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Language Tip: Use of the Infinitive


image grammarThe infinitive in English is created by adding to before a verb, e.g.:

to write
to work

In English there is also a past infinitive which is created: to + have + past participle (the third form of a verb):

to have written
to have worked


1. If one verb follows another then the second verb must be either in the infinitive or in the form of a verb with ing. Some verbs can be followed by both the infinitive or ing form of verbs but the meaning can change.

I want to buy new dishes.
Remember to send the letter. (Don’t forget to send the letter.)
Do you remember sending the letter? (Did you send it? Are you sure?)
We cannot afford to employ another worker.
I like to dance.

  • if we wish to have the second verb in negative we add not before to.

They decided not to come.

2. If there is the same subject in a compound sentence.

I had to get up early to catch the train.
They hurried not to miss the train.

3. Always in the passive voice.

He was asked to help.
They were told not to stay here.

4. In the following constructions and after for + object.

I am glad to hear it.
It is very easy for him to do it.
They are old enough to understand it.
It is high time for the children to go to bed.

5. After an object.

I told Peter to come.
I want you to do it now.
We asked them not to come.
She expects them to win.

6. After to be and with the meaning close to should or must.

They are to leave next week.
They were to leave last week.

The past infinitive:

They are said to have been the best experts.
They seem to have bought a new house.


He stopped to do it. (He stopped in order to do something.)
He stopped doing it. (He stopped doing some activity.)

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