Free reference guides to English Grammar
Practical English Usage, Grammar terms
Vocabulary, Speaking and Writing
Reference Desk
English Grammar
Practical English Usage
Grammatical Terms
English Writing
English Speaking
Business English
Interactive Pages
English grammar and vocabulary exercises



English Grammar


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: forms
Infinitives without to
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



Get the latest updates

 Subscribe in a reader

Prefer Email?
Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner