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Verb + Gerund or Verb + Infinitive

17 May 2022

grammTo do, or not to do. That is the question! And rather an important one too: when to use an infinitive, e.g. to do, and when to use a gerund, e.g. doing?


Making the Choice

There is very little logic behind the correct choice to make. After some verbs, such as “to enjoy” or “to drink”, we must use a gerund, while after others, such as “to hope” or “to promise”, an infinitive must follow.


Meaning Changes

What makes all this even more complicated is that with some verbs, for example “to stop”, both forms can be used and indicate a totally different meaning:

He stopped smoking cigarettes.

(verb + gerund)

(tells us that he used to smoke cigarettes but is no longer a smoker; presumably he has given up smoking).


He stopped to smoke cigarettes

(verb + infinitive)

(means he is still a smoker and in fact stopped whatever he was doing in order to “smoke a cigarette”)


Another case where the meaning changes, depending on whether it is followed by a gerund or by an infinitive, is “to remember”:

I remember studying hard.

(verb + gerund)

(describes something I did in the past, an action that is now finished, but I have a memory of it).


I must remember to study hard.

(verb + infinitive)

(a message to myself, telling me to study because perhaps I have an important exam sometime soon: I must not forget about it! “To forget” is used in a similar manner).


Preposition + Gerund

There is one fairly simple rule to help you though; after a preposition, any preposition – including “to” – you must use a gerund. So:

Before attending the meeting, don’t forget to finish your report.”

(preposition before gerund / verb + infinitive)


Any verb + preposition compounds, such as “to depend on” or “to be interested in” follow the same rule because of the presence of the preposition. This might also help to explain why, in letters, we use the common closing phrase:

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

(verb + preposition + gerund)

(“to” in this sentence is a preposition, so must be followed by a gerund).


Common Expressions + Gerund

Finally, there are some common expressions that are always followed by a gerund. These include: “it’s no use...”, “it’s no good...”, “it’s not worth...”, and “to have difficulty (in)...”:

It’s no use calling her.

It’s no good complaining about it.

It’s not worth asking for a refund.

We’re having difficulty finishing this.


Verbs + Gerund or Infinitive

(meaning changes)

advise

begin

continue

forget

guarantee

hate

like

prefer

regret

remember

stop

start

try
watch


Verbs + Infinitive

agree

aim

appear

arrange

attempt

decide

demand

fail

happen

hesitate

hope

intend

learn

manage

need

offer

plan

prepare

propose

refuse

seem

wait


Verbs + Gerund

appreciate

avoid

complete

consider

delay

discuss

enjoy

finish

mention

mind

miss

postpone

practice

recommend

save

stop

suggest

understand

 

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