Use of the infinitive without ‘to’

(Verbs used with the infinitive form without ‘to’)

Table of contents – infinitive without ‘to’

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Verbs followed by the infinitive without ‘to’
  2. Expressions with the infinitive without ‘to’
  3. Further explanations and exercises

Which English verbs require the infinitive without ‘to’?

In contrast to the ones that require the to-infinitive (infinitive with ‘to’), some English verbs exist that need the directly following verb (which belongs to the same verb phrase) to appear in the infinitive form without ‘to’. This requirement for the bare infinitive is especially the case with these verbs:

  • Modal verbs (‘can, could, may, might, will, would, should, must’, etc.):
    • “The policeman says, ‘You must come with me.’”
    • “I could help you, no problem.”
  • When ‘do’ and the corresponding negation ‘don’t’ are conjugated in the present simple or in the past simple with their forms ‘did’ and ‘didn’t’:
    • “Melanie doesn’t drink coffee.”
    • Exception: Sometimes, ‘do’ is also used in affirmative sentences for emphasis:
      • “And please, do ask me if you have any questions.”
  • The following verbs may be utilised with a second verb in the infinitive with or without ‘to’:
    • dare:
      • “Don’t you dare hang up on me.”
        • In this sentence, ‘dare’ is the first verb, followed by the base form ‘hang up’ without ‘to’.
      • “Don’t you dare to come back!”
        • Here, the verb ‘to come’ (note: with ‘to’) stands right after ‘dare’.
    • help:
      • “The book helped him stop smoking.”
        • The verb ‘stop’ appears without ‘to’ here.
      • “Yoga helps me to relax.”
        • also possible with ‘to’
  • Occasionally, an object is inserted between the conjugated verb and the infinitive without ‘to’. Some verbs that demand this constellation are:
    • let:
      • Let’s go shopping. I need a new dress.”
        • This imperative includes ‘us’ as the object in its short form ‘’s’.
      • “Please, let me work now.”
        • with ‘me’ as the object
    • make:
      • “My boss made me work on the weekend.”
        • with ‘me’ as the object
      • “Brenda made her tell all her secrets.”
        • with ‘her’ as the object

What other English expressions require the infinitive without ‘to’?

Apart from the verbs mentioned above, some typical expressions in English also require the infinitive (base form of the verb) without ‘to’ in subsequent position. Compare the following:

  • Some fixed expressions with infinitives without ‘to’ commonly occur in English. Despite the possibility of sounding inaccurate to foreign language learners, they are entirely correct:
    • had better:
      • “You had better study for your exam.”
    • why not:
      • Why not have some tea? We have some time left.”
    • why should:
      • Why should I go to her birthday party? I don’t like her.”
    • Besides the fact that ‘would’ always wants the infinitive without ‘to’ anyway, ‘would rather’ and ‘would sooner’ are used quite often in combination without a difference in meaning:
      • “I would rather stay here, but I have to go.”
      • “I’d sooner fail the exam than ask him for help.”

Further explanations relating to the ‘Use of the infinitive without ‘to’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Verbs used with the infinitive form withoutto’’ and could also be helpful: