I want you to feel better
I want you feel better

That was the right thing to do
That was the right thing do

when somebody challenges you to dance
when somebody challenges you dance

I'm not telling you to go around
I'm not telling you go around

you are trying to make us not practice
you are trying make us not practice

just try to relax and breath
just try relax and breath

What does to point to in the sentences? Is it OK if I remove to in the above sentences?

  • 1
    You must use to in all of these sentences. I'll leave a more in-depth answer to someone else, but none of these sentences are correct without to.
    – WendiKidd
    May 5, 2013 at 4:18
  • @Wendi is right. The only exception I can think of – and this is a strectch – is the one with telling, and, even then, omitting the to requires a punctuation change: I'm not telling you, "Go around." In other words, if you put the message in quotation marks, you can omit the to.
    – J.R.
    May 5, 2013 at 9:17

1 Answer 1


There are only a few verbs which permit the bare infinitive (unmarked with to) in complementary non-finite clauses. These fall mostly into two classes (I’ve marked the absence of to with the conventional null symbol Ø):

  • causatives - have, help, let, make

    I’ll have my assistant Ø send you the forms.
    She helped him Ø correct his paper.
    We cannot let this Ø happen.
    The Devil made me Ø do it.

  • perceptives - feel, hear, see and others

    He felt the wind Ø pick up.
    I heard you Ø say it.
    A witness saw him Ø shoot the deceased.

But most verbs, and all of those in your examples, require the marked infinitive (to-infinitive) in complementary clauses. (However, the to may be omitted by ellipsis when two or more infinitives are aligned in parallel, as in your last example: Just try to relax and Ø breathe. Here the to is implied before breathe, but need not be explicit.)

The bare infinitive is also used in questions with Why, with the full modal auxiliaries can/could, do/did, may/might, must, shall/should, will/would, and sometimes with the semi-modals dare and need.

  • 1
    It would be great if you appended some examples after the last explanation concerning the questions with why. Jan 18, 2017 at 14:19

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