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English Grammar

To-infinitives

The marker to is normally used before infinitives. Note that this to is not a preposition; after the preposition to we use –ing forms.
The to-infinitive has many functions.

Infinitive as subject

An infinitive can be the subject of a sentence. This was fairly common in older English.

  • To err is human, to forgive divine.
  • To find fault with others is easy.

In modern English, this is unusual. We more often use it as a ‘preparatory subject’, and put the infinitive clause later.

  • It is human to err.
  • It is easy to find fault with others.

Infinitive as object

Many verbs can be followed by an infinitive clause in the place of the direct object.

  • She wants some exercise. (noun object)
  • She wants to dance. (infinitive object)
  • I don’t want to go to bed.

Infinitive clause as complement

An infinitive clause can be used after be as a subject complement.

  • The best thing to do now is to vanish.
  • You are to sit in that corner and keep quite.
  • The main thing is to stay calm.

To-infinitives can be used as the object or complement of a verb, adjective or noun.

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • She was anxious to contact her husband.
  • That was a sight to see.
  • Automation has come to stay.
  • It is time to go.

Sections In This Article
Infinitives
Infinitives: forms
Infinitives without to
To-infinitives
Infinitive with its own subject
For-structures after adjectives
For-structures after verbs
For-structures: other uses
Infinitive clauses of purpose
Verbs that can be followed by infinitives
Adjectives that can be followed by infinitives
Nouns that can be followed by infinitives

 

 

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