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9. The Infinitive as Object of a Verb

I want to know the answer.

He must learn to work hard and to save money.

The commonest verbs which are followed directly by the infinitive are:

Agree appear arrange ask attempt bear beg begin bother(negative) care(negative) choose claim consent dare decide determine expect fail fear forget go on hate help hesitate hope intend learn like love manage mean neglect offer plan prefer prepare pretend promise refuse regret remember start seem swear trouble try undertake want wish

Some of these verbs can also be followed by the –ing form, often with a different meaning.

Some of these verbs, and the number of others, can be used in the construction verb + object + infinitive (e.g. I wanted her to come back early).

Note that these verbs are all followed by the infinitive with to (except sometimes dare).

The infinitive is also used after the following phrases:

be about can’t afford can’t bear do one’s best/do what one can

make an/every effort make up one’s mind take the trouble

turn out take care make sure

Note that some of these verbs or expressions can also be used with a that- clause or a that … should construction (particularly useful in the passive):

I promise to wait = I promise that I will wait.

He pretended to be angry = He pretended that he was angry.

They decided to divide the profits equally.

They decided that the profits should be divided equally.

I arranged to meet them.

I arranged that they should be met.

10. The Infinitive as Object of an Adjective

A. Many adjectives can be followed by infinitives. Adjectives having infinitives as objects are generally used after the link-verb to be and some others. The infinitive is always preceded by to in this function.

He would be crazy not to do so.

I am sorry to have done you harm.

He seemed glad to have me there.

When a verb is used with a preposition, this often comes at the end of the sentence:

She’s very nice to talk to.

He is easy to get on with.

Occasionally a for-phrase is used to indicate the subject of the infinitive:

I am prepared for everyone to accuse me of being foolish.

B. The infinitive is also found after adjectives in sentences with a ‘preparatory subject’ it:

It’s a little late to admit it, I know.

It’s unusual to meet a shy girl nowadays.

A for-phrase is often used in such sentences:

It’s essential for classrooms to have plenty of light.

Do you think it’s normal for a child to get so tired.

11. The Infinitive after Interrogative Conjunction

The infinitive as object may be part of a phrase introduced by the interrogative conjunctions whether, what, who, whom, which, when, where, how and how long. The infinitive is always preceded by to here. The wh- phrase + infinitive usually occurs after the verbs know, ask, tell, explain, show, wonder, consider, find out, understand, decide, and others with similar meanings.

I wonder who to invite.

Show us what to do.

Ask my brother when to pay.

I can’t decide whether to answer his letter.

Note that it is not possible to begin a question with How to…? Where to…?, etc. Instead, we say, for example: How shall I tell her? Who should I pay?