GERUNDS AND INFINITIVES


 
FORM

A gerund is  a noun made from a verb by adding "-ing." The gerund form of the verb "read" is "reading". You can use a gerund as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence.

 

Examples:

  • Reading helps you learn English  subject of sentence
  • Her havourite hobby is reading    complement of sentence  (subordianda de atributo)
  • I enjoy reading   object of sentence

 

Gerunds can be made negative by adding "NOT." 

 

Examples:

  • He enjoys not working
  • The best thing for your health is not smoking

The INFINITVE is the "to" form of the verb. The infinitive form for "learn" is "to learn". You can also use an infinitive as the subject, the complement or the object of a sentence.

 

Examples:

  • To learn is important  subject of sentence
  • The most important thing is to learn   complement of sentence  (subordianda de atributo)
  • He wants to learn   object of sentence

INFINITIVES can be made negative by adding "NOT."

 

Examples:

  • I decided not to go
  • The most important thing is not to give up

 

In addition to simple gerund and infinitive forms, there are progressive gerund and infinitive forms, passive gerund and infinitive forms and perfect gerund and infinitive forms as well as combinations of these forms. Progressive forms are used to emphasize that an action is taking place now. Passive forms are used to emphasize that the subject of the sentence is being acted upon. Perfect gerund
and infinitive forms are used to emphasize completion in both the past and the future. Study the examples below to help understand these concepts.

 

  GERUND FORMS INFINITIVE FORMS
SIMPLE The teacher enjoys teaching. The teacher wants to teach.
PROGRESSIVE Mr. Smith is really enjoying teaching his class.
Looks the same as simple form above.
Mr. Smith would like to be teaching his class.
PASSIVE
 
The students enjoy being taught. The students want to be taught.
PERFECT
 
The retired teacher recalled having taught. The teacher was expecting to have taught that already.
PASSIVE + PROGRESSIVE
 
The students are enjoying being taught by such an exciting new teacher.
Looks the same as the passive form above.
The student would like to be being taught by Mr Smith.
PASSIVE + PERFECT The older students recalled having been taught that already. The students were expecting to have been taught that by now.


 

USE

 

1. Both gerunds and infinitives can be used as the subject or the complement of a sentence (in Spanish, subordinadas de sujeto o de atributo). However, as subjects or complements, GERUNDS usually sound more like normal spoken English, whereas infinitives sound more abstract. In the following sentences, gerunds sound more natural and would be more common in everyday English. Infinitives emphasize the possibility or potential for something and sound more philosophical. If it sounds confusing, just remember that 95% of the time, you will use a gerund as the subject or complement of a sentence. 

Examples:

  • Learning is important  subject A SENTENCE
  • The most important thing is learning   complement OF A SENTENCE

 

2. As the object of a sentence, it is more difficult to choose between a gerund or an infinitive. In such situations, gerunds and infinitives are not normally interchangeable. Usually, the main verb in the sentence determines whether you use a gerund or an infinitive.

 Examples:

  • He enjoys swimming  "enjoy" requires a gerund
  • He wants to swim   "want" requires an infinitive

Some verbs are followed by gerunds as objects.

 Examples:

  • She suggested going to a movie
  • Mary keeps talking about her problems

 

And some other verbs are followed by infinitives

Examples:

  • She wants to go to a movie
  • Mary needs to talk about her problems
     

Please refer to these lists to know which verb requires a GERUND or an INFINITIVE.


In these lists, you can also see that some of these verbs are followed by a noun plus an infinitive. In some situations, the noun is required. In other situations, the noun is optional. There is a list of all these verbs here (NOTE 2).

Examples:

  • The police ordered the man to stop  noun is required
  • She asked to leave  noun is optional
  • She asked him to leave   noun is optional

 

Some verbs are usually followed by a gerund, BUT they can also be followed by a noun plus infinitive. Using a noun plus infinitive will usually change who is performing the action. You can see them here (NOTE 1).

Examples:

  • I advised taking the train  in general
  • I advised him to take the train  he will take the train

 

3. GERUND is also  used after prepositions.

Examples:

  • She is tired of living alone
  • He is thinking of studying abroad

 

Remember that there are many "verb + preposition", "adjective +preposition" and "noun + preposition" combinations that you have to learn.

 

Note that there are also many nouns that are commonly followed by infinitives:

Examples:

  • It was a good decision to move to San Francisco
  • His wish to become an actor was well known

Here you can find a list of them.

 

4. INFINITIVE is used after adjectives when the construction "be + adjective" appears.

Examples:

  • They were anxious to begin
  • She was delighted to receive such good feedback
  • He is lucky to have such good friends

 

5. We use the bare infinitive (the infinitive without 'to'):

  • After some 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?

In the third case (verbs of perception), we can use either the infinitive without to or the -ing form after the object of verbs such as hear, see, notice, watch. The infinitive without to often emphasises the whole action or event which someone hears or sees. The -ing form usually emphasises an action or event which is in progress or not yet completed.

 

          Compare:

 

He saw her drive off with a young man in the passenger seat

 

The speaker observed the whole event

Maria heard him coming up the stairs towards her room, and felt scared.

 

The action was in progress, happening, but not completed

 

 

 

6. In TIME CLAUSES after the connector AFTER or BEFORE, when the subject is the same than in the main clause.

  • After coming back having lucch, they decided to go for a walk.
  • He did all the arrangements before saying goodbye.

7. Sometimes infinitives are used to express the idea of "in order to do something."

Examples:

  • He bought the English dictionary to look up difficult words .  in order to look up
  • Janine sold the car to get the money that she needed   in order to get
  • Juan uses this web page to learn English    in order to learn

 

This idea of "in order to do something" is found in many English patterns:

too + adjective/adverb + infinitive

Examples:

  • The box is too heavy to carry.
  • The television is too expensive to buy.
  • Fiionna ran too slowly to win the race.
  • We arrived too late to see the beginning of the movie.   

adjective/adverb + enogh + infinitive

Examples:

  • She is tall enough to reach the book on the shelf.
  • Brian was smart enough to enter college at the age of 12.
  • Linda runs quickly enough to win the race.

 

enough + nouns(s) + infinitive

Examples:

  • She has enough money to buy his own car.
  • Cheryl owns enough books to start her own library!
  • Diane needs enough time to finish writing her book.

 

8. There are many "go + gerund" expressions used for adventure sports and individual
recreational activities.

Examples:

  • I go swimming everyweekend.
  • Would you ever go skydiving?

 

9. Verbs which indicate location can often be followed by "ING" forms. This pattern is VERB OF LOCATION + LOCATION + VERB + ING. List of Verbs of Location.

Examples:

  • Sarah stood at the corner waiting.
  • Melissa lay in bed thinking about her future.
  • Don clung to the side of the cliff looking down.

 

10. Gerunds can often be modified with possessive forms such as his, her, its, your, their, our, John's, Mary's, the machine's, and so on. This makes it clearer who or what is performing the action.

Examples:

  • I enjoyed their singing. they were singing.
  • She understood his saying no to the offer.  he said no.
  • Sam resented Debbie's coming late to the dinner.   debbie came late to the dinner .
  • We discussed the machine's being broken.    the machine is broken.