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How to Use Correctly Gerunds And Infinitives: 5 Simple Tips For English Speakers

How to Use Correctly Gerunds And Infinitives

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You already know how fun learning English can be. When learning countless rules and guidelines, there is no need to struggle with boredom. Today, we will enlight you with another critical English topic – gerunds and infinitives, but we will try to make it as easy and exciting as possible. We will explain these two similar parts of speech, help you understand the difference, and provide valuable tips, tricks, and secrets to remember all the rules effortlessly. 

Infinitives and Gerunds: Explained

Before starting with examples, you need to know the basic definitions of gerunds and infinitives. Below, you will find a short guide on both these terms with examples of use to avoid misunderstandings in the future. So let's dive deeper into the subject and understand the essential gerunds and infinitives rules. 

What is a gerund?

If you were born in a non-English-speaking country, understanding this term can be tricky since not so many languages have it in their vocabulary. However, as previously stated, we will make it as simple as possible. According to Cambridge Dictionary, a gerund is a noun made from a verb by adding an -ing ending. Does it sound like a bit of nonsense to you? Just keep reading. We promise that you will understand it by the end of the article. 

So, a gerund is usually a noun that can be a subject, subject complement, direct object, or object of a preposition. It always has the -ing ending and refers to an activity or verbal action. For example, look at these sentences:

  • Swimming is my favorite hobby. (gerund as a subject)
  • I don't like smoking. (gerund as a direct object)
  • Do you mind me asking you a question? (gerund as an object of a preposition)
  • After eating too much, she felt sick. (gerund as a subject complement)

As you can see, a gerund can take on different functions in a sentence, which is why it's often confusing for learners. However, remembering a few key things will help you use gerunds correctly. 

First, a gerund is always a noun, meaning it can be a sentence's subject or object. It can also be used as an adjective (describing word), adverb (action word), or preposition (showing location). Second, a gerund always has an -ing ending. It makes it different from a regular verb, which doesn't have this ending. Finally, a gerund always refers to an activity or verbal action. It means you can use it for physical movements (like walking) or states of being (like being).

What is an infinitive?

An infinitive is a verb that functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb. In English, the most common way to form an infinitive is with the particle "to" followed by the base form of the verb (for example: to eat, to sleep, to run, etc.).

There are two types of infinitives in English – full and bare forms. The complete one is typically used when we want to emphasize the purpose or goal of an action, whereas the basic form is more often used for other purposes, such as polite requests or commands. Here are some examples of each:

Full form: I wanted to eat something healthy for breakfast.

Bare form: Can you please pass the salt?

In English, there are several ways to use infinitives. They can be used as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. Here are some examples:

Noun: To err is human.

Adjective: That was a brave thing to do.

Adverb: He ran quickly to catch the bus.

The infinitive can also be used as a modifier. For example, in the sentence "He is the man to talk to if you want to get the job done," the infinitive "to talk" modifies the noun "man." This use of the infinitive is called an infinitive phrase. It typically consists of the infinitive plus any modifiers or objects. Here are some examples: To improve your writing, you should read more. To my surprise, she agreed. 

As stated, you can use infinitives as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs in a sentence. When used as a noun, the infinitive phrase typically functions as the subject or object of a verb. The infinitive phrase modifies a noun or pronoun when used as an adjective or adverb. And now, when you are acquainted with gerunds and infinitives examples, it's time to move on and understand how to use them. 

These parts of speech have many differences, and usually, it is easy to understand when you must use an infinitive form and when a gerund is suitable. However, if you are still uncertain about it, don't worry! Below, you will find complete instructions for using gerunds and infinitives. So, please don't waste your time and check it immediately!

How is using the gerund different from using the infinitive?

As we mentioned, gerunds always have the -ing ending and refer to an activity or verbal action. Because of this, you can use them in many ways in a sentence. First, let's look at some of the most common uses for gerunds.

  • As the subject of a sentence. When a gerund is a subject, it is typically followed by a form of the verb "to be" (am, is, are, was, were). For example: 

Swimming is an excellent exercise.

Reading was his favorite hobby.

