'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 I hope I find you well May you please help me understand the following two statements : To have you + past participle and To get you + past participle Is there any difference in my opinion i could not find any difference

Hello Lamstry,

Can you provide example sentences please? It's difficult to give a clear answer without any kind of context and it makes misunderstandings more likely when the form is presented in the abstract like this.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir, I would like to ask, is it common to put To as the first of sentence? For example : "To avoid discrepancy and dualism, both party agree to waive the rules What is the right structure? Thank you

Hello Namdwit,

Yes, that is perfectly fine. In fact, one of the most famous lines of Shakespeare begins with an infinitive: 'To be or not to be: that is the question'.

Your sentnece is an example of an infinitive of purpose - you can think of it as meaning 'In order to avoid discrepancy...'

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I have been looking for answers to a question regarding to two verbs in one sentence ... "... that is here to help you to enhance ... ". I never know how and why this works. Do I use "to help you to enhance ..." or just "to help you enhance ..." and why? Thank you.

Hi seeker,

Some verbs are followed by [to + infinitive], some by [verb-ing] and some by [verb]. There's no way to work out which is which - you need simply to memorise them. Some verbs, such as 'help' can be followed by more than one form:

I helped him to paint the door.

I helped him paint the door.

In the case of 'help' there is no difference in meaning.

For more information on this take a look at these pages:

verbs followed by to + infinitive

verbs followed by -ing clauses

verbs followed by that clause

verbs followed by ‘ing’ or by ‘to + infinitive’ 1

verbs followed by ‘ing’ or by ‘to + infinitive’ 2

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I am an English teacher and one of my students has stumped me with this question... Why is the word "to" used after the verb and before the pronoun in sentences 1, and not in sentences 2? 1. Let me explain to you something. 2. Let me make you a cake. Thanks!

Hi caseyw,

These sentences have direct ('something' and 'a cake', respectively) and indirect objects ('you'). Some verbs require the indirect object to be in a prepositional phrase (generally with 'to' or 'for') and 'explain' is one of these verbs. 'Make' can also have a similar construction if you put the indirect object at the end:

Let me make a cake for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello, could somebody explain me about the structure and the sense of this sentences? -She is to study marketing and management. -He is to marry Susan.

Hello manuel24,

The structure here is [be to + verb]. It is a way of talking about the future and is generally used to talk about things which a person is supposed to or scheduled to do. It has a similar meaning to 'supposed to' or 'meant to'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello To is infinitive verb marker.. but in this "You can keep it" KEEP is not finite by subject YOU. but i never heard that anyone says "you can to keep it". could you explain sir what happens in that sentences.

Hello Tharanga pud,

Infinitives are sometimes used with 'to' and sometimes without 'to'; when they are used without 'to' (such as in 'You can keep it'), they are often referred to as a 'bare infinitive' or 'base form'. Verbs that come after modal verbs like 'can' are used in the base form. This is why 'You can keep' is correct and 'You can to keep' is not.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello.would you tell me when we use simple form after "help"?and when we use to+infinitive? with best wishes.

Hello rastak keen,

Both forms are fine and mean the same thing; they are alternatives.

I helped him to get into the car.

I helped him get into the car.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello, is the following sentence correct? " Did they always use those motor-bikes ? - No, they were used to deliver the mail during the rush-hours" I woluld have written".....No, they used to deliver the mail during rush-hours"

Hello manuel24,

I would say the most likely form is:

Did they always use those motor-bikes?

No, they used them to deliver the mail during the rush-hour.

You could say 'rush hours' if, for example, you are thinking of several rush hours during the day (one at 09.00, one at 17.00 etc).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello ,"I loved my holiday in England, but I didn't like the driving. I did over one thousand kilometres!" could be used to+infinite instead of "the driving"?
hello, if the rule says " Remember/forget + to + infinitive means that you remember something you have to do – a duty or a chore" so i don't understand this sentence: Oh dear! I forgot my homework! The teacher will be angry..please help me

Hello manuel24,

The sentence you provide is not an example of this rule as there is a direct object after 'forget' and not an infinitive. Compare:

I forgot my homework. (I didn't bring it with me)

I forgot to do my homework. (I didn't remember to do it)

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello, in the sentence "I like to wash up as soon as I finish eating" the word "I" can be omitted'?
hello Sir! may i ask? how do we use the gerund and infinitive?? im still confusing thanks :)

Hello candyjelly26,

The gerund is a noun made from a verb:

travel (verb)

travelling (gerund, noun)

Gerunds are used in the same way any nouns can be used - as subject and objects.

The infinitive is used in many ways, as shown on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, WhIch one is correct A. Am not confused B. Am not confuse And 1.am getting tense 2.am getting tensed

Hello Ajaz ajju,

I'm afraid we don't answer questions like this for users as we would end up doing everyone's homework for them! Why don't you tell us which ones you think are correct, and why, and we'll be happy to tell you if you are right!

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Ajaz ajju,

I agree with you - those are the correct answers. Well done.

