Infinitive Form of the Verb

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Infinitives play an important role in the English language, helping to convey both simple and complex ideas. English speakers use the infinitive form of the verb almost in every sentence, so there are many rules that every language learner should know. In this article, you learn the infinitive grammar rules in various situations.

Understanding the Basics

Before we discuss specifics, let's establish a foundation: an infinitive form of the verb can be used with nouns, adjectives, and other verbs. It can be used both with and without “to” in the sentence. It can be placed differently in the sentence structure, depending on the context. Below, there is a detailed explanation of using the infinitive in different cases.

Infinitives with Verbs of Thinking, Feeling, and Saying

Verbs of thinking and feeling relate to those encompassing a range of mental activities (e.g. decide, plan). Verbs of saying describe the action of speaking or way of expressing thoughts. Here’s the list of such verbs. 

Verbs of SayingVerbs of FeelingVerbs of Thinking

This list provides an understanding of these categories, but remember that it’s non-exhaustive. After such verbs, you should use “to infinitive,” or in other words, “to+infinitive form of the verb.”

  • I adore to travel to new and exotic destinations.
  • We must choose to embrace change and adapt to new circumstances.
  • I suggest to read the instructions carefully before assembling the furniture.

The only exception to this rule is using verbs of thinking, feeling, and saying with modal verbs. In such cases, you should drop the “to.” For example, instead of saying, “I think to can improve…” you should say, “I think I can improve.”

Unraveling the Infinitive Form of Verbs

Expressing purpose with infinitives

There are many ways to express purpose and intentions or give instructions using infinitive forms of verbs. Such sentences don’t follow the common structure. That is why they are challenging for many language learners.


This construction is crucial for conveying intentions and plans associated with a specific subject. It involves the main verb, followed by a noun/pronoun and an infinitive verb. Here are some examples:

  • I want him to play guitar.
  • She asked the team to focus on defense.

In these examples, the structure clarifies who is supposed to perform the action of the infinitive verb. Certain verbs are natural to this construction. These include verbs related to commanding, advising, allowing, encouraging, and wanting, such as "tell," "advise," "allow," "encourage," "want," and "need."

Infinitive with purpose clauses

In English grammar, expressing purpose presents a unique challenge, particularly when employing phrases like "in order to," "in order not to," "so as to," and "so as not to." These constructions are pivotal for clarity and precision. Here's how they are correctly used:

  1. In Order To / So As To. Used to explain the purpose of an action.
    1. He studies hard in order to pass his exams.
    2. She wakes up early so as to catch the sunrise.
  2. In Order Not To / So As Not To. Used to speak about avoiding a negative outcome.
    1. She left early in order not to miss her train.
    2. He speaks softly so as not to wake the baby.

One common error is using the wrong word order, where the intention is to speak about avoiding a negative outcome.

  • Incorrect: He left early in order to not miss the train.
  • Correct: He left early in order not to miss the train.

Use these phrases when you want to clarify or emphasize the purpose behind the action. And keep in mind that these expressions are mostly used in formal contexts. It’s not a mistake to use them in informal situations, but the simple use of “to” will be more natural for casual speaking.


Infinitives with Make, Let, and Dare

The use of the infinitive form in conjunction with verbs "make," "dare," and "let"—is a nuanced area that confuses language learners and even proficient speakers. When you use “make” and “let” in active voice, you should drop “to” from the infinitive form of the verb.

  • The situation made him reconsider his options.
  • They let us enter the hall.

However, in passive voice, “to” should be used. Moreover, “let” doesn’t have a passive form and should be replaced with “allow.”

  • He was made to reconsider his options.
  • We were allowed to enter the hall.

“Dare” is more tricky in this case since there might be two ways of forming sentences. When there is a modal or auxiliary verb, you may both add or drop “to.”

  • Would you dare (to) speak your mind in such a situation?
  • Could you dare (to) jump from that height?

However, when there is no modal or auxiliary verb in the sentence, it’s obligatory to use an infinitive without “to.”

  • No one dared talk to him.
  • I dare not miss the lesson.

These cases look very challenging, so how do you master them? Practice through interactive exercises and integrate these structures into your communication, especially in group lessons or 1x1 lessons with a tutor. After getting feedback, you will quickly remember the rules.

Infinitives with nouns and adjectives

Very often, the infinitive form of the verb is used after nouns and adjectives. Such sentences help to give reasons, discuss personal abilities, convey opinions, and so on. The structure is always the same: “adjective+to+infinitive” or “noun+to+infinitive.” Here are some examples:

  • The ability to communicate effectively is crucial.
  • The decision to hire him was unanimous.
  • I am unable to read Old Greek.
  • He is right to fight for his property.

These structures are intuitive for most of the learners. Practice some of them, and you will quickly remember how to use the infinitive form of the verb with nouns and adjectives.


Infinitives are tricky. Even proficient speakers make mistakes using them. However, constant practice is key to mastering the rules and avoiding all the common mistakes. Learn with Promova and you will develop your language skills, understanding all the nuances of infinitive forms.

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