Learners' Questions: Verb Patterns - full and bare infinitives

Hi guys! Dan here for BBC Learning English with this week's Learner Question. Find out

Hi guys! Dan here for BBC Learning English with this week's Learner Question. Find out

what it is after this.

OK! This week's learner question comes from Ayoub in Iraq. "My question is when should

we add 'to' after verbs and when should we not?" Well, Ayoub, this is a huge area of English

and extremely tricky grammar, but we're going to give a very basic explanation. What you're

talking about is called a verb pattern. Verb patterns occur in English when one verb is

followed by another verb. For example: I want to play. There are three basic types of verb

pattern: the full infinitive – to play, that's with the 'to'. The bare infinitive, that's

without the 'to' – play. And the –ing form – playing. Because you asked about infinitives

and bare infinitives, we're only going to focus on those two.

Unfortunately, Ayoub, there are some verbs in English which are just followed by the

full infinitive. There's no particular reason why – because, because. Examples of these

are agree, want, hope, expect, and refuse. For example: I hope to eat or I want to eat.

Likewise, there are some other verbs which are just followed by the bare infinitive.

These include modal verbs, so: can, can't, will, won't, must. I must go, I can go, I

will go. You have to learn them. There's nothing else to say about that. I'm sorry.

However, all is not lost because there are other full infinitive patterns. Generally,

after an adjective, especially one of feeling, we use a full infinitive. So, for example:

It's good to see you. I'm so happy to be here. Or, it's important to remember your keys.

And of course, we use a full infinitive at the end of a clause to explain why we're doing

something. This is called 'the infinitive of purpose'. For example: I want to go home

to sleep.

I hope that answers your question Ayoub. Thank you very much for writing to us. If anybody

else out there has a question for Learners' Questions, please email us on: [email protected]

Please remember to put Learners' Questions in the subject box and your name and the country

that you're writing from or where you're from. We can't answer every single one because we

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our website: bbclearningenglish.com. Alright, that's it for this week's Learners' Questions.

I'll see you next time.


Expressions / Collocations