Forming the infinitive
The infinitive is the base form of a verb. In English, when we talk about the infinitive we are usually referring to the present infinitive, which is the most common. There are, however, four other forms of the infinititive: the perfect infinitive, the perfect continuous infinitive, the continuous infinitive, & the passive infinitive.
The present infinitive has two forms:
- the to-infinitive = to + base
- the zero infinitive = base
The present infinitive base is the verb form you will find in a dictionary.
The negative infinitive is formed by putting not in front of any form of the infinitive.
- I decided not to go to London.
- He asked me not to be late.
- I'd like you not to sing so loudly.
- I'd rather not eat meat.
- I might not come.
Functions of the to-infinitive
The to-infinitive is used in many sentence constructions, often expressing the purpose of something or someone's opinion about something. The to-infinitive is used following a large collection of different verbs as well. See this page about verbs followed by infinitives.
The to-infinitive to indicate the purpose or intention of an action
In this case to has the same meaning as in order to or so as to.
- She came to collect her pay cheque.
- The three bears went to find firewood.
- I am calling to ask you about dad.
- You sister has gone to finish her homework.
The to-infinitive as the subject of the sentence
This is a formal usage and is far more common in written English than spoken
- To be or not to be, that is the question.
- To know her is to love her.
- To visit the Grand Canyon is my life-long dream.
- To understand statistics, that is our aim.
The to-infinitive to indicate what something can or will be used for
In this pattern, the to-infinitive follows a noun or pronoun.
- The children need a garden to play in.
- I would like a sandwich to eat.
- I don't have anything to wear.
- Would you like something to drink?
The to-infinitive after adjectives
There is a common pattern using the to-infinitive with an adjective. These phrases are formed:
subject + to be + adjective + (for/of someone) + to-infinitive + (rest of sentence)
|Subject||+ to be||+ adjective||(+ for/of someone)||+ to-infinitive||(+ rest of sentence)|
|It||is||good||of you||to talk||to me.|
|It||is||important||to be patient.|
|It||is||important||for Jake||to be patient||with his little brother.|
|The dog||is||naughty||to destroy||our couch.|
The to-infinitive to make a comment or judgement
To use the to-infinitive when making a comment or judgement about a noun, the pattern is:
Subject + to be + noun phrase + to-infinitive
|Subject||+ to be||+ noun phrase||+ to-infinitive|
|It||was||a stupid place||to park.|
|That||is||a dangerous way||to behave.|
|What you said||was||a rude thing||to say.|
|This||is||the right thing||to do.|
|Those||were||the wrong kind of eggs||to buy.|
|Jim||is||the best person||to hire.|
The to-infinitive with adverbs
The to-infinitive is used frequently