'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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Hello Skadi,

I suppose you could use 'to' in these cases, though 'on' is the best choice. But if you used 'to', I doubt it would cause any confusion.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I'm getting a bit confused with tenses. For the phrase "I decided to run away" is there a rule for why it is not "ran" away other than because it's a to - infinitive? For another example why is it "I saw him run away" not "I saw him ran away"? (I realise these are probably two different grammar points but would appreciate your help) Thanks so much.

Hello Alex_C,

The issue here is not really about tenses, but about verb patterns. Tenses describe time, and can be modified further with aspect (continuous or perfective). Verb patterns describe how different verbs interact - in other words, what follows a particular verb, whether or not it requires and object, if it always occurs in certain structures and so on.

In your first example the key information is that 'decide' is followed by 'to + infinitive'. This is the verb's pattern and it simply needs to be remembered.

In your second example, the pattern is simpler. 'See' is followed by a direct object:

I saw him.

I saw the dog.

The rest of the sentence describes the object:

I saw him do it. [the whole action from start to finish]

I saw him doing it. [a part of the action in progress] 

Many sense verbs work like this: hear, see, feel, listen to, watch etc.

Remember that verbs can have more than one pattern, often with changes in meaning. For example, we can say

I stopped smoking.

I stopped to smoke.

You can find more about verb patterns on this page. Use the links on the right to see examples of various patterns.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Namskar teacher, I want to know the difference between infinitive 'to' and Without "to" does it change the meaning of the sentence. i.e i want to talk to you. I want talk to You.

Hello rameshwaraavhad,

The question of whether to use to + infinitive or the infinitive without to is really a question about the verb which comes before. Some verbs are followed by to + infinitive and other by the infinitive without to. For example, 'want' is followed by to + infinitive and so your second example is not grammatically correct.

I'm afraid there is no rule to tell you which verbs are followed by which form. You simply have to learn this with each verb. For example:

want + to infinitive

try + to infinitive

allow SB + to infinitive

 

let SB + infinitive without to

make + SB + infinitive without to

 

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

why don't you suggest me the correct template of the letter writing, why do ask me to search in other website. the purpose of this site is to help the people like me then why you

Hello paparna1986,

The purpose of this site is to provide high-quality materials for self-study. Where possible, we provide support for users who are using those materials by explaining aspects which are unclear and providing help with the broader language system. In other words, the LearnEnglish Team is here to help users with our materials, not to provide individual courses or to act as individual teachers for our users.

 

There are no templates on our site. This is not the kind of material that we have available. Therefore, Kirk gave you the most helpful suggestion he could.

 

If you require someone to produce templates for you on demand then you will need to hire a teacher to work with you. That is not our role. We offer, free of charge, a range of materials to help you improve your English and we will help you to use these materials if you have problems. We do not write new materials upon demand, however.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

can you please guide me the format of the a leave letter to the principal of the school and format of the letter to any office regarding complaining about some issue. and also the format for the letter to write an application for any job

Hello paparna1986,

I'd suggest you do an internet search for 'template leave request letter', 'template letter of complaint' and 'template job application cover letter'. I'm sure you'll find many good examples out there. I'd recommend looking at a few of each and then choosing the one that looks best for your needs.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello paparna1986,

The first sentence may be correct but appears incomplete: something should probably follow 'do', depending on the context. 'I am made to do this', for example, or 'I am made to do this task, even though I do not want to.'

The second sentence is incorrect.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello lets suppose we have a sentence like 'I am going to school' in that is the word 'going' a finite or infinitive verb or o which category does that word fall. regards, a

Hello paparna1986,

The progressive form is comprised of the verb 'be' and a present participle; the participle itself is a non-finite verb form.

Please note that the LearnEnglish site is aimed at helping language learners, not at providing linguistic analysis of this sort. We use metalanguage where it is helpful, but we do not teach metalanguage as such.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

why is 1st sentence infinitive i.e 'to make' incorrect and second one 'to hold' correct/ 1.Because she knew many of the leaders of colonial America and the American Revolution personally, Mercy Otis Warren was continually at or near the center of political events from 1765 to 1789, a vantage point combining with her talent for writing to make her one of the most valuable historians of the era 2.Geologists have found that streams in the Karoo basin of South Africa changed suddenly at the end of the Permian period 250 million years ago, from the meandering shape typically found in well-vegetated zones to the braided pattern found in areas without deep-rooted vegetation to hold the soil together.

