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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

Hi Team
I understand that the verb 'need' must be followed by the infinitive, but how about if I wrote "I think you need cheering up"?
To me that sounds perfectly ok, and to write "I think you need to cheer up" has a slightly different meaning.
So is it grammatically correct to write "I think you need cheering up"?
If so, could you explain why?
Thanks for your help,
Lexeus.

Hi lexeus,

Yes, it is correct! In this sentence, cheering up is a gerund, i.e., a verb form which functions as a noun. It's not a verb. The verb need can be followed by a gerund. Need with a gerund has a meaning similar to the passive voice. This sentence means I think you need to be cheered up.

Another example is This computer needs fixing (= This computer needs to be fixed).

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team, I want to learn something.
Some verbs have diffrent patterns, but their patterns are the same meaning.
For example "get somebody to do something" and "get somebody doing something"
Can we use anyone in sentence?
For instance
1)He got his sister to help him with his homework.
2)He got his sister helping him with his homework.
Do two sentences have some meaning? And why the word "get" have different patterns although the patterns are the same meaning?

Hi Aysn,

Some verbs are followed only by the -ing form and some only by the to-infinitive. Some, as you say, can be followed by either form. Usually in these cases there is a change in meaning, however slight or nuanced. That's also the case with your example.

 

The -ing form suggests an ongoing result, while the to-infinitive form suggests a particular event. I'll use another context to illustrate it more clearly:

 

  • I got the computer to work. [It worked at one point; it may or may not have continued to work]
  • I got the computer working. [It is now fixed and can be used]

 

In your example, the second sentence sounds a little strange to me. This is because the -ing form suggests and ongoing activity, while the past form got implies finished time. It's not a grammatically impossible sentence, but there is a dissonance. I think the -ing form is more likely to occur with the present perfect, indicating an unfinished time period and telling us that she is still helping him.

 

All languages have multiple ways of expressing the same or similar ideas. This is true of lexis and of grammar. It allows to express ourselves in a myriad of styles, to use different rhetorical devices and to make our language beautiful and individual. If a given idea could only be expressed in one way our languages would be far poorer.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you teacher,I think I am understand.But,I have one more question.
For example in this sentence;
"My mom made me clear my room."
when I want to make passive that sentence, I saw I must add "-to infinitive"
Such as "I am made to* clean my room"
Why I must add "-to infinitive" in passive sentence although verb pattern that is make somebody do something has no infinitive in its active sentence?
Could you explain this is a rule or like something?

Hello Aysn,

I think this is just a quirk of the verb. There are some verbs whose form is different when used with passive voice, such as help:

I helped him clean his room / I helped him to clean his room. [both OK]

I was helped to clean my room. [only to-infinitive is possible here]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team,I am confused about one thing in this sentence.
''There are several ways to help your chances of achieving your resolution''
What is the reason of -to-here?I mean we usually use -to- after verbs in verb patterns.
And how many uses of-to-in English?Can you send me an example website link that explains uses of -to- ?

Hello Nuro,

'to' is used after lots of different adjectives and nouns. There are some lists of such words on the internet, but I'd recommend that you look up words as you find them. If you look at the first few examples sentences in the Longman dictionary entry for 'way', for example, you'll see 'to'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, teacher.I understand.
Lastly, for example in this sentence "Austin is not the first secretary to see this problem." what is the use of -to- here teacher?I searched, and İt is not about verb pattern.

Hello Nuro,

The verb 'to see' here is an infinitive. The construction is as follows:

the + superlative/ordinal adjective (+noun) + to adjective

...the first (secretary) to see...

You can use other adjectives in this phrase, including first, second, third (etc), last, only, most recent, best-known etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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