Infinitives and Gerunds


When there are two main verbs in a sentence,
the second one must be either an Infinitive or a Gerund.

The Infinitive of the verb is the base form (when it is not being conjugated) preceded by the word TO.
The word TO in this case is not a preposition, but a Particle. (A particle is a little word that does not belong to any of the regular parts of speech such as nouns, pronouns, verbs, etc.)

A Gerund looks the same as a Present Participle because it ends in ING, but it is really a verb which is acting as a noun. (i.e. It is being used as the name of something).

So, how do we know whether to use an Infinitive or a Gerund
as the second main verb in a sentence?

Unfortunately you need to memorize which verbs are followed by infinitives and which are followed by gerunds — and yes; this is a lot of work, so here are lists of some commonly used verbs to help you:

Some verbs that can be followed by an infinitive:
AFFORD I can’t afford to buy a new car.
AGREE I thought we had agreed to go out tonight.
APPEAR You appear to have forgotten my birthday.
ARRANGE We arranged to meet by the clock.
CARE I don’t care to comment.
CHOOSE She chose to go dressed as a clown.
CLAIM The man claims to be British.
DECIDE What did you decide to do then?
DEMAND I demand to see the manager.
DESERVE He deserves to have a better job.
EXPECT I expect to arrive home by 8.30 this evening.
FAIL Jean failed to pass the entrance exam.
INTEND I intend to win first prize.
LEARN We have learned to respect those in charge.
MANAGE How did you manage to get the job?
NEED We need to write our homework over again.
PLAN We plan to give a Christmas party this year.
PREPARE I am not prepared to do any more work.
PROMISE We promised to take Jimmy to the zoo.
REFUSE I refuse to have anything more to do with him.
SEEM My computer seems to be running a little slowly.
STRUGGLE We struggled to understand her point of view.
SWEAR I swear to uphold the law.
VOLUNTEER Have you volunteered to help in the kitchen?
WAIT I can’t wait to hear the news.
WANT I want to change my clothes before I go out.


Some verbs that can be followed by a gerund:

ADMIT She admitted covering up the crime.
AVOID How can we avoid being stuck in traffic?
CONSIDER Tony considered leaving the band.
DELAY The professor delayed giving his speech.
DENY He denied breaking the window.
DISLIKE She dislikes doing the housework.
DON’T MIND I don’t mind washing the dishes after dinner.
ENJOY I really enjoy listening to music
FINISH She finished writing the essay in good time.
IMAGINE I can’t imagine flying on Concorde.
INVOLVE The course involves both reading and writing.
KEEP I keep bumping into John at college.
MISS I miss seeing you at the match on Saturdays.
PRACTISE I practise playing the piano every day.
RESENT I resent having to wear school uniform.
RISK I wouldn’t risk taking cocaine, ever!


However, some verbs can be followed by either an infinitive OR a gerund:
BEGIN I began to walk I began walking
CONTINUE He will continue to work. He will continue working.
HATE I hate to do homework. I hate doing homework.
LIKE I like to eat pizza. I like eating pizza.
LOVE I love to dance. I love dancing.
START I started to climb the hill. I started climbing the hill.

Here is an idea which is not a hard and fast rule, but it may help you:

  • When you are talking about a possible action – use an infinitive:
    • I like to read.
    • I might decide to go to the cinema.
  • When you are referring to an habitual action – use a gerund:
    • I like reading.
    • I like going to the cinema.
  • Also, gerunds can follow prepositions, infinitives cannot:
    • We can say: These lessons are for learning English. Correct
    • We can’t say: These lessons are for to learn English. Incorrect

Knowing the difference between Infinitives and Gerunds is important. Using the wrong one can actually change the meaning of the sentence. For example:

STOP Mary stopped to talk to her friends.
Means that Mary stopped what she was doing in order to talk with her friends.
Mary stopped talking to her friends.
Means that Mary decided not to talk to her friends any more.
FORGET I have forgotten to lock the door.
Means: I haven’t locked it. I must go back and lock it.
I forget locking the door.
Means: I don’t remember locking it. Did I lock it or not?
REMEMBER I remembered to read the essay.
Means: Thank goodness I didn’t forget to read the essay.
I remember reading the essay.
Means: I know I read the essay, I remember doing it.


Related Content:

University of Toronto – Using Infinitives and Gerunds.

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