  • As the object of a sentence. Another common way to use a gerund is as the object of a sentence. Gerunds can be direct objects, indirect objects, or even objects of a preposition. For example: 

I enjoy swimming. (direct object) 

They gave reading a try. (indirect object)

He's worried about swimming in the ocean. (object of a preposition)

  • After prepositions. As we saw in the example above, we can use gerunds after a preposition. It is another way to use a gerund in English. For example: 

I'm interested in swimming. 

We were excited about reading her new book.

  • After certain verbs. A gerund typically follows many common verbs. The most popular words are: stop, enjoy, quit, finish, avoid, deny, recommend, and suggest. For example: 

stopped smoking last year. 

We enjoyed visiting your city. 

He denied stealing the money. 

You should avoid eating too much sugar.

Just like gerunds, you can use infinitives in various sentences. Here are the most common examples of using the primary form of the verb instead of the form with an -ing ending. 

  • After adjectives. You must use an infinitive form when the verb is placed after an adjective. For example: 

She was happy to see me. 

I'll be glad to come. 

  • To indicate the purpose of the action. Use the infinite when it's answering the questions "For what?", "Why?" For example: 

We went to the library to read new books.

I am going to Paris to visit my granny.

  • After certain verbs. Just like gerunds, infinitives are also used with certain words. This list includes such verbs as agree, promise, wait, want, wish, hope, learn, prepare, ask, choose, decide, fail, etc. For example: 

I want to see you. 

She is learning to cook. 

He asked me to come. 

  • After expressions with the modal verb would. Another great indicator of using infinitives. If your sentence contains the modal verb, you must use the basic verb form. For example: 

I would like to have some cake. 

I would like to buy a coffee. 

As you can see, the main difference between a gerund and an infinitive is that you should use them in different sentences, after certain verbs, or when discussing various purposes. And don't worry if it still looks challenging. We are always here to help with all these vital gerund and infinitive rules, so now we also have a solution. Below, you will find our secret tips that can quickly help you remember all the rules and always use gerunds and infinitives correctly in your sentences.

Five simple gerund infinitive tips

To conclude everything mentioned before, we prepared five essential tips to help you quickly understand when to use gerunds and infinitives. Of course, you can always return to these tricks when uncertain about a particular situation. Or you can take a screenshot and check this list whenever you need. So, when do we use this or that part of speech? Please take a look at our five main infinitive gerund rules of thumb. 

  1. If the word is the subject of the sentence, it is primarily a gerund. For example, in the phrase "Knitting is my hobby," the gerund form of the word knit is the subject. Of course, there is always room for exceptions. Infamous words "to be or not to be – this is the question" show us the subject as an infinitive verb. But it is a somewhat outdated usage, and nowadays, mostly gerunds are sentence subjects. 
  2. If the word follows the adjective, it is usually an infinitive. For example, when you want to describe how happy you are about doing a particular action, you need to start your sentence with the phrase "I am happy to + infinitive." Here are some more examples: I am happy to see you. It is lovely to meet you again. 
  3. If we use the word after certain verbs followed by nouns (or pronouns) that refer to a person, it is an infinitive. If you see the verbs ask, hire, invite, order, remind, warn, teach, etc., followed by nouns or pronouns, you should use the infinitive. Here are some examples: Can you ask her to leave? Please remind me to lock the door. We didn't hire you to watch YouTube.
  4. If the word follows the preposition, it is a gerund. Look for the prepositions about, for, in, of, on, to, etc. If you see these prepositions before a noun or pronoun, use the gerund. Here are some examples: The best thing about growing up is that you can do whatever you want without permission. Jack is interested in reading. 
  5. If the word is the object of the sentence, it can be both an infinitive and a gerund. It doesn't matter which one you use as long as you are consistent. Here are some examples: I like to swim, OR I like swimming; She prefers to cook by herself, OR She prefers cooking by herself. 

Those are the main tips you need to remember for further study of English. They are simple but contain all the necessary information to determine whether you need to use gerunds or infinitives. Then, with all this theoretical information, you can check our list of various examples of both parts of speech we've talked about today. 

