Gerunds and infinitives and when to use each form can be confusing.
When there are two main verbs in a sentence, the second verb must be either a gerund (+ing) or an infinitive form of the verb. There are some rules to help you decide when to use gerunds and infinitives.
Gerunds and infinitives rule #1: Use the gerund as the subject
If a sentence uses a verb as the subject of a sentence, it is most common to use a gerund.
Swimming is good for your health. (not To swim is good for your health.)
Learning is important. (not To learn is important.)
Gerunds and infinitives rule #2: Decided by the main verb
If a sentence uses a verb as the object of a sentence, the decision of whether to use a gerund or an infinitive is made by the main verb in the sentence.
The thief admitted stealing the money. (the main verb ADMIT is followed by a gerund)
He can’t afford to buy a new car. (the main verb AFFORD is followed by the infinitive).
Unfortunately, there are no reliable rules for deciding whether a main verb should be followed by gerunds and infinitives. It is simply something that needs to be learned. You can use the table below to help.
Gerunds and infinitives rule #3: Either can be used as the object and have the same meaning
Sometimes the object of a sentence can be either a gerund or an infinitive with no difference in the meaning (see the table below for a more complete list of these words)
It started raining OR It started to rain
I began playing the guitar last year OR I began to play the guitar last year
Gerunds and infinitives rule #4: Either can be used as the object but they have a different meaning
Sometimes using gerunds and infinitives as the object of a sentence can make a difference to the meaning.
For example, look at the use of gerunds and infinitives below, we have these two possible meanings:
|Gerund||Stop reading that magazine and get back to work!||This means that you should not read|
|Infinitive||Stop to read the instructions before you break it!||This means you should start reading|
Gerunds and infinitives rule #5: use the gerund after prepositions
If there is a preposition after the main verb, then you always use a gerund.
I’m tired of waiting for you every day!
Many people surf the internet without having a website of their own.
Gerunds and infinitives – general rules
Look at the list below to learn more about general rules when using gerunds and infinitives.
Verbs followed by gerund
Verbs followed by infinitive
Verbs that can be followed by either gerund or infinitive with no real difference
Verbs that can be followed by either gerund or infinitive but with a significant difference