Gerunds and Infinitives

To use gerunds or to use infinitives, that is the question!

Learning how to use gerunds and infinitives is one of the most challenging aspects of learning English. Here is a brief review of the differences between gerunds and infinitives.

Gerunds are formed with ING: walking, talking, thinking, listening
Infinitives are formed with TO: to walk, to talk, to think, to listen

Gerunds are most commonly used as the subject of a sentence:
Writing in English is difficult.

Both gerunds and infinitives can be the object of a verb. There are no specific rules concerning which verbs take which form. Like irregular verbs, you will need to learn it by heart (see list below)
I like writing in English. I want to write in English.
ONLY gerunds can be the object of a preposition:
We are talking about writing in English.

Most common uses:

verb + ING The gerund form is used after certain verbs:
– verbs of the senses
– verbs that express general preference: mind, adore, enjoy, prefer, can´t stand, …
– spend, waste, lose (time, money)
– avoid, admit, confess, look forward to, regret, suggest, recommend, imagine
-‘ go’ when we talk about activities

  • I saw Mary going to the cinema
  • I don’t mind listening to loud music.
  • Carl wasted a lot of time trying to find his watch.
  • He started writing his composition an hour ago.
  • Tony avoided answering the question
  • He goes cycling every weekend.
verb + BARE INFINITIVE The bare infinitive is used after certain verbs:
– modal verbs (except ought to + have to)
– let, make, help

  • I might go to London next weekend
  • I always let my children read before going to bed.
verb + TO INFINITIVE The infinitive form is used after the rest of the verbs, jut to mention some, e.g.
– forget, learn, teach, train
– choose, expect, hope, need, offer, want, would like
– agree, encourage, pretend, promise, recommend
– allow, can/can’t afford, decide, manage, mean, refuse

  • I forgot to close the window.
  • Mary needs to leave early.
  • Why are they encouraged to learn English?
  • We can’t afford to take a long holiday.

The infinitive form is always used after adjectives, for example:
– disappointed, glad, happy, pleased, relieved, sad, surprised

  • I was happy to help them.
  • She will be delighted to see you.

Now you are ready to complete this exercise by choosing the right form, gerund or infinitive.

However, the line is not always clear and some verbs can be followed by the gerund or infinitive.

With no change in meaning : begin| continue| start| like| love | hate. For example:

  • He began to learn English when he was 8/ He began learning English when he was 8.
  • He loves listening to music / He loves to listen to music

– With a change in meaning: forget | remember | stop| try| regret . For example:

  • Remember/ don’t forget to lock the door. (future reference)
  • Do you remember/forget locking the door? (memory, past reference)
  • she stopped to rest (because she wanted to rest)
  • He stopped shouting at us (he finished that action)
  • Try to walk quickly (if you can)
  • If you have a headache, try taking an aspirin (experiment)
  • I now regret saying what I said ( I did it and I don’t like it now)
  • I regret to tell you that you failed the exam (I’m sorry I have to tell you)

Check your knowledge on

This entry was posted in Face2face Intermediate, Grammar, Lesson 5, Speak Out Intermediate, Textbook, Unit 10. Bookmark the permalink.

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