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

Matching_MTY1MTg=

Verb + to + infinitive 2

GapFillTyping_MTY1MTk=

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

ReorderingHorizontal_MTY1MjA=

Verb + noun + to + infinitive 2

GapFillTyping_MTY1MzI=

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

GapFillTyping_MTY1MzM=.xml

 

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sat, 09/02/2019 - 19:44

Permalink
Could you please help me? Is the following sentence correct in meaning? Try putting the aerial over there. It might work better. Or it must be "Try to put"" Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam

Yes, that is correct. In this case, 'try' followed by the -ing form means to put the aerial over there so we can see if it works better.

If you said 'try to put', it would be grammatically correct, but would have a different meaning: see if you can put the aerial over there (perhaps it's in a difficult place to reach or a place where the aerial might fall).

You can see more examples in the Cambridge Dictionary -- the first entry (attempt) refers to 'try to do' and the second entry (test) refers to 'try doing'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Alex_R on Sat, 09/02/2019 - 13:16

Permalink
Hello, Not sure if it is the right topic. But Id like to learn the rule behind this sentence. ''We help bring attention to your business''. Why there is no TO before bring? Thank you

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 10/02/2019 - 07:21

In reply to by Alex_R

Permalink

Hello Alex_R

Some people use a 'to' before the infinitive here, and some people do not. In the US, for example, people tend not to use 'to' there.

In any case, both are accepted as correct. If you'd like to see some more examples of how 'help' is used, there are several in the Cambridge Dictionary.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Wed, 06/02/2019 - 03:45

Permalink
Could you please help me? If you can't find the key, try (to open - opening) the lock with something else, like a knife or a screwdriver. I think both choices are OK. If so, when to use each one? You are so helpful. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both choices are possible grammatically, but there is a difference in meaning.

 

try to do - this means attempt to succeed

try doing - this means see if you like it

 

In this context, try to open is the correct choice, I would say.

 

You can read more on the topic on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar/verbs-followed-ing-or-infinitive-2

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Momocompanyman on Sun, 10/06/2018 - 15:56

Permalink
Hello Sir , I don't understand the part of sentence in Activity 2: You will remenber to put the cat out, (won't you ? )

Hi medmomo,

'won't you' is a question tag. You can read more about what these mean and how we use them on our Question tags page. I think that should help you understand it, but if you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Karth1 on Mon, 30/04/2018 - 23:50

Permalink
I have come across a popular children’s program where the narrator describes a bird. The sentence is as follows “ it is a tiny little bird come to look at sam’s tent” Is this sentence correct? Can you please explain the grammar behind this?

Hello Karth1,

The sentence is correct but I can see why it might look unusual. The speaker has used ellipsis, which means omitting certain words for reasons of style or other rhetorical preference. The 'full' sentence would be as follows:

it is a tiny little bird which has come to look at sam’s tent

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter! On this context, can I say if this sentence works? “You can play the guitar after I mended it?”

Hello Karth1,

The verb form is not correct there. Time words such as after are followed by present forms when we want a future meaning, so you can use a present simple or a present perfect form here:

You can use the guitar after I mend it.

You can use the guitar after I have mended it.

 

You can read more about the verb forms used in time clauses on this page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vahid82 on Sat, 10/03/2018 - 13:31

Permalink
I wonder if the verb "use" belongs to the list of verbs followed by infinitive, as in "I used the key to open the door." If so, what is the function of the infinitive? Does it modify "key"?

Hello Vahid82,

It's great that you are trying to make sense of this, but 'use' is a verb that is used in many ways and isn't always used with an infinitive. In the sentence you ask about, the infinitive form is an infinitive of purpose, which is explained on our to + infinitive page. 

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Shaban Nafea on Thu, 01/03/2018 - 07:06

Permalink
A dog tried to bite me yesterday. What's the passive ? I tried to be bitten yesterday. I was tried to be bitten yesterday. Or I was about to be bitten yesterday.

Hello Shaban Nafea,

The verb 'try' can be intransitive (having no object) or transitive (requiring an object. In this use (meaning 'attempt' and followed by an infinitive) it is intransitive and therefore there is no passive form.

When 'try' is used with the meaning 'sample' or 'test' it is a transitive verb and so has a passive form:

I tried the soup and it was awful!

The soup was tried by me and it was awful!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you,Peter but can't I use the passive form with "bite" ? How can I do this in the sentence " The dog tried to bite me yesterday"?

Hello Shaban Nafea,

It is possible to follow 'try' with a passive form but not to make 'try' itself passive. For example, imagine a situation in which a person wants to be sacked from their job and is doing everything to make their boss angry. We could say the following:

She tried very hard to be sacked from her job.

It's a very unusual form. As far as 'bite' goes, you could need to think of a situation in which a person wants to be bitten but finds it difficult to achieve. Then you might say:

He tried to be bitten.

Again, however, this is a very strange sentence. You need to imagine a highly unlikely context and the whole thing is rather artificial. You can see these sentences with other verbs from time to time:

I want to be informed immediately.

