • verbs of wanting and liking:
hate
intend
like
love
mean
prefer
want
would like/love
  • others:
allow
enable
expect
force
get
 
teach
 

Many of the verbs above are sometimes followed by a passive infinitive (to be + past participle):

I expected to be met when I arrived at the station.
They wanted to be told if anything happened.
I don't like driving myself. I prefer to be driven.

Verb + noun + to + infinitive 1

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Verb + noun + to + infinitive 2

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Level: intermediate

make and let

The verbs make and let are followed by a noun and the infinitive without to:

They made him pay for the things he had broken.
The doctor made me wait for almost an hour.
They let you go in free at the weekend.
Will you let me come in?

But the passive form of make is followed by the infinitive with to:

He was made to pay for the things he had broken.
I was made to wait for almost an hour.

let has no passive form. We use allow instead:

We were allowed to go in free at the weekend.
I was allowed to go in.

dare

The verb dare is hardly ever found in positive sentences. It is almost always used in negative sentences and questions.

When it is used with an auxiliary or a modal verb, dare can be followed by the infinitive with or without to:

I didn't dare (to) disturb him.
Who would dare (to) accuse him?

But when there is no auxiliary or modal, dare is followed by the infinitive without to:

Nobody dared disturb him.
I daren't ask him.

make, let and dare

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Comments

Hello. Could you please help me? Which form is correct? Why?
1- I have to feed the animals as well as look after the children.
2- I have to feed the animals as well as looking after the children.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

1 is correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

What about:
- As well as looking after the children, I have to feed the animals.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

That's correct. You can use 'looking' here as the subject, but in the first sentence it was not correct because you needed an infinitive to go with 'have to'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello team. Is the following sentence correct? If not, why?
- I think I prefer to spend my money on a holiday rather than on a new car.
Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Yes, it's correct!

It's also possible to use an -ing form after prefer. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the -ing form places more emphasis on the action itself, e.g.: I prefer walking to cycling.

Using the to + infinitive form places more emphasis on the result of the action. The result (in this example, a holiday) seems more relevant to emphasise here than the action of spending itself.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please explain to me how can we emphasise an action without knowing the result, regarding to-infinitive usage?
Please explain it in detail to understand better.

Hello Mussorie,

The idea here is that if I say 'I prefer walking to cycling', this implies that I'm thinking about what it's like to be walking and what it's like to be cycling, and I prefer the former. Maybe it's because I feel unsteady on a bicycle, maybe it's because I get cold or it seems unsafe -- it could be anything, but I'm thinking about what it's like to be doing the activity in some way.

On the other hand, if I say 'I'd prefer to spend my money on a holiday rather than on a new car', I'm thinking of the result of having spent the money. Maybe I really need a holiday and a new car will be difficult for me to maintain or park, for example. I'm not thinking about the moment I get the new car or the moment I'm on holiday, but rather the whole activity in some sense.

Please note that this difference isn't always implied when people use '-ing' versus an infinitive. It's often there, but not necessarily. Context or questioning the speaker is always a more reliable indicator of what they mean.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. I think both choices are correct in the following sentence? If not, please why?
- I spoke kindly to him (not to - so as not to) frighten him.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I would recommend 'so as not to' here. When using a negative infinitive of purpose, 'so as not to' and 'in order not to' are generally preferred and 'not to' is generally avoided.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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