Can we say: "I want to learn to drive my car to go to my workplace to earn money"? Is it appropriate to use several infinitive with to subsequently?

2 Answers 2


The first two instances of to in OP's example are "infinitive markers" (for learn and drive (the other two are short for in order to).

But there's nothing about English syntax that prevents us chaining more that two "true infinitives" together. For example,...

You need to want to learn to drive

...is perfectly natural English. Note that I could extend that utterance with ...to pass your driving test, but to there would be a preposition introducing an "adverbial clause of purpose", not another "infinitive marker" (and pass is an "unmarked infinitive").


I want to learn to drive my car to go to my workplace to earn money.

It's fine syntactically, but a succession of four infinitival clauses is stylistically inelegant.

You could simplify and say "I want to learn to drive so I can go to work by car".

  • 1
    I may be wrong, but it seems to me that although there are indeed 4 consecutive "infinitival" elements, the 3rd & 4th occurrences of to aren't actually infinitive markers. They're just short forms of in order to, which could alternatively be expressed by something like so that I may without needing to include to at all before the unmarked infinitive that follows. Jul 18, 2019 at 14:48
  • @FumbleFingers I take "in order" to be a compound preposition (the two words are inseparable here) with the to infinitival clauses as purpose adjuncts. link.
    – BillJ
    Jul 18, 2019 at 15:23
  • This is where I get confused. That Wiktionary link says to is "synonymous" with in order, but that deconstruction doesn't really work for me. I can choose to say I eat to live or I eat in order to live, but I can't eat in order live. I'd be quite happy with the idea that "in order to" is a compound preposition, but I guess that's not what you meant. Jul 18, 2019 at 15:40
  • 1
    To be precise, the compound prep "in order" takes to-infintival clauses as its complement, and the whole PP "in order + infinitival clause then serves as a purpose adjunct. But the OP's example is simply two catenative clauses followed by two to-infinitival clauses serving as purpose adjuncts.
    – BillJ
    Jul 18, 2019 at 15:48
  • I can't say I really understand that - the implication seems to be that s + v + to-infinitive can be understood as s + v in order, so as to-infinitive, with the highlighted element being optional. Which may be so, but it seems an odd way of looking at things to me. Whatever - at least we seem to be in agreement that the first two infinitives are different to the second two in OP's example, which was my main concern. It does occur to me there's potential ambiguity as to whether and where the "catenative" elements end and the "purpose adjuncts" start (both of which can occur repeatedly). Jul 18, 2019 at 16:13

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