Infinitive Preceded by Adjectives and Nouns

In the majority of cases, adjectives and nouns that are modified by an infinitive are followed by de before the infinitive:

  • Je n'ai pas le temps de t'attendre. (I don't have the time to wait for you.)
  • Je suis ravi de vous revoir. (I'm delighted to see you again.)
  • Est‐il capable de le faire? (Is he capable of doing it?)

De + infinitive is used after que in the second part of a comparison:

  • Je préfère lire que de regarder la télévision. (I prefer to read rather than to watch television.)

The preposition à is used in the following instances:

If the infinitive conveys a passive meaning (the subject is acted upon):

  • Donnez‐moi quelque chose à manger. (Give me something to eat [to be eaten].)
  • J'ai une lettre à écrire. (I have a letter to write [to be written].)

After le dernier (the last), le seul (the only), le premier (the first), and other numerals, and after a few adjectives showing tendency, fitness, and purpose, such as habile (skillful), lent (slow), prêt (ready):

  • Elle était la première à partir. (She was the first to leave.)
  • Nous sommes prêts à commencer. (We are ready to begin.)

With certain nouns to express purpose or function:

  • un fer à friser (a curling iron)
  • une chambre à coucher (a bedroom)

Note the following:

Impersonal expressions beginning with il + être + adjective require de before the infinitive, which is really the subject:

  • Il est difficile de comprendre. (It is difficult to understand or To understand [Understanding] is difficult.)

In the construction ce + être + adjective + à + infinitive, ce ( ceci, cela) is the subject of the infinitive and conveys a passive meaning:

  • C'est difficile à comprendre. (It is difficult to understand.)