Gerunds and Infinitives

It can be a little difficult to know when to use gerunds and infinitives.

We use gerunds (verb + ing):

  • After certain verbs – I enjoy singing
  • After prepositions – I drank a cup of coffee before leaving
  • As the subject or object of a sentence – Swimming is good exercise

We use ‘to’ + infinitive:

  • After certain verbs – We decided to leave
  • After many adjectives – It’s difficult to get up early
  • I came to London to study English

We use the bare infinitive (the infinitive without ‘to’):

  • After modal verbs – I can meet you at six o’clock
  • After ‘let’, ‘make’ and (sometimes) ‘help’ – The teacher let us leave early
  • After some verbs of perception (see, watch, hear, notice, feel, sense) – I watched her walk away
  • After expressions with ‘why’ – why go out the night before an exam?

 

Gerunds and Infinitives

 

Gerunds and Infinitives with Verbs Part 1

Here are some of the most common verbs that are usually followed by the gerund.

  • enjoy: I enjoyed living in France.
  • fancy: I fancy seeing a film tonight.
  • discuss: We discussed going on holiday together.
  • dislike: I dislike waiting for buses.
  • finish: We’ve finished preparing for the meeting.
  • mind: I don’t mind coming early.
  • suggest: He suggested staying at the Grand Hotel.
  • recommend: They recommended meeting earlier.
  • keep: He kept working, although he felt ill.
  • avoid: She avoided talking to her boss.

And here are some common verbs followed by ‘to’ and the infinitive.

  • agree: She agreed to give a presentation at the meeting.
  • ask*: I asked to leave early / I asked him to leave early.
  • decide: We decided to go out for dinner.
  • help*: He helped to clean the kitchen / he helped his flatmate to clean the kitchen.
  • plan: She plans to buy a new flat next year.
  • hope: I hope to pass the exam.
  • learn: They are learning to sing.
  • want*: I want to come to the party / I want him to come to the party.
  • would like*: I would like to see her tonight / I would like you to see her tonight.
  • promise: We promised not to be late.

*We can use an object before the infinitive with these verbs.
(Note that ‘help’ can also be followed by the infinitive without ‘to’ with no difference in meaning: ‘I helped to carry it’ = ‘I helped carry it’.)

Gerunds and Infinitives with Verbs Part 2

Here are some more verbs that are usually followed by the gerund

  • miss: She misses living near the beach.
  • appreciate: I appreciated her helping me.
  • delay: He delayed doing his taxes.
  • postpone: He postponed returning to Paris
  • practise: She practised singing the song.
  • consider: She considered moving to New York.
  • can’t stand: He can’t stand her smoking in the office.
  • can’t help: He can’t help talking so loudly.
  • risk: He risked being caught.
  • admit: He admitted cheating on the test.

And here are some more verbs followed by ‘to’ and the infinitive.

  • can afford: We can’t afford to go on holiday.
  • manage: He managed to open the door without the key.
  • prepare*: They prepared to take the test /
  • the teachers prepared the students to take the test.
  • demand: He demanded to speak to Mr. Harris.
  • choose: I chose to help.
  • offer: Frank offered to drive us to the supermarket.
  • wait: She waited to buy a movie ticket.
  • would hate*: I’d hate to be late / I’d hate you to be late.
  • would love*: I’d love to come / I’d love him to come.
  • seem: Nancy seemed to be disappointed.

*We can use an object before the infinitive with these verbs.

Gerunds and Infinitives with Verbs Part 3

Here are some more verbs that are usually followed by the gerund.

  • deny: He denied committing the crime.
  • mention: He mentioned going to that college.
  • imagine: He imagines working there one day.
  • tolerate: I tolerated her talking.
  • understand: I understand his quitting.
  • involve: The job involves travelling to Japan once a month.
  • complete: He completed renovating the house.
  • report: He reported her stealing the money.
  • anticipate: I anticipated arriving late.
  • recall: Tom recalled using his credit card at the store.

And here are some more verbs followed by ‘to’ and the infinitive.

