Infinitive in English

Infinitive in English

The verb in English, as in any other language, plays one of the main roles in the construction of a sentence. In order to most accurately express your thoughts, you must be able to distinguish and correctly use all existing forms. 

The infinitive is an indefinite form of a verb that is usually used in conjunction with another verb to describe an action properly. In English, there are some features of the use of the infinitive. It depends exactly on what verb accompanies it. Also, the infinitive can often be confused with the ing form of the verb, since their use is very similar at some points. 

In English, there are two types of infinitive: with and without particle to. This is, in fact, the same word, however, in some cases, the particle is omitted. Let's figure this out together? 


infinitive with particle to 

Language classic. The infinitive with the particle to is used in the following cases: 

1. To express a specific goal, determined by the same infinitive

  • He came to me to ask me to go out yesterday. 

2. After such verbs as advise, agree, appear, decide, expect, hope, manage, offer, promise, refuse, seem, want, afford, pretend, etc.

  • She refused to do what I asked her to do. 

3. If the infinitive is preceded by a pair of specific verbs (know, decide, ask, remember, learn) + question word

  • He decided to tell us sad news first. 

4. The infinitive comes after the adjectives happy, nice, glad, sorry, willing, afraid, ashamed, which in some cases will be translated into Russian by verbs

  • We were very happy to know that we won those concert tickets. 

5. After the infinitive there are adverbs enough or too

  • Sam is too shy to confess to her. 

6. The sentence is built according to the scheme I + be + adjective (+ of + noun / pronoun) + infinitive

  • It was nice of him to tell us the recipe of that pie. 

7. After designs like would like / love to

  • I would like to go abroad this summer. 

8. If the sentence contains the word only, expressing dissatisfaction with an event or result

  • She went to the hospital only to grab some papers she needed for her job. 

9. The infinitive stands after something, somewhere, anyone, nothing.

  • I had something to tell him that day, but he just walked away 

10. After ordinal numbers and words denoting a queue

  • We were first to go to that famous place on the hill. 


Infinitive without particle to 

Sometimes the infinitive form is used without a particle, which may surprise beginners. But you don't need to be afraid. There are not many cases where the infinitive particle is not used: 

1. If the infinitive comes after modal verbs

  • He must go there as soon as possible. 

2. After the verbs let, make, see, hear, feel

  • I saw him drive. 

3. After had better/would rather

  • She would rather tell me this but not hide. 

4. In interrogative sentences starting with Why not

  • Why not eat something sweet for dessert? 

It should be noted that in some of these cases the use of the Ing form of the verb is also allowed. Both options will be correct. 

  • Why not going to the cinema tonight? 
  • I heard them talking about the car accident. 


Types of infinitive 

In total, there are several types of infinitive: four forms of the active voice and two passive ones. 

Active pledge includes: 


  • I want to go out 


  • He must be cleaning his study at the moment 


  • He must have cleaned his study already. 

Completely extended 

  • He must have been cleaning his study since midday today. 

In the passive voice there are only 


  • His study seems to be cleaned very well. 


  • His study seems to have been cleaned long before today 

This is probably all you need to know about infinitives. However, there is also the topic of the difference between the use of the initial form and the participle, which partially applies here, so we advise you not to skip it.