If you stop to read this post, I promise you will stop being confused with English gerunds and infinitives. I know that it can be confusing to decide whether to use a gerund (verb+ing) or an infinitive (to + base verb) when speaking and writing in English, but luckily there are some basic rules to learn and lists that you can review to improve your skills and stop being confused!
After today’s lesson you will have the necessary resources to effectively self-study and continue practicing this grammar point beyond what you read today. This 5 Minute English video lesson will help you with your listening comprehension skills, and help you review American English pronunciation by studying my accent. This full blog post has additional examples and practice exercises at the end for you to check your overall understanding. It’s a jam-packed (*full*) lesson, so I hope you are ready to learn!
Grab your pencil and notebook and start with this English video lesson…
English Gerunds and Infinitives
The gerund is made up of the verb +ing (going, eating, walking); however, it is not a verb. The gerund is a noun. Because the gerund is a noun, it can be used in the subject or object position within a sentence.
subject: used in the beginning of a sentence/clause, the subject is responsible for DOING the action (the verb). When the subject is a gerund, the verb must be singular
- Living abroad is a good way to learn a new language.
- Eating is the best thing to do in Italy.
- Learning English is necessary for Taylor’s job.
object: the “thing” that receives the action of the verb, usually used after the verb
- I should consider going to bed earlier.
- He finished working early, so he left.
- I miss going to the beach every weekend.
This next rule is extremely important, so make sure you write this down and remember this one!
preposition + gerund: after every preposition that is followed by a verb, the verb must be in its gerund form
- After waiting for 45 minutes, I finally got to go into the store.
- I congratulated her for passing the exam.
- She’s thinking about traveling next year.
Additionally, the gerund is often used as…
a subject complement: often the subject complement is a noun, so use the gerund form if you need to use a verb. Between the subject and the complement there must be the linking verb, ‘to be’.
- My favorite activity is swimming.
- The best tip I can give you for the exam is studying very hard.
- What Sam enjoys most in Italy is eating.
an object complement: just like the subject complement, the object complement gives more detail to the object by describing it with more information. When you need a verb, always use the gerund.
- I found the student sleeping during the test.
- I had issues getting used to live in this city.
- John has trouble making new friends.
As I mention in the video, there are some words that MUST be followed by a gerund (while others require an infinitive, or some can use both). You can download the list of verbs followed by a gerund (+ infinitive, both, etc..), here:
The infinitive is created by using to + base verb (to go, to walk, to eat). Just like gerunds, infinitives also do the same jobs as nouns do.
Although it is not very common, you can use an infinitive as…
- To swim is my favorite activity.
- To eat is the best thing to do in Italy.
- My favorite activity is to swim.
- My job is to help you.
Remember, these two uses above are possible and grammatically correct, but not common in everyday American English speech.
However, it is very common to use infinitives …
after adjectives: infinitives often follow adjectives to give reasons for the adjective (*note: there are some exceptions to this rule)
- He was sad to say goodbye to his best friend.
- He was happy to see him again.
- I was afraid to tell you the bad news.
after some verbs: just like the gerund, the infinitive can be the object of a verb. There are only some verbs that require the infinitive, so see the examples below and don’t forget to download the full list available in this lesson.
- I agreed to go even though I didn’t want to.
- I hoped to pass the exam.
- They learned to speak so well in Skype lessons.
Other uses of the infinitive not described in the video. *These are also extremely common …
after nouns: it’s common to use the infinitive, although there are some exceptions
- Being kind is an important characteristic to have.
- An excellent way to improve your English is this blog!
infinitives of purpose: saying why you are doing something
- I am going to school to earn my degree.
- Joe called to talk about the party.
- We signed up to join the group conversation class.
GERUNDS OR INFINITIVES with no change in meaning
Some verbs can be followed by the gerund or the infinitive with no change in meaning. This means that both are OK to use. There are no set rules for this so I recommend studying the list available in this lesson, creating your own examples, and memorizing the verbs. I know it may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry, you’ll get it!!
- I like eating. I like to eat.
- I love traveling. I love to travel.
- We continued talking. We continued to talk.
GERUNDS OR INFINITIVES with change in meaning
As you learned in the video, some verbs can be followed by the gerund or the infinitive, but there is a big change in meaning. It’s important to understand the different meanings and uses, so let’s review some common verbs here today.
remember and forget: these have similar meanings, so I’ll review them together. Both are related to thinking and memories
remember/forget + gerund: related to memory in the sense of “having/not having memory about a fact in the past”
- I remember giving you my keys yesterday. (This is a past action, and I have the memory of doing the action, giving you the keys.)
- I forgot giving you my keys yesterday. (This is a past action, and I do not have the memory of doing the action, giving you the keys.)
remember/forget + infinitive: related to thinking/not thinking about the fact that you need to do something
- Remember to call your mom on her birthday. (In this sentence, somebody is reminding you to call your mom. You’re being reminded that you need to do something)
- Don’t forget to call your mom on her birthday. (In this sentence, somebody is reminding you to call your mom. You’re being reminded that you need to do something)
Other verbs that use both with a change in meaning …
stop + gerund: to quit an addition, habit, or something you used to do or are doing.
- He stopped smoking and drink over 10 years ago. (In this sentence, he quit the actions of smoking and drinking which were both things he used to do)
- He stopped driving to look at the stars. (*Notice both the gerund & the infinitive here. The gerund shows he stopped driving, he finished that action, he’s no longer doing it. See below for an explanation of the infinitive (giving reason))
stop +infinitive: “in order to”, with the infinitive, stop means to end/finish 1 action in order to do another action. The infinitive shows that action that was done later, the reason.
- I stopped my car to talk to an old friend. (In this sentence, I stopped driving my car (1 action) in order do another (to talk to an old friend), so the infinitive shows the reason why I stopped)
- I stopped to buy milk on my way home. (Here, I ended/finished 1 action (going home) in order to do another (buy milk).
begin/start: when begin or start is used in the continuous/progressive tenses, you must use an infinitive
- I am beginning to like this new TV show.
- He was starting to act like a child.
keep + gerund: to continue something
- We keep talking about the same thing.
- They kept trying to tell her.
keep + object + infinitive: to continue having something in order to do something else
- She kept her old clothes to sell them later.
- I keep my photos to have the memories.
Download the full list of gerunds and infinitives and their uses here
Practice with Gerunds and Infinitives
Practice makes perfect! I cannot say that enough because it really is so important. If you watched the video and read this article, that is great!! However, don’t stop there. These practice exercises will double check your comprehension and allow you to start using the new language which will help you remember for future use. Are you ready?
Fill in the blank, and then check your answer with the verb list available for download with this lesson..
- Jake avoided _________(use) the treadmill because it was broken.
- I don’t mind ________ (go) on roller coasters, even though I am scared of heights.
- She can’t stand _________ (watch) horror movies!
- Tim happened ________ (see) the accident, so he was a witness.
- I should stop ___________(eat) dinner __________(have) room for dessert.
Use these discussion questions to practice conversation with your class, friend, or English exchange partner. *Current Skype students: you can write the answers to these questions in your classroom document for us to review in our next lesson.
- Do you prefer living in cold weather, or do you prefer to live in hot weather?
- Have you ever tried to speak English with a native speaker? How did you feel?
- Would you attempt to hike Mt. Everest if it were free?
- What do you feel like doing this weekend?
- Do you practice speaking English every day? What do you do for practice?
Don’t forget, you can practice by commenting below, and get even more weekly speaking practice in The Conversation Club.
I wish you a wonderful week and ask that you please share this lesson with friends, classmates, or colleagues to help them improve their language skills.
Happy Studying! ♥