  • expect*: They expect to arrive early / they expect Julie to arrive early
  • intend: We intend to visit you next spring.
  • pretend: The child pretended to be a monster.
  • refuse: The guard refused to let them enter the building.
  • tend: He tends to be a little shy.
  • would prefer*: I’d prefer to do it / I’d prefer him to do it.
  • deserve: He deserves to go to jail.
  • appear: His health appeared to be better.
  • arrange: Naomi arranged to stay with her cousin in Miami.
  • claim: She claimed to be a princess.

*We can use an object before the infinitive with these verbs.

Gerunds and Infinitives with Verbs Part 4

These verbs can be followed by either the gerund or the infinitive with a change in meaning.

Remember + gerund

This is when you remember something that has happened in the past. You have a memory of it, like being able to see a movie of it in your head.

  • I remember going to the beach when I was a child. (= I have a memory of going to the beach).
  • He remembers closing the door. (= He has a memory of closing the door).

Remember + to + infinitive

This is when you think of something that you need to do. (And usually, you then do the thing).

  • I remembered to buy milk. (= I was walking home and the idea that I needed milk came into my head, so I bought some).
  • She remembered to send a card to her grandmother.

Forget + gerund

This is the opposite of remember + gerund. It’s when you forget about a memory, something that you’ve done in the past.

  • Have we really studied this topic before? I forget reading about it.
  • I told my brother that we’d spent Christmas at Granny’s house in 1985, but he’d forgotten going there.

Forget + to + infinitive

This is the opposite of remember + to + infinitive. It’s when you want to do something, but you forget about it.

  • I forgot to call my mother. (= I wanted to call my mother, but when it was a good time to call her, I forgot. I was thinking about something else, and the idea to call my mother didn’t come into my head).
  • She keeps forgetting to bring his book back.

Try + gerund

This is when you do something as an experiment. The thing you do is not difficult, but you want to see if doing it will have the result that you want.

  • I wanted to stop smoking, so I tried using nicotine patches. (= Using nicotine patches was easy, but I wanted to know if it would help me stop smoking).
  • She tried giving up chocolate, but it didn’t help her lose weight. (It was easy for her to give up chocolate. She gave it up to see if it would help her lose weight, but it didn’t).

Try + to + infinitive

This is when the thing you do itself is difficult. In the present tense or future tense, this means you might not succeed in doing it. In the past tense, it means that you made an effort to do the thing, but you did not succeed.

  • I’ll try to carry the suitcase, but it looks too heavy for me.
  • She tried to catch the bus, but she couldn’t run fast enough.

Look at the difference:

  • I tried giving up chocolate (it was no problem to stop eating chocolate) but it didn’t make me feel more healthy.
  • I tried to give up chocolate, but it was too hard. I always ate some when my friends offered it to me.
  • It was too hot in the room. I tried opening the window (it was easy to open the window). It didn’t help though, because it was very hot outside too.
  • I tried to open the window, but I couldn’t because it was stuck.

Stop + gerund

When we stop doing something it means the verb in the gerund is the thing that we stop. It can mean ‘stop forever’ or ‘stop at that moment’.

  • I stopped working when I was expecting a baby. (Working is the thing I stopped).
  • My grandmother stopped driving when she was 85. (Driving is the thing she stopped).
  • My boss came into the room, so I stopped browsing the internet.
  • There was a fire alarm, so I stopped eating and went outside.

Stop + to + infinitive

In this case, we stop something else in order to do the verb in the infinitive.

  • I stopped to eat lunch. (I stopped something else, maybe working or studying, because I wanted to eat lunch.
  • She was shopping and she stopped to get a cup of coffee. (She stopped shopping because she wanted to get a cup of coffee).

Look at the difference:

  • I stopped smoking. (I gave up cigarettes OR I threw away my cigarette at that moment).
  • I stopped to smoke. (I stopped doing something else because I wanted to have a cigarette).

Regret + gerund

This is when you are sorry about something you did in the past and you wish you hadn’t done it.

  • I regret going to bed so late. I’m really tired today.
  • She regrets leaving school when she was sixteen. She wishes that she had studied more and then gone to university.

Regret + to + infinitive

We use this construction when we are giving someone bad news, in quite a formal way. The verb is almost always something like ‘say’ or ‘tell’ or ‘inform’.

  • I regret to tell you that the train has been delayed.
  • The company regrets to inform employees that the London office will close next year.

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