Infinitive Clauses

To learn infinitive clauses, first of all, you should know the elements in a cause and the definition of an infinitive. In this lesson, we will learn them.

"Infinitive Clauses" in the English Grammar

What Are Infinitive Clauses?

Infinitive clauses are subordinate clauses that are formed using an infinitive to indicate the purpose, result, or condition of the action in the main clause. Infinitive clauses can function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs in a sentence.

Infinitive Clauses: Types

There are two types of infinitive clauses:

  • To-infinitives
  • Bare infinitives


'To-infinitives' can be divided into the following categories:

  • Basic
  • Perfect
  • Perfect continuous (progressive)
  • Passive


Any subordinate clause whose verb is in 'to-infinitive' form is a to-infinitive clause. Let's see some examples:

If you want to make me happy, buy me flowers.

To play, the children need a room.


To make a perfect form with infinitives we can use the following structure:
[to + have + past participle]
This structure is used to indicate that an action was completed before a certain time. For example:

The boy was lucky to have passed these tests before.

Perfect Continuous

To form perfect continuous we can use this structure:
[To + have + been + verb + -ing]
We use this structure to emphasize duration. For example:

She was too skinny to have been eating all these foods.


If a passive finite verb clause is followed by an infinitive, the infinitive clause will also be in the passive voice.

I expect that all the rooms will be cleaned before the guests arrive.

passive finite verb

I expect all the rooms to be cleaned before the guests arrive.

passive infinitive

Bare Infinitive

Infinitives normally include the particle 'to', but it is not always necessary. When an infinitive is used without the particle 'to', it is called a bare infinitive. Pay attention to the examples:

I made John leave.

Help me open the door.

Infinitive Clauses: Functions

An infinitive clause often serves as the subject or object or complement of the main clause.

Infinitive Clauses as Subjects

An infinitive clause can function as the subject of a sentence. The verb 'be' or other state verbs typically follow the infinitive clause. For example:

To swim after a meal is always wrong.

To leave the building unlocked would seem foolish.


The above sentences might sound too formal. It is more common to express these sentences using 'it' or a participle clause. For example:

Swimming after a meal is wrong.

It is wrong to swim after a meal.

Infinitive Clauses as Objects

using an infinitive clause in a sentence

An infinitive clause can serve as the object of a sentence. Many verbs can be followed by an infinitive clause as the direct object.

I have decided to go to Iran for the holidays.

Remember to take your lunchbox to school.

Try to control your anger.

Infinitive Clauses as Object Complements

An infinitive or infinitive clause can function as an object complement by describing the action intended or desired for the direct object. For example:

Janet's father wants her to go to Harvard.

He asked me to help him.

Infinitive Clauses as Subject Complements

An infinitive clause can serve as a subject complement after the verb 'be' or other linking verbs.

My advice is to consult a lawyer at once.

Her decision was to quit her job in three months.

The Infinitive of Purpose

We can use a nounor pronoun followed by an infinitive clause to express the purpose of that noun. In this pattern, the to-infinitive follows the noun or pronoun.

Do you have a credit card to pay for all this?

I'd like something to eat for lunch.

The Infinitive of Reason

Infinitive clauses can also be used to explain the reason or purpose for doing something. In this case, 'to' has the same meaning as 'in order to' or 'so as to'.

He checked his voicemail to see who has called.

He went home early to watch his favorite show.

Infinitive Clauses with Question Words

Verbs such as 'ask, decide, explain, forget, know, show, tell, and understand' can be followed by question words like where, how, what, who, and when followed by the infinitive clause. Take a look at the examples:

My mom asked me how to use the computer.

I'll tell you when to start the process.

He's forgotten where to look for his suitcase.

Infinitive Clauses with Adjectives

Sometimes, an infinitive clause immediately follows an adjective. Normally, the structure of the sentence would be as follows:

subject + to be + adjective + (for/of someone) + infinitive clause + (rest of sentence)

Check out the examples:

It is important for the doctor to explain the procedure to the patient.

He is disappointed to end up here.

Infinitive Clauses with Adverbs

Infinitive clauses can also be used with the adverbs 'too' and 'enough' in order to indicate the reason behind an action. In these cases, we can easily remove the infinitive and the sentence would still be grammatically correct. The structure is as follows:

  • 'enough' + the adjective, adverb, or noun + the infinitive
  • the adjective, adverb, or noun + 'enough' + the infinitive

There is too much salt to put in this soup.

She's old enough to date whomever she deems suitable.


The prepositional phrase that comes before an infinitive clause is not the subject, it is the complement of a prepositional phrase. Take a look at some examples:

For them to host a party is entertaining.

For= prepososition, Them=object of a preposition, To host a ... =complement

For me to speak three languages would be amazing.


Infinitive clauses are made of an infinitive. Infinitives can be bare infinirtive or to-infinitive. Infinitive clauses are used as:

  • Object
  • object complement
  • subject complement


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To-infinitives are the base form of the verbs preceded by the preposition 'to'. To-infinitives are used in many conditions. In this lesson, we will learn them.

Bare Infinitives

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The word 'bare' means without the addition of something. So you can easily get the meaning of a bare infinitive.

Dangling Modifiers

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