The infinitive

1. Form
The infinitive is the base form of a verb. It may be preceded by 'to' (the to-infinitive) or stand alone (the base or zero infinitive).

2. Infinitive with or without 'to'
The to-infinitive is used:
a. after certain verbs. e.g. want, wish, agree, fail, mean, decide, learn
b. after the auxiliaries to be to, to have to, and ought to
c. in the pattern 'it is + adjective + to-infinitive'

with 'to'
 The elephant decided to marry the mouse
 The mouse agreed to marry the elephant
 You will have to ask her
 You are to leave immediately
 He ought to relax
 She has to go to Berlin next week
 It's easy to speak English
 It is hard to change jobs after twenty years
 It's stupid to believe everything you hear
without 'to'
 I would rather visit Rome.
 She would rather live in Italy.
 Would you rather eat steak or fish?
 He would rather work in a bank.
 I'd rather be a forest than a tree.

The most common uses of the infinitive are:
To indicate the purpose or intention of an action (where the 'to' has the same meaning as 'in order to' or 'so as to'):
 She's gone to collect her pay cheque.
 The three bears went into the forest to find firewood.
As the subject of the sentence:
 To be or not to be, that is the question.
 To know her is to love her.
(Note: this is more common in written English than spoken)
With nouns or pronouns, to indicate what something can be used for, or what is to be done with it:
 Would you like something to drink?
 I haven't anything to wear.
 The children need a garden to play in.
After adjectives in these patterns:
 It is + adjective +to-infinitive
It is good to talk
 It is + adjective + infinitive + for someone + to-infinitive.
It is hard for elephants to see mice
 It is + adjective + infintive + of someone + to-infinitive.
It is unkind of her to say that.
After an adjective + noun when a comment or judgement is being made:
 It was a stupid place to park the car.
 This is the right thing to do.
 It was an astonishing way to behave.
With too and enough in these patterns:
too much/many (+ noun) + to-infinitive
There's too much sugar to put in this bowl.
I had too many books to carry.
too + adjective + to-infinitive
This soup is too hot to eat.
She was too tired to work.
too + adverb + to-infinitive
He arrived too late to see the actors.
enough (+ noun) + to-infinitive
I've had enough (food) to eat.
adjective + enough + to-infinitive
She's old enough to make up her own mind.
not enough (+noun) + to-infinitive
There isn't enough snow to ski on.
not + adjective + enough + to-infinitive
You're not old enough to have grand-children!

These verbs: ask, decide, explain, forget, know, show, tell, understand, can be followed by a question word such as where, how, what, who, when or 'whether' + the 'to-infinitive'.
 She asked me how to use the washing machine.
 Do you understand what to do?
 Tell me when to press the button.
 I've forgotten where to put this little screw.
 I can't decide whether to wear the red dress or the black one.
The question word Why is followed by the zero infinitive in suggestions:
 Why wait until tomorrow?
 Why not ask him now?
 Why walk when we can go in the car?
 Why not buy a new bed for your bedroom?
 Why leave before the end of the game?
 Why not spend a week in Beirut and a week in Baghdad?

To form the negative infinitive, place not before the to- or zero infinitive:
e.g. not to worry:
It's hard not to worry about exams.
 I decided not to go to London.
 He asked me not to be late.
 Elephants ought not to marry mice.
 You'd better not smile at the crocodile.
 I'd rather not eat meat.

The infinitive can have the following forms:

to have + past participle, e.g. to have broken, to have seen, to have saved.
This form is most commonly found in Type 3 conditional sentences, using the conditional perfect, e.g. If I had known you were coming I would have baked a cake.
 Someone must have broken the window and climbed in.
 I would like to have seen the Taj Mahal when I was in India.
 He pretended to have seen the film.
 If I'd seen the ball I would have caught it.
The continuous infinitive:
to be + present participle, be swimming, to be joking, to be waiting
 I'd really like to be swimming in a nice cool pool right now.
 You must be joking!
 I happened to be waiting for the bus when the accident happened.
The perfect continuous infinitive:
to have been + present participle
to have been crying
to have been waiting
to have been painting
 The woman seemed to have been crying.
 You must have been waiting for hours!
 He pretended to have been painting all day.
The passive infinitive:
to be + past participle, e.g. to be given, to be shut, to be opened
 I am expecting to be given a pay-rise next month.
 These doors should be shut.
 This window ought to be opened.

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