'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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thank you very much sir. It is very kind of you to reply me promptly. But sir these structures are given in Raymond Murphy and Martin hewings as well. e.g She admitted having stolen the money. ( page 104 second edition intermediate English grammar) 2.He remembered having arrived at the party. (page 78 Advance English grammar by Martin hewings). and really thanks again.
Sir I have been looking for a solution to the following problem. Is it right to say- I remember you to have met in london last year. and with other verbs like deny, regret , report.. Because I am quite sure about using this structure with verbs like seem appear , claim.

Hello Deven shukla,

I'm afraid 'you to have met' is not a correct form with any of those verbs. You can use the -ing form:

I remember (deny/regret) meeting you in London last year. 

 

'Report' can also be followed by the -ing form, but since it describes a particular action and not a feeling or awareness, we would be unlikely to use it in the present simple:

I reported meeting you in London last year.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir I have read two structures in Intermediate english grammar by Raymond murphy. She admitted stealing the money= She admitted having stolen the money. I am wondering that can I use "she admitted to have stolen the money."? Because perfect infinitive, like here "to have admitted" shows the actinon done before the main verb.

Hello Deven shukla

No, I'm afraid that's not correct. In 'admit to something', 'to' is a preposition -- this is why the -ing form is used after it, i.e. why 'she admitted to having stolen the money' is correct and 'she admitted to have stolen the money' is not.

The other structure that Murphy mentions is an alternative structure that means the same thing.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there, i didn't understand why we use "to walk" in this sentence ,can you help me ? :) Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon.

Hi GokaydinBariss,

After a superlative adjective or ordinals (first, second, third etc) we can use the to infinitive form in place of a relative clause:

Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon.

Neil Armstrong was the first man who walked on the moon.

 

Note that the to infinitive is a non-finite form, which means it has no time reference of its own. In the example above, it refers to the past because the context of the sentence is past time (...Armstrong was...). However, if the sentence refers to future time, the the to infinitive form will have that time reference. For example:

The next person on the moon will be the 24th human to walk there.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct When we describe something that happened in the past we can say I was very happy to see her BUT can we also say I was happy to saw her? Thank you in advance

Hi agie

No, I'm afraid not. It is possible to use a perfect infinitive ('to have seen') instead of the simple infinitive. If you said 'I was happy to have seen her', this puts emphasis on the fact that your seeing her came before you were happy (the simple infinitive refers to an action that happened at the same time instead of earlier). In most cases, this kind of emphasis or precision isn't necessary, so we just say 'to see her'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone Choose: Which ball will you borrow(me-to me-for me)? I think it is me but I want to make sure and thank you very much.

Hello Hamdy Ali,

If I understand what you want to say, it should be 'Which ball will you lend me?' This is the question you could ask a person who has a ball and who is going to let you use their ball.

If it's you who is letting another person use the ball, the question would be 'Which ball do you want to borrow?' or something similar.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir Could you tell me the difference between these sentences? I like to travel. I like travelling. I went through the above website 'to infinitive' but I cannot get a clear idea about the difference between the to infinitive and the 'ing'.form. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

They mean the same thing in many contexts, though people sometimes use form or the other to communicate a subtle difference. We often use the first one (with to+infinitive) to talk about a preference or habit, whereas we use the second one to speak more about the experience itself.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Team. I am curious about to use two to-infinitives in one clause with the same function. Here is the example: 'We believe that the ability should be free to change our lifestyles to make it better for us.' I understand that the first "to-infinitive" ㅡ to change ㅡ function like an adverb to modify adjective ㅡ free ㅡ, but I have no idea about the second "to-infinitive" ㅡ to make ~ ㅡ. I guess the second one is functioning like adjective to modify the noun, lifestyles. Please let me know what I missed or what I need to learn. Loads of thanks, -Bomy

Hello Bombom,

The second infinitive in this sentence is an infinitive of purpose (listed on this page), which is an infinitive used to describe the reason for an earlier action. You could replace to make with in order to make here and the meaning would be the same.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team, I am confused with the difference in meaning of these two sentences: "I stayed up late to watch a film last night" vs " I stayed up late watching a film last night''. Kindly explain the difference or which sentence is correct. Than you,

Hi Widescreen,

The sentence with the infinitive of purpose communicates the idea of staying up late with that purpose. The other sentence (with the -ing form) just describes what you did last night, without the idea of purpose -- maybe you were just bored, for example, or maybe you had to watch it before class today.

In some contexts, this distinction might not important, but the subtle difference is there.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir Is it right to say?1. Neither my friend nor my brothers were present. or was present but not were present 2. Neither my brothers nor my friend was present. or were present. Please let me know which ones are correct. Thank you.

Hello Andrew international,

You can find the answer to this in our grammar section with a little search. It's very helpful to us if you can first try to find the answer yourself before posting questions as it enables us to focus on those questions which do not already have an answer on our pages. This page is on an entirely different topic (to + infinitive); the relevant page for your topic, with the information you require, is here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, It is said that we have such a rule: If an infinitive(intransitive) comes after a noun and that noun is logical object of the infinitive, a prepostion is required: 1. The children need a garden to play in. (followed the rule) 2. There is not enough snow to ski on. (followed the rule) 3. It is difficult to find a place to park. (why not "park in" here? )

Hello sword_yao,

Neither Peter nor I are familiar with this rule. It seems to work in many cases, but not with all. You've already found one counter-example ('place') and the word 'time' (e.g. 'There isn't enough time to go skiing') is another.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello!! I would like to ask about a structure of "would prefer". When referring to the present, it is ok to use it with full infinitive, both when the subject is the same and when there is a change of subject. Eg. I would prefer to stay here. I would prefer you to stay here. How about using a similar structure when referring to the past in both cases? Eg. I would have preferred to have stayed here. I would have preferred you to have stayed here. Thank you very much!!

