Friday, December 17, 2010

Infinitives or Gerunds? Notes on Usage and Meaning


Adapted from English Grammar Online 4U.

There are certain words in English that are usually followed by an infinitive or gerund. If you are not sure whether to use the infinitive or gerund, check out our lists or look the words up in a dictionary.

Infinitives or Gerunds?

Certain words are followed by either an infinitive or gerund form, but the meaning of the word often changes accordingly.

- Same meaning.
  • After these verbs: attempt, begin, bother, cannot bear, cease, continue, hate, intend, love, prefer, start.
  • I started to read. / I started reading.
- Same meaning but different use.
  • Special cases: advise, allow/permit, forbid.
  • Infinitive + object: She allowed him to take the car.
  • Gerund, no object: She allowed taking the car.
- Different meaning.

Verb                   Infinitive meaning         Gerund meaning
/ remember         
with regard to the future
Remember to switch off the lights.        
with regard to the past
Do you remember switching off the lights?
go on start something new
Go on to read.
continue with the same action
Go on reading.
regret with regard to the future
I regret to say that.
with regard to the past
I regret saying that.
stop interrupt another action
I stopped to smoke.
terminate, give up
I stopped smoking.
try do something complicated
Try to solve this riddle.
do it and see what happens
Try talking to him.

- Infinitive (without to) or gerund.
  • Special cases: feel, hear see.
  • Infinitive meaning: to emphasize that the action is completed. I saw him go up the stairs.
  • Gerund meaning: the action may or may not be completed.  I saw him going up the stairs. I saw him as he was doing this.
  •  Special cases: go, come.
  • Infinitive meaning: to express a purpose. She is coming to show us the pictures.
  • Gerund meaning: in connection with activities. Let's go shopping, dancing ....

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