Hello sagacious25,

I'm afraid we don't comment on examples from other sites. These are examples which other sites have used for their own teaching purposes and if you have questions about them then you should ask the authors. Sometimes a teacher might use a given example to establish a point, and we do not know the context in which it is used or the purpose. We are responsible for the material which we put on our own site, and we're happy to comment on that or to provide explanations of the language more generally, but we don't get involved in discussion based on what other sites might state or claim.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there, Could you please help me with this question: Is it right to put "to" in these sentences? 1. Allow him come in 2. The money enabled her enter the city Thanks

Hi rinnah,

Yes, 'to' is necessary in those sentences. The constructions are:

allow SB to [verb]

enable SB to [verb]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir; The following sentences are grammatically correct ?. Please explain. The tasks to complete are very difficult - noun + to + verb The tasks to have are very difficult - noun + to + verb The tasks for this week are very difficult. - noun + for Thanks

Hi pumbi,

Only the third sentence is correct. I would change the other two as follows:

The tasks we have to complete are very difficult

I'm not sure what you are trying to say in the third sentence.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello team " I go home" we cannot use "to" in it becoz home is adverb like that I go to school or I go to office is Incorrect isn't it? when we use continuous tense I'm going to home I'm going to school I'm going to office should be correct becoz here The verb is "be" predicate is already given, so we use " to" here to give direction but I'm confusing about "I'm going to home" native do speakers use it? like I go home; Are" I go school, I go office" correct?

Hello raj jk,

We do not use 'to' before 'home' because 'home' is, as you say, an adverb. The form of the verb (simple or continuous) does not change this in any way. We say 'I'm going home' not 'I'm going to home'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thank you so much peter but what's the reason for "home" is an adverb while school and office are just places..? that's the point I cannot make clear there

Hello raj jk,

There is no reason here in the sense that there is no rule at work which determines which words can fulfil which role. 'Home' is a word which can function as an adverb or a noun and in this particular example it is an adverb.

It is possible to make 'home' a noun and then use 'to'. However, we then need to add a possessive adjective or an article:

I'm going home. (adverb)

I'm going to my home. (noun)

I'm going to the home of my friend. (noun)

 

Note that if we use 'school' or 'office' as a noun representing a building then we also need an article or a possessive adjective:

I'm going to the office.

I'm going to my school.

 

The phrase 'I'm going to office' is not correct. It is possible to say 'I'm going to school' but this means you are on your way to learn in school (i.e. you are a pupil) rather than referring to the building itself.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, ''The teacher is wanting to be teaching sth, right now'' I've read that ''to be -ing'' is used when you want to express an action you'd like to be in the middle, but what if the aspect already expresses the wanted meaning(I know the verb ''to want'' doesn't take an -ing form, but let's assume it does) I've also read that an -ing form could refer to two actions happening at the same time or one after another. For example: ''Walking down the street, she saw him'' ''Seeing a dog on the second floor, he ran downstairs and answered the phone'' 'Being in Alaska, John thought to take some presents'' Should I make somehow clear that thinking in my sentence: ''Being...'' is after being in Alaska but not at that time. If it's so, how could I do it? Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

As in this sentence, having double continuous aspect is a bit awkward. That's not to say it's not possible, but it's redundant. I doubt you'd see a sentence like that first one in writing and it'd be unusual to hear it as well.

The use of the -ing form (as a present participle) that you ask about is explained on our participle clauses page. If you say 'Being in Alaska, John ...' it means he is in Alaska. To talk about the past, you could say 'Having been in Alaska ...', or, more often people would just say 'When he was in Alaska ...' Participle clauses aren't usually used outside of quite formal situations.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I have some questions to ask. ''Sarah admitted having taken the thing'' and ''Sarah admitted that she had taken the thing'' ''He wanted to study French last year'' and ''He would like to have studied French'' I think each sentence has the same meaning as the following one(correct me if I'm wrong). If they do have the same meanings, then I couldn't add a time expression because the following sentences have their own meanings already. For example ''Sarah admitted having taken the thing yesterday'' but I couldn't add anything to its following because we don't use any time expressions there. Could you clarify that to me? ''Being in Alaska, John thought to take some presents'' and ''Being in Alaska, John thought to be taking some presents'' ''Who was responsible for having left the window'' and ''Who is responsible for leaving the window'' What is the difference between the sentence and its following? Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

In the sentences with Sarah, you could add a time expression to both sentences, though often such a time expression might not be necessary, as context would provide it. As for the two sentences about French, the second one is quite awkward, so I'd not recommend using it - the first is much more common.

As for the sentences about John, only the first one is correct. Both of the sentences about the window are correct, though the first is a bit awkward - the second is much more likely to be used. I also wonder if the word if the word 'open' is missing from the end of these two sentences, though they are also correct as they are.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I felt averse to doing so on behalf of someone else. Is this sentence grammaticaly correct And yet we use to-infinitive As has already been mention above. Please explain in details.

Hello DilanS,

Yes, that sentence is grammatically correct. 'to' is a preposition (not part of an infinitive) – that is why the -ing form is used after it.

I think I've answered your question, but if not, please clarify and we'll do our best to help you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi The LearnEnglish Team is the correct when I say that SO AS TO and IN ORDER TO have the meaning to express purpose?

Hi madhil,

Yes, I would agree. However, note that the purpose here refers to a future plan rather than an immediate action.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

"It was the strangest of atmospheres" in this sentence "strange" became "strangest" It is hard to understand this for me. I can understand "strange of atmospheres" or "The strangest atmosphere"

Hello raj jk,

'the strangest of atmospheres' is another somewhat more literary way of saying 'a very strange atmosphere' or 'the strangest atmosphere'. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello everybody! My question is about "be sent" here, what is the rule that we use infinitive without to here? "It is essential that these application forms be sent back as early as possible." could you give any other examples? Thank you!

Hello Zaftig,

In the sentence you ask about, 'be sent' is a passive form. A phrase like 'it is essential that' is followed by a bare infinitive form (e.g. 'it is essential that you book a room in advance'). In this case, the bare infinitive is 'be', which is part of the verb 'send' in the passive form. Another couple examples: 'Application forms must be sent back as early as possible', 'Application forms can be sent by email'.

Hope this helps!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team. I'm confused how to use to-infinitives as an object (a noun) or an adverb. Ex: I like to travel aboard and I work to make money. Could you help me distinguishing them. Thanks.

Hello MinhVu1412,

In your first example, the to + infinitive is the object of the verb 'like', whereas in your second example, the to + infinitive used as an infinitive of purpose. It expresses the purpose of working or the reason 'I' work. 'like' is different. Liking doesn't have a purpose. In other words, we just like things, and some of the things we like are actions (e.g. 'traveling abroad').

Does that help?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I

"what are you doing?" this is present continuous but I've often heard in English films "What do you doing?" Is that my hearing problem? could you explain sir?

Hello raj jk,

I of course can't say what you've heard in films, but I really doubt that what you heard was 'what do you doing', as it really just doesn't work in English. There are plenty of non-standard forms that people use in speaking (e.g. 'Whatcha doing?'), but 'what do you doing' is not one of them, at least that I've ever heard.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello! "Nouns are the most common type of word, followed by verbs. " in this sentence What does 'followed by' mean? I am not able to understand it correctly

Hello raj jk,

Here it means 'after', i.e. nouns are the most common type of word and verbs are the second most common. By the way, although you have to look a bit for it, this is explained in the Cambridge Dictionary definition for 'follow' – see the entry for follow (HAPPEN).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello pyramid,

The base form and the bare infinitive are the same form, i.e. all bare infinitives are identical to their corresponding base form. In this phrase, 'play' is a bare infinitive, as verbs that follow modal verbs go in the bare infinitive form. But you can think of it as a base form if you want, since, as I've just explained, they are identical in form.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello raj jk,

There are differences in meaning between these. 'Manage to...' refers to whether or not something was successfully done; 'could' refers more to ability to do something. However, it is hard to be more precise without knowing the context; if you can provide the context of what you are trying to say then we may be able to suggest which will be appropriate.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello raj jk,

The meaning here is 'did you have success in...'

You could replace 'did you manage to' with 'were you able to' and the meaning would be similar. Replacing it with 'could you' suggests not ability so much as possibility. Where 'did you manage to' suggests that you tried, but that success is not known, 'could you' suggests that we do not know if trying was possible.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team