Everything you ever wanted to know about
“To be or not to be, that is the question”
In this guide to use gerunds and infinitives we will look at what gerunds and infinitives are, then have a look at the basic rules. Next we need to look at which verbs we use with a gerund and which we use with an infinitive. Finally we’ll have a look at some tricky verbs that can mean different things when used with gerunds and infinitives.
Let’s have a look at the 3 verb forms that we are talking about. We’ll use the example of the verb “to be” but most verbs have these 3 forms.
The gerund is a verb form that finishes in “ing“, such as;
BE CAREFUL! This doesn’t mean that it’s an action on progress, this is not a continuous tense.
The infinitive is a verb form that is like the verb’s name.
Sometimes we need an infinitive without its “to”;
Well, sometimes we need to use one form or the other. If you use the wrong form it will sound wrong but more importantly, could even change the meaning of what you are saying or hearing! These are the main rules. Click on a rule to see more detail and examples.
|Use a gerund||Use an infinitive||Use an infinitive without “to”|
|After prepositions||After adjectives||After modal verbs|
|As the subject or object of a phrase||For motive or purpose|
|After question words and indefinite pronouns.|
|After some verbs||After some verbs||After some verbs|
Just click the button to download this free mobile phone-friendly reference guide!
If you think that you can remember the basic, take this interactive test! For more details, keep reading!
And that’s it. (Almost!)
Let’s have a look at those rules in a bit more detail!
Prepositions are words like
If you use a verb after a preposition, the verb needs to be in the gerund form:
“She’s good at singing.”
“It’s for cleaning shoes.”
“We’re talking about getting married.”
We can use verbs just like nouns. They can be the subject or the object of a sentence. So just like we can say that:
“Water is good for you.”
We can substitute the noun “water” for a verb in noun form and say that:
“Swimming is good for you.”
Other examples of the verb in the gerund form as subjects or objects could be:
“Worrying doesn’t make things better.”
“One of my favourite things is hearing music played live.”
“The part of his job that he likes most is meeting clients.”
“Learning a new language creates new opportunities.”
This is the first difficult part. Some verbs always use a gerund as the form of the next verb.
Look at this example. If the verb “suggest” has a verb after it, that verb must be a gerund;
“She suggested going for a walk.”
How do you know which verbs are followed with a gerund?
Well, you can learn from lists but there’s no substitute for practice. When you read or listen to English you will become accustomed to what sounds right and what sounds wrong. Let experience and intuition guide you.
Here is a list of some common verbs that are followed by a verb in the gerund.
What do you enjoy doing at the weekend? Is there anything you regret saying? How do you practise speaking English?
One of the best ways to learn these verb forms is in conversation. Try using the gerunds and infinitives conversation topic.
Take the “Gerunds & Infinitives Verbs Challenge. See how many questions you can get right in a limited time! Compete with other students to see who is the master of this topic.
Because gerunds and infinitives appear everywhere, you can hear them in lots of famous songs, check out some examples in this gerunds and infinitives in music blog post.
If we use a verb after an adjective, that verb has to be in the infinitive form.
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“I was surprised to hear that I had won!”
“He was the first to arrive.”
If you want to say why you do something, just use an infinitive. Whenever describing a motive or a purpose, we use an infinitive.
“I went to the shop to get some milk.”
“He works at weekends to earn some extra money.”
“She is learning English to travel.“
“I didn’t know what to do.“
“He doesn’t have anything to eat.“
If some verbs are followed by another verb, that verb must be in the infinitive form (to ___). There isn’t really anything about these verbs that indicate that they need to be followed by an infinitive. The best way to learn which verbs need to be followed by an infinitive is to read, listen to and speak English
“I need to go to the shop.”
“I’m planning to retire.“
Do you think you can remember which verbs are followed with a gerund and which with an infinitive?
Modal verbs are verbs like “can”, “must”, “should”. They are the same for all persons (I can, you can, he can). If they are followed by a verb, the verb takes the bare infinitive form (infinitive without “to”.
“I can swim.”
“We must do it.”
“We ought to call him.”
There are two verbs that aren’t modal verbs but that we have to treat the same as modal verbs in this context. They are;
Make & Let
“His boss makes him work late .”
“Her parent’s won’t let her go to the party.”
And that’s the basics! Can you remember it all? Try the Gerunds and Infinitives Basic Rules Quiz to find out!
If you want to practice which verbs are followed by gerunds and which by infinitives try this quiz. Try the Gerunds and Infinitives Verbs Challenge, see how many points you can score in just 2 minutes!
If you think that you’re ready to look at some exceptions and complication then let’s move on to Tricky Verbs with Gerunds and Infinitives.
Verbs that can be Followed by Gerunds and Infinitives
Some verbs can take the gerund OR the infinitive, but with different meanings, which makes them particularly tricky. Look out for these verbs in tests!
Remember / Forget
These verbs both work in the same way, so they are grouped together here.
We can use the verb need with an infinitive to talk about something that is necessary in a normal active sentence;
“I need to paint my house.”
There is a form of the passive voice where we use need followed by a gerund to say that something requires something to be done;
“My house needs painting.”
Which is another way of saying that;
“My house needs to be painted.”
Using Perfect Gerunds & Infinitives to Talk about the Past
I remember having seen this film before.
He denied having stolen the money.
He admitted (to) having lied.
He is believed to have disappeared.
He claims to have seen the robbery.