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Gerunds and Infinitives–Nouns That Look Like Verbs

Gerunds and infinitives look like verbs, but they are used in sentences as nouns. A gerund is the “ing” form of the verb. An infinitive is the word “to” plus the base form of the verb. For example, you have probably seen signs on the street that say “No Parking.” The word “Parking” looks like the present continuous of the verb “park.” However, “Parking” is a noun in this case.

Gerunds and infinitives can be used as subjects of a sentence, or as objects. In this posting I show you how to use gerunds and infinitives. There will be many example sentences. The download at the end will contain a list of verbs that are followed by either a gerund or an infinitive when used as an object.

What is a gerund?

A gerund is the “ing” form of a verb. Gerunds can be used as the subject of a sentence.

  1. Skiing is a fun winter activity.
  2. Walking is good for your health.
  3. Becoming rich is the dream of many people.
  4. Making new friends is very important when you start college.

Gerunds can also function as a stand-alone answer to a question.

  1. What is your hobby?  Traveling.
  2. what is your favorite sport?  Swimming.

Gerunds can also function as the object in a sentence.

  1. My parents advised changing jobs.
  2. He enjoys reading detective stories.
  3. We discussed moving to Wyoming.

Some rules for using gerunds

We usually use a gerund as an object after a phrasal verb (a verb followed by a preposition).

  1. I talked him out of applying for that job.
  2. She is interested in becoming a doctor.
  3. They looked forward to meeting their favorite singer.
  4. I’m afraid of driving in the snow.
  5. My mother forgave me for lying to her.

Some verbs take a gerund as on object is a sentence. (A longer list of verbs taking will be in the download).

  1. admit–She admitted stealing the money.
  2. advise–He advised staying in school.
  3. avoid–I avoid eating too much sugar.
  4. consider–Would you consider running for office? 
  5. deny–He denied cheating on the test 
  6. involves–This job involves traveling every month.
  7. mention–He mentioned going on vacation next week.
  8. recommend–My doctor recommended getting 8 hours of sleep each night.
  9. suggest–I suggest getting your car fixed.

What is an infinitive?

A infinitive is the word “to” plus the base form of the verb. Infinitives can occasionally be used as subjects of a sentence.

To love someone is a beautiful thing.

More often, infinitives are used as objects of a sentence.

  1. We plan to graduate next year.
  2. They decided to sell their house.
  3. Mary refuses to eat raw food.
  4. She asked him not to leave the party.
  5. I promised my doctor to lose weight.

Some rules for using infinitives

We use infinitives after many adjectives.

  1. It’s not easy to raise children today.
  2. It is necessary to speak English in the United States.
  3. It’s too hot to wear that jacket today.

We use an infinitive as an object in a sentence when it follows a noun or pronoun.

  1. I asked him to help me.
  2. My boss told me to stay home because I was sick.
  3. Please remind John to pay his rent.

Some verbs take an infinitive as an object. (There will be a more complete list in the download).

  1. agree–He agreed to eat in the new restaurant.
  2. decide–We decided to invite my cousin to dinner.
  3. deserve–He made a mistake, but he doesn’t deserve to go to jail.
  4. expect–I expect to get a raise in pay next month.
  5. hope–I hope to find a better job soon.
  6. learn-We are learning to speak English.
  7. need–She needs to water her lawn.
  8. offer–He offered to sell me his old car.
  9. plan–I plan to study at CU next year.
  10. promise–Please promise to call me as soon as you get home.
  11. seem–He seems to like action movies.
  12. wait–I can’t wait to see you again! 
  13. want–I don’t want to drive after dark.

How do we know if we need a gerund or an infinitive?

Sometimes it is confusing to know whether we need an gerund or an infinitive. Much of the time, other than the rules mentioned here, there is little way to know. If you are a native speaker, you know what sound correct. If you are learning English, you often need to simply memorize which verbs take a gerund and which verbs take an infinitive. With practice, you will eventually know which one “sounds right.” There are a few rules which may help you some of the time.

Gerunds are often used when the action in the main verb and the gerund happen at the same time.

  • I enjoy playing soccer. – I enjoy and I play at the same time.

Gerunds are also often used in verbs that express likes and dislikes such as: like, love, enjoy, dislike, and hate.

We often use infinitives when the action in the infinitive follows the action in the main verb.

  • I decided to visit my grandfather. – First I made the decision. Then I visited my grandfather.

Sometimes we use infinitives to refer to a future event.

  • I arranged to fly to Chicago. – So far I have only made the arrangements. I have not yet flown.

Verbs that can take both gerunds and infinitives with no change in meaning

A small number of verbs can take both gerunds and infinitives with no change in meaning.

  1. like:
    • I like reading.
    • I like to read.
  2. love:
    • She loves cooking.
    • She loves to cook.
  3. hat:
    • He hates cooking.
    • He hates to cook.
  4. begin:
    • We will begin working next week.
    • We will begin to work next week.
  5. start:
    • They started traveling last month.
    • They started to travel last month.
  6. prefer:
    • I prefer watching TV.
    • I prefer to watch TV.
  7. continue:
    • Will you continue studying next year? 
    • Will you continue to study next year? 

Verbs that can take both gerunds and infinitives, but with a change in meaning

Some verbs can take both gerunds and infnitives. With these verbs, however, the meaning changes. Below are some examples.

  1. forget:
    • I forgot to buy milk.  . I didn’t remember to buy milk.
    • He forgot buying milk.  . He didn’t remember that  he already bought milk, so he bought some more that he didn’t really need.
  2. remember:
    • She remembered to call her brother.  . She didn’t forget to call her brother.
    • She didn’t remember calling her brother.  . Everyone told her that she had called her brother, but she didn’t remember doing it.
  3. stop:
    • I stopped smoking cigarettes.  . I no longer smoke.
    • I stopped to smoke a cigarette.  . I took a break to smoke a cigarette.
  4. try:
    • He tried to open the window.  .  He made an effort to open the window.
    • He tried opening the window.  . It was hot, so could have opened the window or turned on a fan. His choice was to open the window.
  5. regret:
    • I regret hiring him.  . I’m sorry I hired him.
    • I regret to inform you that he no longer works here.  . I’m sorry to have to tell you this.
  6. go on:
    • He went on to become a doctor.  . He finished his studies and became a doctor.
    • He went on studying medicine.  . He continued his studies.

You now know many ways to use gerunds and infinitives. Gerunds are the “ing” form of a verb, used as a noun. Gerunds can be used as a subject, a stand alone answer, or as an object. Infinitives are the word “to” plus the base form of a verb, also used as a noun. Infinitives can also be used as subjects and objects. Some verbs can take only a gerund as an object. Other verbs can take an infinitive as an object. There are some verbs that can take both gerunds and infinitives, although in some cases the meaning may change. The download will list which verbs take a gerund, which take an infinitive, and which can take either one.

You can download the practice sheet now!

Idioms of the day

  1. can’t stand   — This means to hate. It can take either a gerund or and infinitive with no change in meaning. My brother can’t stand swimming. My brother can’t stand to swim.
  2. change hands   — This means to pass from own owner to another. The house I live in changed hands many times before  bought it.

 

 

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