We use 'confused' and 'tense' here because they are adjectives; 'confuse' and 'tensed' are verbs.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Thanks a lot for this tips. Therefore, I have a question...In wich specific situations I can use the verbs love and hate + infinitive or followed by ing. ? Best wishes Etiene

Hello etienemacedo,

When these verbs are followed by -ing we are generally talking about enjoying the process. When they are followed by to + infinitive we are generally talking about the kind of habits or routines we like. For example:

I like jogging in the morning. [I enjoy the activity]

I like to jog in the morning. [This is a habit I try to maintain]

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, all. I can't stand listening to music. I can't stand to listen to music. Is there is difference in meaning? because they are two phrases in the dictionary. Can you stand listening to music? I s this correct question ? or simply I should say :Do you like listening to music? thanks, Inas

Hello Inas,

As far as I know, 'stand' with this meaning is followed by a noun phrase or a verb in the -ing form, not a to + infinitive. So the first sentence is correct, but the second is not. The question you ask about is grammatically correct, but is not used because 'stand' with this meaning is only used in the negative. As you suggest, you should use the verb 'like' to ask a question instead. You can see more example sentences by looking up 'stand' in the Cambridge Dictionary using the search box on the right side of this page.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

teacher I looked up this head line on a news paper It was" president to stay neutral at polls" but on this site, as we are learned , that head line should change as "president stays neutral at polls" can you explain what's the wrong or different in this case? (if i made any grammatically wrong or any unusual manner when I ask question, kindly indicate me about those.)

Hello Tharanga pud,

'be + to + infinitive' is commonly used in formal contexts to indicate a plan. The headline could also be 'President plans to stay neutral', but 'to stay' is shorter.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, All these time, I had been of the opinion that the "perfect continuous (active) forms of all three tenses" do not have passive form but I saw an example in your site. "Present perfect continuous: Active- Recently, John has been doing the work. Passive- Recently, the work has been being done by John." "Past perfect continuous: Active- Chef Jones had been preparing the restaurant's fantastic dinners for two years before he moved to Paris. Passive: The restaurant's fantastic dinners had been being prepared by Chef Jones for two years before he moved to Paris." "Future perfect continuous: Active: The famous artist will have been painting the mural for over six months by the time it is finished. Passive: The mural will have been being painted by the famous artist for over six months by the time it is finished." so please comment whether these passive forms are correct and used by native speakers in formal contexts. S.Umashankar

Hello S.Umashankar,

Could you tell me where you saw these passive sentences? While they are formed with the correct parts, these perfect continuous tenses are so awkward that they are never really used. If you searched hard enough, I suppose you could find an example of them somewhere, but I would highly recommend you not use them yourself.

By the way, please also try to ask your questions on an appropriate page. For example, this question would make more sense on one of our Verbs pages on either the passive or one of these forms.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team, I have written a sentence down,please look into that and,please help me. 'I made him write a story'. Here can we comprehend it as two different parts, 'I made him' as one and 'write a story on' as second part. If that is a case,can we comprehend second as one which orders some one to write a story. i know it sounds infinitive,but while using orally,is it not like ordering? Thanks, Best Regards, Nandish.

Hi Nandishchandra,

The structure here is make + someone + verb. The second part of the sentence is not necessarily an order: it could be a threat, for example, or a convincing argument.

'Ordering' is a function, while 'infinitive' is a verb form. It is quite possible for an infinitive to be used as part of a phrase to give an order, but it can be used for other meanings too. Similarly, while we can use an infinitive for this, we can also use other forms. There is no one-to-one correlation between form and function.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, Thanks for reply, Yes i agree with you.Verb form infinitive is used here,and it can be used for different functions,one such is order.Fine!!. I find it very difficult to use 'to + infinitive' form of verb. Why we are leaving out 'to' in the sentence below? 'i made him write a story' ,and why not 'i made him to write a story.' Thanks, Best Regards, Nandish.

Hello Nandish,

I'm afraid that there is no rule about this; it is simple necessary to learn which verbs are followed by to + infinitive and which are followed by the bare infinitive.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I don't really know when to use to ing which acts as a preposition. I have remembered all the rules like looking forward to, be opposed to,object to and .... But I really don't know when it comes to a sentence like this '' a guide to parenting. Why is it a parenting. What does it mean. Is it wrong to use a guide to parent moms. Can you give me more examples of to prepositions.

Hello Rafael darn,

Prepositions like 'to' in your example are always followed by objects. In your example 'parenting' is a gerund - a noun formed from a verb - with the meaning 'a guide to being a parent'. It is the object of the preposition 'to'.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello there, We use 'come, got, and go' with 'to' like I came to the house, I went to the school. Can we use I came to there? Also I went to there. I got to there. Or we have to say it without 'to'. For an example 'I came there,I got there. Please explain this for me. Thank you.

Hello again naaka,

'to' is not used before 'here', 'there' or 'home', so you'd just say, for example, 'I got there'. By the way, 'I came there' sounds strange, because 'come' includes the idea of 'here', i.e. where I am right now, so saying 'there' with 'come' doesn't sound right.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Could we use "already" with past simple and past perfect and "still" with past simple sentences? ex: WE already met We already had met Still I didn't wear it. Thank you for your help.

Hello naaka,

'Already' with the past simple is quite common in US English, but not in British English, where we would tend to use the present perfect.

It is fine to use 'already' with the past perfect, though it would come before the main verb:

We had already met.

'Still' with a past simple form is unusual. Note that 'still' can have several meanings and with the past simple it generally means 'in spite of this' rather than having a time reference.

He told me it looked nice. I still didn't wear it.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I still