I hope to be chosen for the team.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shivamgetz on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 14:58

Permalink
It's being said that used/ought is always followed by infinitive 'to + v1' but in the sentence " They ought to have insisted on some compensation. " why the word "insisted" is of a different form. If "have" is the main verb here then what role "insisted" is playing here. Also please clarify if there are cases where used/ought is followed by verb form other than v1.

Hello shivamgetz,

I'm afraid I don't agree with that rule. While 'ought' and 'used' can both be followed by a present infinitive ('to + v1'), they are also used in other, different ways. The sentence you cite is an example -- in it, 'ought' is followed by a perfect infinitive ('to have insisted') and this is correct. 'used' is not followed by a perfect infinitive.

I'd suggest you read up on 'ought to' and 'used to' by following the links.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Delta on Tue, 26/12/2017 - 06:36

Permalink
Hello The LearnEnglish Team, I have a silly question about the sentence "They ordered him to lie flat on the floor with his hands behind his back." In which position did they order him to lie? on his back or stomach?

Hello Delta,

I would say on his stomach. I suppose it's possible that one could lie on the floor on one's back with one's hands behind one's back, but most of the time it would be on one's stomach.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Sat, 29/04/2017 - 16:52

Permalink
Hi, Quoting your example above, "He wanted all his friends to come to his party", which illustrates the concept that some verbs are followed by a noun and the to-infinitive. My question are: a) Concerning the sentence above, is it right to say that the infinitve phrase "to come to his party" is the direct object of the verb "wanted", and that "all his friends" is the actor or subject of the infinitive phrase? b) Or is it a case where "all his friends to come to his party" is the direct obejct of the verb "wanted"? c) In addition, my last questions concerns the matter of direct and indirect objects. Using the same sentence, am I right to say that the infinitve phrase "to come to his party" is the direct object of the verb "wanted", and that "all his friends" is the indirect object? Thanks! Regards, Timothy

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 01/05/2017 - 08:37

In reply to by Timothy555

Permalink

Hi Timothy555,

These are questions which go beyond the scope of our site. Our goal here is to help learners improve their English, not to provide analysis of this type, which is really a part of linguistics. There are other sites which delve into such questions, such as herehere, here and here, for example.

Be warned that you will find different interpretations as infinitives can have many functions: adverbial, adjectival and nominal, to name but three.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zagrus on Fri, 10/03/2017 - 10:14

Permalink
Hi, I looked the word " postpone" up in the Cambridge Dictionary and I found that it is only used with " until", like in "The exams have been postponed until next month." My question is that would it be wrong if I use " to " with " postpone",i.e. Can I say " The exams have been postponed to next month"? Thanks in advance, Abdulllah

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 11/03/2017 - 14:51

In reply to by zagrus

Permalink

Hello Abdullah,

Thanks for looking that up in the dictionary. I don't think using 'to' instead of 'until' would cause too much confusion for most people, though really 'to' tends to be used to explain the purpose of a postponement and 'until' is used to indicate the new time/date. For example, 'The meeting was postponed until Monday to give the chairwoman time to arrive'. 'for' is also common, though used to talk about a length of time rather than the new time/date, e.g. 'The meeting was postponed for three days to allow the chairwoman ...'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abidani on Thu, 12/01/2017 - 12:01

Permalink
Hello, Would you please explain to me how and when to use 'to be' in a sentence? I often see it in sentences but not sure what does it really mean.

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 12/01/2017 - 13:23

In reply to by Abidani

Permalink

Hello Abidani,

It might help to think that 'to be' is an infinitive, and so, for example, as is explained on this page, it can be used after verbs like 'want' that can be followed by infinitives (e.g. 'I want to be a poet'). Infinitives are also commonly used to talk about purpose (e.g. 'I went to the market to buy some eggs').

There are so many different ways 'to be' and other infinitives can be used in a sentence that I don't think anyone could explain them all! If you find any specific examples you want ask us about, feel free to do so.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mahi69 on Wed, 11/01/2017 - 07:41

Permalink
Hi Teacher, How to Improve English Grammar? Tell me some easy tips. Recently I prepare from this site. can you have something more to add in this Guide.

Hello Mahi69,

I'd recommend you read our Frequently asked questions page, which has advice on how to get the most out of our site. You're welcome to study this Grammar section and our Quick Grammar to improve your grammar, but I'd also recommend you try a series like Elementary Podcasts, where you will see grammar in context and also learn vocabulary, improve your listening, etc.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by trickard1000 on Fri, 02/12/2016 - 10:23

Permalink
Hi - my questions is, when to use the bare and full infinitives? The tests don't really offer me the chance to make that distinction. I have also found a far simpler explanation on this page, are they really mistaken? http://www.myenglishpages.com/site_php_files/grammar-lesson-infinitive.php

Hello trickard1000,

I'm afraid there is no simple answer to this question. The page you refer to looks useful, but I think you'll find that it won't help you in all situations. Neither will our page, for that matter! Unfortunately there is no easy or short set of rules that will tell you what to do in every situation.

