Gerunds & Infinitives. Free English Lesson with Test and Certificate.
Quick Gerunds & Infinitives study for SAT, IELTS, TESOL and other exams.
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How to use Gerunds & Infinitives in English
A gerund is a noun that is made from a verb by adding the sound 'ing' to the end of the word. For example, the noun 'study' can become the gerund 'studying'. Then you can make a sentence like 'he loves studying'.
Infinitives are when you add the word 'to' before a verb For example, the infinitive of 'study' is 'to study'. Then you can make a sentence like, 'she loves to study'.
This lesson shows you the rules about gerunds and infinitives.
Your English lesson about Gerunds & Infinitives
Welcome to the Gerunds and Infinitives English lesson.
There are many rules and different situations that call for either the gerund or the infinitive. This is one of the most complex lessons offered by Qwyqr. It is also our longest lesson!
While it is important to learn and remember many of these rules, it is also important to listen for these and practice the example sentences.
This lesson includes a number of word lists. If you just read the lists, you will not remember the words. You can try to rewrite the lists yourself. When you write something yourself, it becomes easier to remember. Similarly, you can try to practice writing sentences for some of the words. The more you use these words, the fewer mistakes you will make.
What is a gerund?
First let’s answer the question, what is a gerund? A gerund is a noun made from a verb by adding "-ing." The gerund form of the verb "study" is "studying." You can use a gerund as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence.
You can see how this works in the following examples.
Studying helps you learn English. SUBJECT OF SENTENCE
His favorite activity is studying. COMPLEMENT OF SENTENCE
I enjoy studying. OBJECT OF SENTENCE
Gerunds can be made negative by adding the word "not."
Not studying for the test was a big mistake.
Notice that this is different from the continuous tense of the verb.
I’m studying a book about fishing.
As you can see, studying is the continuous verb in this sentence, and fishing is used as a noun here.
Infinitives with gerunds
Now, let’s look at infinitives. Infinitives are the "to" form of the verb. The infinitive form of "study" is "to study." Just like the gerund, you can also use an infinitive as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence.
To study is important. SUBJECT OF SENTENCE
The important thing is to study. COMPLEMENT OF SENTENCE
He likes to study. OBJECT OF SENTENCE
Again, just like gerunds, infinitives can be made negative by adding “not”.
I decided not to study.
As the object of a sentence, it is sometimes difficult to choose between a gerund or an infinitive. In these situations, gerunds and infinitives are not normally interchangeable. Usually, the main verb in the sentence determines whether you use a gerund or an infinitive.
You can use the following lists as a guide to whether you should use the infinitive or gerund. If you are good at memorizing things, you can try to memorize these lists to prepare for a test. However, you should also listen to and recite the example sentences. In English conversations, you will not have time to try and remember the list. One of the important steps in becoming fluent in English is to be able to speak without thinking about the grammar rules. It takes time, but if you keep practicing, you will get there!
For extra practice, you can try to write your own example sentences, or writing down the following lists. It is difficult, but if you take the time to write sentences, it will help you to remember these words.
Verbs Followed by an Infinitive
Here’s some examples before you read the list:
He neglected to clean the back of the sauce pan.
I meant to tell you that I can’t come to work today.
I wanted to wake up early today.
He likes to exercise in the mornings.
My mom promised to pick me up from school today.
I hope she remembered to pay the electric bill.
Here’s the list …
agree (e.g., "I agreed to meet the team.")
Verbs Followed by an Object and an Infinitive
You will notice that some of the verbs in the list below are included in the list above, and some can be used without an object.
The teacher advised the students to practice the example sentences.
My mom bought a cake to celebrate my birthday.
I allowed them to stay up late.
Mary invited everyone to come to her party.
He wants me to drive him to basketball practice.
Sabrina reminded him to bring an umbrella.
Here’s the list …
Verbs Followed by a Gerund
Here is a rule you CAN memorize. Always use a gerund after a preposition. See the example sentences and list below.