Hello kelly,

When referring to the present, the full infinitive is correct in the first sentence but a little unusual in the second. There a past simple form is typically used, and I'd say 'would rather' is more commonly used than 'would prefer' (e.g. 'I'd rather you stayed here').

In the second set of sentences, the first is correct and but the second sounds strange to me. I'd recommend something like 'I´d have preferred that you stayed' (or even 'had stayed').

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. What is the difference between the base form and the infinitive of the verb? I know that the base form is the most simple form of a verb, e.g. "go" whereas the infinitive is "to go". With modals verbs, should one say, e.g. "can + base form" or "can + infinitive without to"?

Hello amirfd,

'base form' and 'bare infinitive' and 'infinitive without 'to'' all refer to the same form. It would certainly be easier if thre were just one term, but I'm afraid that's just not the case!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Infinitive: "to + base form of a verb" or "base form of a verb"? Different references have different definitions.

Hello amirfd,

There isn't much consistency, I'm afraid. It can be either both words ('to' + base form) or just one word (base form). Here we generally speak of a 'to' infinitive or a 'bare infinitive' to try to make things clear, but it's also a good idea to look for examples to be sure.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Please describe following question. (with reason) The friendly atmosphere of the school ............... . 1.made there a pleasure studying 2.where it was a pleasure studying 3.made it a pleasure to study there 4. that it was made a pleasure to study there

Hello amirfd,

What do you think the correct answer is? We are happy to help you learn, but we ask that you explain to us what you think the answer is and why so that we can better help you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello INS-PRAKASH,

Both 'give me' and 'give to me' are correct and the meaning is the same. However, there should be a direct object:

 

give me [something]

give [something] to me

 

He gives me a lot of help.

He gives a lot of help to me.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi In the sentence, "I want to play cricket", is "cricket" an object of "to play"? Can to-infinitives have objects as transitive verbs have? Similarly, can to-infinitives be used as objects of transitive verbs? For example, in the sentence, "We want to play", is "to play" an object of the verb "want"?

Hi Adya's,

Yes, the infinitive can take an object and can be an object, just as your examples show. Well done!

 

Hello vannak,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers for questions from elsewhere. It's not our role to do people's homework or tests for them!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Thank you for your lessons. I have a question: Why we use gerund "getting" after "to" in the following sentence? They are more welcoming to getting help from specialists.

Hello N-G,

The word 'to' can be used in different ways. Often it is part of an infinitive (e.g. 'to go', 'to get'), but other times, like in the sentence you ask about, it is a preposition. When we use a verb after a preposition, it goes in the gerund form, which is why 'getting' is correct here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello 1.we say "I'm on my way to work" but which is the correct one form these? can we use a verb? I'm on my way to go home" or "I'm on my way to home" 2. can we use "As" like this ? The characteristics of protons are as given as below

Hello raj jk,

1. 'to' is used with words to indicate direction, but isn't used before the word 'home' -- this is an exception to the general rule. So the correct form is 'I'm on my way home'. With other words, you should use 'to', e.g. 'on my way to school', 'on my way to your house', 'on my way to class', etc.

2. I have found examples of 'as given as below' in a quick internet search, but I'd recommend saying '... are as given below', i.e. I wouldn't repeat the 'as' before 'below'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Just one question on the above materials. Exceprt: "Some verbs are followed by a direct object and the infinitive(see verbs followed by infinitive): advise, ask, encourage, invite, order, persuade, remind, tell, warn, expect, intend, would prefer, want, would like She reminded me to turn the lights out. He encouraged his friends to vote for him. " Is it right to say that "me" is the direct object or the verb "reminded" and "his friends" the direct object of the verb "encouraged"? Thanks! Regards, Tim
Hi There, I'm wondering about future progressive + object + infinitive syntax. In particular, should it be "we will be requesting presenters send their detail to us" or "we will be requesting presenters to send their details to us"? Thanks!

Hello Antwo,

There are actually two forms here:

We will be requesting that presenters send their details to us [request that someone do something]

and

We will be requesting presenters to send their details to us [request someone to do something]

The meaning is essentially the same, with the first version being more impersonal and official, I would say, though both are quite formal. The less formal equivalent would use 'ask (someone to do something)'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

"I really do regret not to learn to play the violin when I had so many oppurtunity to learn and practice in school ". Can you please explain why this statement is incorrect ??

Hello Anishd,

When we use 'regret' to speak about a past event that we are sad about, verbs after it generally go in the -ing form (not the infinitive). There's also a mistake in the phrase 'so many opportunity' -- 'many' is plural and 'opportunity' is singular (also notice the spelling).

I think that should answer your question, but if anything's not clear please let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team. Help me with this, please.. "Your sound definitely makes me want visit" Why isn't there a 'to' after the verb 'want' in the sentence? Would you like to explain, please? Thank you. ============= ( I posted this question a couple days ago but why I haven't seen yet it on the screen?)

Hi Nizam Balinese,

The sentence is not grammatically correct. It may be an error or it may be deliberately ungrammatical.

This is one reason why we generally do not comment on examples from elsewhere. Quite apart from not knowing the context in which they appear and the intentions of the speaker/writer, they may be non-standard, be examples of slang or dialect or be simply incorrect.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team