What is an Infinitive?

The Infinitive is a non-finite form of the verb which names an action.

  • As a rule the infinitive is used with the particle to.
    Students go to school to get knowledge.
  • If two infinitives are connected by the conjunctions and or or, the particle to is placed only before the first infinitive.
    Your mother wants you to come and see her. 
  • At the end of the sentence the particle to is sometimes used without the infinitive if the infinitive is understood from the context.
    Why didn’t you come? You promised to

The Infinitive is used without to:

  • after modal verbs except ought, to have, to be: He can swim. You must go. May I ask you? You shouldn’t drink coke. How dare you ask me? You ought to wash. I had to send him money. We are to see her tonight.
  • after auxiliary verbs: I don’t speak Japanese. We will write a dictation tomorrow.
  • after the expressions had better, would sooner, would rather: You had better go back to your sisters. I would sooner come with you. I’d rather not talk about such things. You’d better consult the dictionary.
  • after causative verbs have, make, let: I won’t have him shout at me. Let’s take this book. Let her read the text. She made her brother rewrite the exercise. The teacher made them work hard.
  • in the Objective Infintive Complex after the verbs of sense perceptionWe saw him enter the house. We have never heard this girl sing. She heard the clock strike eight.
  • in senteces which start with Why: Why not visit them on Sunday?

The Infinitive in English has six forms:

  • The Simple Active Infinitive to do
  • The Simple Passive Infinitive to be done
  • The Continuous Infinitive to be doing
  • The Perfect Infinitive to have done
  • The Perfect Passive Infinitve to have been done
  • The Perfect Continuous Infinitive to have been doing

Reference List of Verbs Followed by Infinitives

Verbs with a bullet (•) can also be followed by gerunds.

Verbs Followed Immediately by an Infinitive

  • afford      I can’t afford to buy it.
  • agree      They agreed to help us.
  • appear       She appears to be tired.
  • arrange      I’ll arrange to meet you at the airport.
  • ask        He asked to come with us.
  • can’t bear•      I can’t bear to wait in long lines.
  • beg      He begged to come with us.
  • begin•      It began to rain.
  • care      I don’t care to see that show.
  • claim        She claims to know a famous movie star.
  • consent       She finally consented to marry him.
  • continue       He continued to speak.
  • decide      I have decided to leave on Monday.
  • demand      I demand to know who is responsible.
  • deserve      She deserves to win the prize.
  • expect      I expect to enter graduate school in the fall.
  • fail      She failed to return the book to the library on time.
  • forget•      I forgot to mail the letter.
  • hate•       I hate to make silly mistakes.
  • hesitate      Don’t hesitate to ask for my help.
  • hope      Jack hopes to arrive next week.
  • learn      He learned to play the piano.
  • like•     I like to go to the movies.
  • love•      I love to go to operas.
  • manage   She managed to finish her work early.
  • mean      I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.
  • need•      I need to have your opinion.
  • offer      They offered to help us.
  • plan      I am planning to have party.
  • prefer•      Ann prefers to walk to work.
  • prepare     We prepared to welcome them.
  • pretend      He pretends not to understand.
  • promise      I promise not to be late.
  • refuse      I refuse to believe this story.
  • regret•      I regret to tell you that you failed.
  • remember•    I remembered to lock the door.
  • seem      That cat seems to be friendly.
  • can’t stand•     I can’t stand to wait in long lines.
  • start•      It started to rain.
  • struggle      I struggled to stay awake.
  • swear      She swore to tell the truth.
  • threaten      She threatened to tell my parents.
  • try•      I’m trying to learn English.
  • volunteer      He volunteered to help us.
  • wait       I will wait to hear from you.
  • want      I want to tell you something.
  • wish      She wished to come with us.

Verbs Followed by a (pro)noun + an Infinitive

  • advise•       She advised me to wait until tomorrow.
  • allow      She allowed me to use her car.
  • ask      I asked John to help us.
  • beg       They begged us to come.
  • cause     Her laziness caused her to fail.
  • challenge       She challenged me to race her to the corner.
  • convince      I couldn’t convince him to accept our help.
  • dare       He dared me to do better than he had done.
  • encourage       He encouraged me to try again.
  • expect        I expect you to be on time.
  • forbid        I forbid you to tell him.
  • force        They forced him to tell the truth.
  • hire       She hired a boy to mow the lawn.
  • instruct        He instructed them to be careful.
  • invite       Harry invited the Johnsons to come to his party.
  • need      We needed Chris to figure out the solution.
  • order       The judge ordered me to pay a fine.
  • permit       He permitted the children to stay up late.
  • persuade     I persuaded him to come for a visit.
  • remind      She reminded me to lock the door.
  • require      Our teacher requires us to be on time.
  • teach       My brother taught me to swim.
  • tell        The doctor told me to take these pills.
  • urge      I urged her to apply for the job.
  • want      I want you to be happy.
  • warn       I warned you not to drive too fast.

Complete the sentences with the correct form, Gerund or Infinitive, of the words in parentheses.

  1. Sam volunteered (bring) __________ some food to the reception.
  2. The students practiced (pronounce) _____________ the “th” sound in the phrase “these thirty-three dirty trees”.
  3. In the fairy tale, the wolf threatened (eat) __________ a girl named Little Red Riding Hood.
  4. Susie! How many time do I have to remind you (hang up) ______________ your coat when you get home from school?
  5. The horses struggled (pull) __________ the wagon out of the mud.
  6. Anita demanded (know) __________ why she had been fired.
  7. My skin cant tolerate (be) ___________ in the sun all day. I get sunburned easily.
  8. I avoided (tell) ____________ Mary the truth because I knew she would be angry.
  9. Fred Washington claims (be) ___________ a descendant of George Washington.
  10. Mr. Kwan broke the antique vase. I’m sure he didn’t mean (do) ____________ it.
  11. I urged Mike (return) _____________ to school and (finish) ___________ his education.
  12. Mrs. Freeman can’t help (worry) _____________ about her children.
  13. Children, I forbid you (play) _____________ in the street. There’s too much traffic.
  14. My little cousin is a blabbermouth! He can’t resist (tell) ____________ everyone my secrets!
  15.  I appreciate your (take) ___________ the time to help me.
  16. I can’t afford (buy) ______________ a new car.
  17. Kim managed (change) _____________ my mind.
  18. I think Sam deserves (have) ____________ another chance.
  19. Olga finally admitted (be) ___________ responsible for the problem.
  20. I don’t recall ever (hear) ____________ you mention his name before.
  21. Nadia keeps (promise) _____________ (visit) _____________ us, but she never does.
  22. Margaret challenged me (race) ___________ her across the pool.
  23. Oscar keeps (hope) ____________ and (pray) ____________ that things will get better.
  24. I finally managed (persuade) ______________ Yoko (stay) ___________ in school and (finfish) ____________ her degree.

Using the Simple Form after Let and Help

Let is followed by the simple form of a verb: My father lets me drive his car. I let my friend borrow my bicycle. Let’s go to the movie.

Help is often followed by the simple form of a verb: My brother helped me wash my car. An infinitive is also possible: My brother helped me to wash my car.

Complete the sentences with verb phrases.

Example: Don’t let me … – Don’t let me forget to take my keys to the house with me.

  1. The teacher usually lets us …
  2. Why did you let your roommate …
  3. You shouldn’t let other people …
  4. A stranger helped the lost child …
  5. It was very kind of my friend to help me …
  6. Keep working. Don’t let me …
  7. Could you help me …