Sorry!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mr. Black on Fri, 04/11/2016 - 04:52

Permalink
Hello sir Thank you so much for your previous explanation, it is always very very helpful to me and encourage to study English more. In that respect, I want to ask a question about using to +infinitive. 1) We expected to be late. Can I write this sentence mentioned below? 2) We expected, it would be late. Do two sentences have same meaning? If the two sentences have same meaning could you please explain to me why we leave out, would, in first one? And in what kind of situations we can use, to be, in a sentence. Is " to be " a abstract fom of the "would be" in first one? Thanks a lot sir.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 04/11/2016 - 06:54

In reply to by Mr. Black

Permalink

Hello Mr. Black,

The meanings of these sentences are quite different:

We expected to be late.

Here the lateness refers to the speaker ('we'). The sentence can be rephrased as We expected that we would be late.

We expected it would be late.

Here, the lateness refers to something else ('it') and not the speaker ('we'). The speaker may be talking about a bus or train, for example, which is not on time.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MCWSL on Sat, 17/09/2016 - 13:14

Permalink
Hello, I wanted to ask a question. I was studying phrasal verbs and I found that one of ''work over'' definitions is: ''examine carefully''. Can I define it: ''to examine carefully'' or ''to examine careful''. Why?

Hello MCWSL,

You need to say 'examine carefully' because an adverb is needed.

The adverb 'carefully' describes the action of the verb; it tells us how to examine. Adjectives are mainly used to describe nouns and do not describe actions/verbs.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sunny21parikh on Sat, 30/07/2016 - 14:28

Permalink
Hello sir children are meant to be loved . Children are meant to love. Which z correct and translation?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 31/07/2016 - 07:16

In reply to by Sunny21parikh

Permalink

Hell Sunny21parikh,

Both of these are possible, but the meaning is different. The first sentence has a passive verb form and means that other people (parents, for example) should love children. The second sentence has an active verb form and means that children should love other people (their parents, for example).

I'm afraid we don't translate on LearnEnglish.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir can you help me over this problem ,I am struggling to connect the sentences, like where to change the sentence ,(from one tense to another )for an example -(Far from convincing / people, this strategy / only SEEM to alienate / many of them further. No error) In this sentence "seemed" should be replace 'seem' and I am not getting it...

Hello Waiz Ansari,

I'm afraid there is no single correct answer here. You can use almost any time reference for 'seem': you could say 'seemed', 'seems' 'has only seemed', 'had only seemed', 'will only seem', 'is only going to seem' etc. This is because there is no context to the sentence and no indication of what time you are referring to.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

alas! ....so help me how to overcome this ......as I am from india there is competition to get jobs and in process of recruitment they took exams in exams they ask only grammar like we discuss above ......... plz suggest me something to get better understanding of grammar ....for reference plz once check the link how they ask question http://www.affairscloud.com/english-questions-and-answers/spotting-errors/

Hello Waiz,

'seem' is not correct in that sentence because it doesn't agree with the subject. In other words, the subject ('this strategy') is a third person singular subject, and therefore should take a third person singular verb. 'seem' is a third person plural verb.

As Peter points out, the answer could actually be in almost any tense: 'seems', 'seemed', etc.

Good luck on your exam!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by student on Sat, 18/06/2016 - 04:42

Permalink
Hi. I was wondering if you could tell me the meaning of this sentence in Act 1: " I helped him to get his life back together again". the word TOGETHER makes me very confusing and Could i say: "I helped him to get his life back again"?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 18/06/2016 - 06:42

In reply to by student

Permalink

Hi student,

You can say that and in many contexts the meaning is very similar: to restore your life to some kind of order and coherence after a period of chaos (often emotional).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by pcabak on Sun, 22/05/2016 - 22:07

Permalink
Good evening. Could you tell me which form of infinitive should I use to express some ativity using only one word. Should I say for example: TO SWIM, SWIM or SWIMMING? The sentence should consists only from a one verb, but my intension is not to order someone to start swimming. Thank you in advance for your answer.

Hello pcabak,

I'm afraid we don't provide help with exercises from elsewhere, such as homework or tests. In any case, it is impossible to answer this without knowing the communicative purposem such as whether the sentence an answer to a question or not, for example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Microctg on Sat, 16/04/2016 - 16:05

Permalink
How can the two sentences below be made in simple sentences except the passive infinitives? 1. Sofia Coppola is only the third woman to be nominated for best director. (Present) 2. Sofia Coppola was only the third woman to be nominated for best director. (Past)

Hello Microctg,

I'm not sure I understand your question fully. There are several ways to change the sentences so they do not include passive infinitives. The simplest would be as follows:

1. Sofia Coppola is only the third woman who has been nominated for best director.

2. Sofia Coppola was only the third woman who was nominated for best director.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much. You have exactly given what I wanted.