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Learning how to use  the Infinitive the Gerund is one of the most challenging aspects of learning English. In the present unit we examine the Infinitive. The Gerund is dealt with in this section.

 

Form

The infinitive is the base form of a verb. It may be preceded by the particle ‘to’ (the to-infinitive) or without (the zero infinitive).

 

Use

To-infinitive 

The to-infinitive is used:

1- After certain verbs. e.g.

afford
agree
attempt
beg
claim
choose
decide
deserve
expect
fail
forget
hope
intend
learn
love
manage
plan
pretend
refer
swear
threaten
volunteer
want
wish

 

Examples

  • She didn't want to leave the classroom
  • We refuse to see youagain
  • All the students deserve to succeed
  • The police managed to catch the thief

 

2- After the auxiliaries to be to, to have to, and ought to

 

Examples

  • She is to retire next year.
  • You ought to know that by now.
  • She has to follow the instructions

 

3- In the pattern 'adjective + to-infinitive'

A list of adjectives that can precede the to-infinitive below

amazed
anxious
ashamed
careful
certain
delighted
determined
eager
eligible
fortunate
glad
happy
hesitant
liable
likely
lucky
pleased
proud
ready
reluctant
sad
shocked
sorry
surprised

 

Examples

  • I am glad to hear that you have been promoted
  • It is not always easy to learn a programming language
  • I am sorry to disturb you
  • We are proud to announce this year's winner.

 

4- With the structure: verb + object + to infinitive

Verbs followed by an object and the to-infinitive

advise
allow
ask
beg
cause
choose
command
convince
enable
encourage
expect
force
hire
instruct
invite
need
order
permit
persuade
prepare
promise
remind
require
tell
threaten
urge
want
warn
wish
would like

 

Examples

  • My friend advised me to see a doctor.
  • Could you ask her to post this letter for me?
  • She begged him not to leave her.
  • We persuaded her to stay, but she insisted on leaving.

 

Zero infinitive 

The zero infinitive is used:

1. After most auxiliaries (e.g. can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would)

Examples:

  • She should give up smoking.
  • He can’t leave his parents alone.
  • Shall talk to her?
  • They must leave before 12.00 a.m.

 

2. After verbs of perception  (e.g. see, hear, feel, watch) with the pattern verb + object + zero infinitive

Examples:

  • They saw him steal the handbag.
  • We heard them lock the door.
  • She watched her husband drive off.

 

 Note that see and hear take the infinitive with to in the passive

Examples:

  • That man was seen to break into the house.
  • She was heard to say that the manager is arrogant.

 

3. After the verbs 'make' and 'let':  make/let + object + zero infinitive

Examples:

  • He made me wash the car.
  • Let’s call John.
  • Don’t let the children play outdoors.

 

Note  that the 'to-infinitive'  is used when 'make' is in the passive voice:

  • She made him sweep the floor.
  • She was made to sweep the floor.
 
4. After certain expressions:  had better, would rather

Examples:

  • We had better start now.
  • You’d rather wait till next week.

 

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