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.


What Are To-infinitives?

To-infinitives, also known as full infinitives, consist of the base form of the verb preceded by the word 'to'. To-infinitives are widely used to express necessity and purpose.

To-infinitives: Functions

To-infinitives can function as:

  • Nouns
  • Adverbs
  • Adjectives

Nominal Infinitives

Nominal to-infinitives can be used as subjects, objects of prepositions, and direct objects in a sentence.

To-infinitive as Subject

To-infinitives can be used at the beginning of the sentence as the subject of the sentence. Here are the examples.

To cook is an enjoyable hobby for me.

To study was really hard for him.

To-infinitives as direct Objects

A to-infinitive can also be used as the direct object of transitive verbs. Check out the examples:

I wanted to drink soda but he ordered fizzy pop.

They liked to share as a perfect couple.

To-infinitive as Object of Preposition

We can use to-infinitives after prepositions as the object of the preposition. Here are some examples.

I am about to be graduated.

They couldn't do anything but to wait.

using to-infinitives as the subject

Adverbial Infinitives

Adverbial to-infinitives are used to modify an adjective, adverb, or a main verb. Here are a few examples.

It was stupid to talk to you again. → adverbial describing the adjective

The plumber came to fix the sink. → adverbial describing the verb

Adjectival Infinitives

Sometimes to-infinitives can be used to modify a noun. So, they act as adjectives. Here are a few examples.

That was not a story to remember.

The movie is one to watch, I strongly recommend it .

Different Forms of To-infinitives

There are different formations of to-infinitives. Check out the list.

Perfect To-infinitives

A perfect to-infinitive implies a past meaning. The general structure is [to + have + past participle]. Here are a few examples.

She is said to have been a good nurse back then.

In this example, "she was a good nurse in the past, maybe she is retired now."

Peter is known to have stepped on the moon.

Perfect Continuous To-infinitive

Perfect continuous to-infinitives are formed by using [have + been + the present participle of a verb]. They indicate a preceding event that is ongoing or in progress. Here are some examples.

I am glad to have been talking to such a great person.

You seem to have been training for five years by then. I am sure you will win.

Continuous To-infinitives

Continuous to-infinitives are formed by using [to be + present participle] and indicate an ongoing or continuous action. They can indicate a purpose or goal or express a future plan or intention. For example:

She hopes to be traveling around the world next year

They seemed to be drinking and having fun.

Passive To-infinitives

To-infinitives can be used in the passive form by using the verb 'to be' in different tenses followed by a past participle. Here are a few examples.

The man is to be killed.

They wanted to have behaved properly.

Using To-infinitives in Special Structures

We can use to-infinitives to express special concepts.

Be + To-Infinitive

This structure uses to-infinitive to express activities that somebody is going to do or is supposed to do. Here are the examples.

They were to vote for the president.

I was to leave you but I couldn't.

With Catenative Verbs

To create a chain of verbs, you can add them together using to-infinitives, with the to-infinitive serving as the direct object of the catenative verb. Here are some examples.

We decided to adopt a child.

The kids like to dance all day.

Elliptical Questions

To-infinitives can be used after interrogative words to form elliptical questions. Check out the examples:

They don't know where to play.

Tell me how to find a solution.


To-infinitive verbs can be used in the following forms;

  • simple
  • continuous
  • perfect
  • perfect continuous


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