Gerunds and infinitives
Gerunds and infinitives and when to use each form can be confusing.
When there are two main verbs in a sentence, the second verb must be either a gerund (+ing) or an infinitive form of the verb. There are some rules to help you decide when to use gerunds and infinitives.
Gerunds and infinitives rule #1: Use the gerund as the subject
If a sentence uses a verb as the subject of a sentence, it is most common to use a gerund.
Swimming is good for your health. (not To swim is good for your health.)
Learning is important. (not To learn is important.)
Gerunds and infinitives rule #2: Decided by the main verb
If a sentence uses a verb as the object of a sentence, the decision of whether to use a gerund of an infinitive is made by the main verb in the sentence..Advertisement
The thief admitted stealing the money. (the main verb ADMIT is followed by a gerund)
He can’t afford to buy a new car. (the main verb AFFORD is followed by the infinitive).
Unfortunately, there are no reliable rules for deciding whether a main verb should be followed by gerunds and infinitives. It is simply something that needs to be learned. You can use the table below to help.
Gerunds and infinitives rule #3: Either can be used as the object and have the same meaning
Sometimes the object of a sentence can be either a gerund or an infinitive with no difference in the meaning (see the table below for a more complete list of these words)Advertisement
It started raining OR It started to rain
I began playing the guitar last year OR I began to play the guitar last year
Gerunds and infinitives rule #4: Either can be used as the object but they have a different meaning
Sometimes using gerunds and infinitives as the object of a sentence can make a difference to the meaning.
For example, look at the use of gerunds and infinitives below, we have these two possible meanings:
|Gerund||Stop reading that magazine and get back to work!||This means that you should not read|
|Infinitive||Stop to read the instructions before you break it!||This means you should start reading|
Gerunds and infinitives rule #5: use the gerund after prepositions
If there is a preposition after the main verb, then you always use a preposition.
I’m tired of waiting for you every day!
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Gerunds and infinitives – general rules
Look at the table below to learn more about general rules when using gerunds and infinitives.
|Verbs followed by gerund||Verbs followed by infinitive||Verbs that can be followed by either gerund or infinitive with no real difference||Verbs that can be followed by either gerund or infinitive but with a significant difference|
NOTE: The table above is not a complete list (a complete list would be pages and pages long!)
Click here to try the gerunds and infinitives exercises.