Bonus! The most widespread infinitive and gerund examples in sentences

Native speakers like to use both gerunds and infinitives in their conversations. So if you want to master your skills and become fluent in English, you must also remember how to use them correctly to make them sound natural and suitable. We've made a list of the 30 best gerund and infinitive examples, and we are happy to share them! 

  • Infinitive examples: 

I need your help because there is so much work to do

I like to wake up early. It helps me to stay productive. 

I need to buy a new phone. Mine is not working anymore.

I am happy to see my brother. He is coming next week to invite us to his wedding.

I want to remember a complete gerunds and infinitives list on the Promova website. It will help me to master my English.

Please remind me to water my plants when we come home. 

I am excited to ask her on a date! 

My mother asked me to order some food. 

I would like to see you. 

I need you to come here and help me. 

My boss came to the office to admonish me for being late.

I asked her to stop.

I want you to follow the rules. 

I am happy to spend more time with my sister.

She told me that she wanted to break up with him.

  • Gerund examples: 

Following the rules is your responsibility.

Breaking up is not always a good idea.

Seeing him again was a big mistake.

Exercising is a perfect way to become stronger. 

I am proud of my mum being here. 

Standing here with you makes me happier. 

I like skiing with my friends. 

Learning English has never been easier. 

Spending a lot of money can make you broke. 

Reading books and watching TV are the best things you can do at home. 

It's no use crying over spilled milk.

If you want to eat healthily, stop eating junk food. 

I like cooking more than studying.

She is good at singing. 

I will probably spend the night crying

Those are some common sentences where you can see the best examples of using infinitive and gerund forms. But, of course, there are many more! Most verbs can be infinitives and gerunds, depending on the context. Create a few sentences using both of them about things you like, and share them in the comments section if you want to practice!

Find a complete gerund and infinitive list in the Promova app

Now you see that this topic is not complicated but requires some practice and effort to understand. So if you are not confident that you can handle it alone, you can visit the Promova language learning platform to find help in your studying journey. In addition, you can ask our professional teachers if you don't know where to use a gerund or infinitive.

If you want more communication, we've got you covered. You can join a group class to study with friendly students, discuss all the topics you are interested in, and practice together. And if your goal is to strengthen your spelling and speaking skills, don't waste your time and come to our conversational club! 

For those who want to study alone and do it on the go, Promova has a convenient app available for different devices. You can install it for free, enjoy hundreds of valuable topics, learn new words, and do it whenever and wherever you want! Promova is a perfect choice for students of any experience level, so don't hesitate and check it out yourself!

Conclusion

To sum up, the best way to learn the difference between infinitive and gerund verbs is to practice using them in different contexts. Try creating your own sentences and see how they change depending on which form you use. Also, don't forget to pay attention to verbs that can be both gerunds and infinitives – these can be tricky! However, with enough practice, you'll use these forms like a pro in no time.

FAQ

What is a gerund?

A gerund is a verb form that functions as a noun. It is created by adding -ing to the base form of a verb, and you can use it in all the same ways as a noun. For example, "He likes swimming" or "Swimming is good exercise." Gerunds can be subjects of the sentence, subject complements, direct objects, or objects of the preposition.

What is an infinitive?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an infinitive is the basic form of a verb, typically preceded by "to." It can be used as a noun, adjective, or adverb. For example, "He wants to swim" or "It is always a good idea to swim." Two primary forms of the infinitive are full infinitive (to + verb) and bare infinitive (verb without to).

How to understand the difference between gerunds and infinitives?

One way to understand the difference between using infinitive or gerund forms is to think about their function in a sentence. Gerunds always function as nouns, while infinitives can function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. Additionally, gerunds are created by adding -ing to the base form of a verb, while infinitives are typically preceded by "to."

When to use gerunds?

Gerunds are always used as nouns. It means that they can be the subject or object of a verb or the object of a preposition. For example:

I enjoy swimming. (gerund as a subject)

He stopped smoking. (gerund as an object)

We were talking about swimming. (gerund as an object of the preposition "about").

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