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Gerunds and infinitives are two forms of a verb that are used in a number of structures.
Let’s explore these forms and explain the different uses of them.
Gerunds are ing forms of verbs, such as
- read + ing = reading
- walk + ing + walking
- write + ing + writing
- study + ing = studying
- cry + ing + crying
- stop + ing + stopping
Gerunds are used as follows.
Gerunds as subjects
As a noun, the ing form of a verb can function as a subject of a sentence.
- Playing football is very exciting to boys.
- Participating in podcasts is becoming popular among influencers.
- Helping others is a good way to rid of depression.
Gerunds as objects of prepositions
A preposition is typically followed by a noun or noun phrase.
A gerund can come after a preposition to function as a noun.
- They left without saying a word.
- Send a message before visiting.
- She is capable of doing better work.
This is a list of some common preposition combinations that are followed by gerunds.
about OR of
|be accused|| |
|talk||for the purpose|
|blame (someone)||take advantage|
|forgive (someone)||take care|
|have an excuse||be tired|
|have a reason||insist||on|
|be responsible||be accustomed|| |
|thank (someone)||in addition|
|prevent (someone)||be devoted|
|prohibit (someone)||look forward|
|be interested||be used|
Gerunds after certain verbs
In addition, gerunds are used after the following verbs: appreciate, avoid, admit, consider, delay, discuss, enjoy, fancy, finish, forgive, imagine, keep (= continue), mention, mind (=object to), postpone, quit, regret, suggest
Gerunds after the verb go
Gerunds follow the verb go in certain idiomatic expressions.
These expressions mostly express recreational activities. Examples are:
- go boarding
- go camping
- go canoeing
- go dancing
- go fishing
- go hiking
- go shopping
- go skating
Gerunds after certain expressions
The following expressions are followed by gerunds:
- I’m busy
- It’s no use
- It’s (not) worth
- can’t help
- there is no point
- have fun
- have a great time
- spend / waste time
- sit / stand / lie + expression of place
- find / catch + someone
An infinitive (to + base verb) is used in the following structures.
Infinitive as subject
A to-infinitive can be a subject of a sentence.
- To work from home is not easy for everyone.
- To learn a new language can be challenging for some people.
Infinitive to express purpose
To express why something happened, we use a number of expressions of purpose. The most common of these expressions is to-infinitive.
- I went to the mall to buy some groceries.
- She bought a new camera to take photos during her trip.
Infinitive after would + like/love/prefer
After would like, would love, and would prefer, we use to-infinitive verbs.
The modal would is usually shortened into ‘d in speech in informal situations.
- I would love to spend a day in the woods.
- I‘d like to go to the beach.
Infinitive after certain adjectives
Some adjectives are followed by to-infinitive.
Examples of these are: clever, dangerous, difficult, glad, happy, sorry.
- It was clever of you to reject the first offer.
- It’s difficult to maintain friendships at work.
- I’m glad / happy to hear that you won the first prize.
- We were sorry to inform him that he was not selected for the post.
Infinitive in certain expressions
To introduce speech, sometimes we use certain expressions that have a to-infinitive.
- to tell (you) the truth
- to be honest
- to begin with
- to start with
- to sum up
Infinitive after certain verbs
Certain verbs are followed by to-infinitive.
These are the most common verbs divided into two groups.
1. verb + to-infinitive
agree, appear, ask, decide, expect, hope, intend, learn, manage, need, offer, pretend, plan, promise, refuse, seem, teach, want
- She agreed to accompany us.
- They appear to be happy.
- He offered to help.
2. verb + noun / pronoun + to-infinitive
allow, advise, ask, encourage, expect, force, invite, need, order, permit, promise, teach, tell, remind, require, want, warn
- The teacher allowed the students to use the dictionary.
- She expected us to answer all the questions.
- Please remind me to update the name list.
Infinitive without to
The infinitive without to (the base verb) is used in the following structures.
Infinitive without to after modals
Infinitive without to is used after modal verbs: can, could, will, would, may, might, must.
- You can go now.
- They may move to another house.
- Will you come with me?
Infinitive without to after verbs of perception
After certain verbs, we use infinitive without to: feel, hear, see, watch, notice.
When these verbs are followed by infinitive without to, they indicate that we perceived the action from beginning to end.
- I heard him talk. (= I heard the whole talk.)
On the other hand, when they are followed by –ing form they mean that we perceived part of the action.
- I heard him talking. (= I heard part of the talk.)
Verbs that may be followed by either gerund or infinitive
Certain verbs may be followed by either the ing form of verb or to-infinitive.
These verbs fall under two groups with regards to whether or not there is a difference in meaning when followed by a gerund or infinitive.
Group 1: with no or little difference in meaning
The following verbs can be followed by either gerunds or infinitives with no difference in meaning between the two.
- can’t stand / can’t bear
If the main verb is in the continuous (progressive) form, it is followed by a to infinitive (not a gerund).
- It began raining. = It began to rain.
- It’s beginning to rain. NOT It’s beginning raining.
With verbs of likes/dislikes, the gerund focuses on the action or experience in general, but the to-infinitive focuses on the habit or preference in a particular situation.
- I like being on time. (= emphasis on the action of being on time.)
- I like to be on time. (= emphasis on the habit.)
When we talk about what we want to do or when we invite or suggest, we use would like + to-infinitive.
The gerund is not used in this case.
Group 2: with difference in meaning
- I forgot to lock the door. (did not remember to do something)
- I forgot locking the door. (forgot a past event)
- He remembered to send the invitation. (remembered to do something)
- He remembered sending the invitation. (remembered a past event)
- They tried to cross the river. (attempted; did their best)
- Why don’t you try changing the battery. (did something as an experiment)
- I stopped to eat a sandwich. (stopped doing something for a while to do something else)
- I stopped eating when the power was cut off. (ended; finished doing something)
- I regret to inform you that your application cannot be accepted. (feel sorry)
- He regretted refusing the job offer. (felt sorry about a past event after giving it a second thought)
Gerund or passive infinitive after need
As shown above, the verb need is usually followed by to infinitive.
- We need to update the software.
- She needs to find a new job.
The verb need can also be followed by passive infinitive or gerund, particularly when it expresses fixing or improving.
– need + passive infinitive:
- The machine needs to be fixed.
- The house needs to be furnished.
– need + gerund
- The machine needs fixing.
- The house needs furnishing.