'to'-infinitives

Learn about the infinitive form of a verb and do the exercises to practise using it.

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 Goktug123

'to ensure' is an infinitive that describes the purpose of the material deposited on the outside of the piping component. This material will be machined, and this machining will ensure that the rings fit (as far as I can tell).

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anng1909 on Wed, 17/07/2019 - 20:14

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Hello, sir, could you please tell me if this sentence has the corect structyre and tenses? Thank you. “Cayden’s hands somehow manage to have one land on the table with a smack, the other swiped across the surface and ending up behind the edge.”

Hello anng1909

If this sentence is describing something that already happened, then 'manage' should be in the past simple and I'd probably also put 'ending up' into the past simple as well ('ended up'). Some kind of conjunction after the comma would also improve the sentence in my opinion.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Fri, 14/06/2019 - 08:17

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Hi,sir. Could you tell me whether i can use these sentences and what the difference is 1. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo 2. Amelia Earhart became the first woman flying solo. Thank you,
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Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 14/06/2019 - 08:39

In reply to by Risa warysha

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Hello Risa warysha

The first one is correct and the second one is not -- the structure is 'be' or 'become' + 'the first (noun phrase optional here) to do something'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amy18295 on Mon, 10/06/2019 - 11:45

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Dear Sir, Thanks so much for your lessons, could you please help me to clarify the function of " to Infi" as well. For example: 1. He bought some flowers to give to his wife. =>" to give to his wife " has the function as adv of V- bought or complement of flowers? 2. They gave him an opportunity to escape.=> " to escape" has the function as complement of opportunity, is that right?

Hello Amy18295,

In the first sentence 'to give to his wife' is an infinitive of purpose. It explains why the man bought the flowers and has the same meaning as 'in order to'. It has an adverbial function in the sentence.

In your second sentence, the infinitive acts as a post-modifier to the noun 'opportunity'. As it completes the meaning of 'opportunity', creating one concept, it is a complement.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Many thanks for your great help!! Besides, could you please help me explain below sentence: "Two decades later, James’ vision is well on its way to being realised." Why after " to" , it is " being realised" but " be realised " ??

Hello Amy18295

'to' can be part of an infinitive (e.g. 'to realise' or 'to be realised'), but in 'on the way to', 'to' is a preposition. When there is a verb after a preposition, it is always a gerund ('-ing' form), which is why this sentence has '... its way to being realised'.

There are other similar cases of this, for example 'She got used to living in Taipei' or 'I look forward to seeing you'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Donald Harrison on Mon, 25/03/2019 - 07:36

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Hello, Please help me understand the following grammar point. I refer to an example given in "As or Like" lesson. ( posting the question here since it appears comments are disabled in that lesson) The example was, "I tried using salt as you suggested but the stain still didn’t come out". My question is, shouldn't it be " I tried to use..." as we are taking about an action that failed. Doesn't "try + ing" suggest that we did try something and it worked out? Thank you Donald.
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 25/03/2019 - 11:15

In reply to by Donald Harrison

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Hello Donald Both forms are possible here, depending on what you mean. If you want to speak more about your attempt to remove the stain, then using a to-infinitive is the correct form to use. But it's also possible to see the salt as an experiment, that is, as something that might or might now work. In this case, the gerund (-ing form) is the correct one to use. You can see more examples of both forms on the Cambridge Dictionary's page for 'try' (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/try). All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team
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Submitted by Deven shukla on Fri, 15/02/2019 - 11:20

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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.
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Submitted by Deven shukla on Wed, 13/02/2019 - 03:02

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Sorry It shoul be I remember to have met you in london last year.
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Submitted by Deven shukla on Wed, 13/02/2019 - 02:59

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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

Submitted by GokaydinBariss on Thu, 07/02/2019 - 22:11

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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

Thank you a lot , I love you The LearnEnglish Team, GREETİNGS FROM TURKEY ! :)

Submitted by anie1 on Sun, 06/01/2019 - 16:57

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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
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 07/01/2019 - 15:21

In reply to by anie1

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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

Submitted by Hamdy Ali on Thu, 01/11/2018 - 17:23

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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

Submitted by Lal on Mon, 29/10/2018 - 07:19

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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

Submitted by Bombom on Wed, 16/05/2018 - 15:12

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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

Submitted by Widescreen on Mon, 19/03/2018 - 16:27

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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,
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 19/03/2018 - 18:36

In reply to by Widescreen

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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

Submitted by Andrew international on Tue, 16/01/2018 - 08:25

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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.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 17/01/2018 - 09:43

In reply to by Andrew international

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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