I don’t mind helping you with your English homework.
I can’t help thinking that this will be fun.
My father quit smoking cigarettes.
I can’t resist eating ice cream.
Can you imagine living 1000 years ago?
Here’s the list …
Verbs Followed by a Preposition and a Gerund
The suspect didn’t admit to committing the crimes.
He didn’t plan on becoming a businessman.
I objected to buying a new car, but my wife didn’t listen.
He was worried about failing the test.
She didn’t feel like studying yesterday.
Here’s the list …
More Gerund & Infinitives exercises
Next, there are many "go + gerund" expressions used for adventure sports and individual recreational activities. In contrast, with team sports, we say play basketball or play football. Look at the following sentences referencing individual sports.
I like to go fishing.
Have you ever gone skydiving?
I want to go skiing this weekend.
She goes ice skating every weekend.
Phil loves to go bowling.
Debbie went swimming yesterday.
Moving on, some verbs can be followed by a gerund or an infinitive, but in some cases, the meaning changes. Here are some common examples:
When "begin" is used in non-continuous tenses, you can either use a gerund or an infinitive.
Lisa began speaking.
Lisa began to speak.
When "begin" is used in continuous tenses, an infinitive is used.
Lisa is beginning to speak.
Usually "dread" is followed by a gerund.
She dreads studying math.
"Dread" is sometimes used with infinitives such as "think" or "consider." In the sentence below, "dreaded to think" means "did not want to think."
We dreaded to think of what might have happened if he hadn’t worn his seatbelt.
When "forget" is used with a gerund, it means "to forget that you have done something." The sentence below means that she visited the museum when she was a kid, and that she has forgotten that fact.
She forgot visiting the museum when she was a kid.
When forget is used with an infinitive, it means "to forget that you need to do something." The sentence below means that she forgot that she needed to pay the electric bill.
She forgot to pay the electric bill.
"Keep" is normally used with a gerund to mean that you continue doing an action.
She kept talking.
"Keep" can also be used with an object followed by an infinitive, but then the infinitive means of "in order to...”.
Jill kept the food in the kitchen to prevent the spread of ants.
When "need" is used with a gerund, it takes on a passive meaning. The sentence below means "the house needs to be cleaned."
The house needs cleaning.
"Need" is usually used with an infinitive or an object + an infinitive.
He needs to call his mom.
I need him to call his mom.
"Regret" is normally used with a gerund.
I regretted being late to school.
"Regret" is sometimes used with infinitives such as "to inform." In the sentence below, "We regret to inform you" means "We wish we did not have to tell you (bad news)."
We regret to inform you that your position at the company is being eliminated.
When "remember" is used with a gerund, it means "to remember that you have done something." The sentence below means that I mentioned the meeting, and that I remember the fact that I did that.
I remember telling you about this yesterday.
When "remember" is used with an infinitive, it means "to remember that you need to do something." The sentence below means that he remembered that he needed to turn the lights off.
He remembered to turn off the lights before he left.
When "start" is used in non-continuous tenses, you can either use a gerund or an infinitive.
Marge started talking really fast.
Marge started to talk really fast.
When "start" is used in continuous tenses, an infinitive is used.
Marge is starting to talk really fast.
Sometimes, an infinitive means that you did not complete or continue an action.
I started to learn Russian, but it was so much work that I finally quit the class.
"Stop" is normally used with a gerund.
He stopped smoking for health reasons.
When "stop" is used with an infinitive, the infinitive takes on the meaning of "in order to." In the sentence below, he stopped in order to rest for a few minutes.
He stopped to rest for a few minutes.
"Try + gerund" means to try or to experiment with different methods to see if something works.
She tried writing sample sentence to learn the words.
She tried practicing speaking with her friends to improve her English.
She tried watching American movies.
"Try + gerund" is often used when you experiment with something, but you do not really like it or want to do it again.
She tried eating the turtle soup, but she didn't like it.
When you "try to do" something, you want to do it, but you do not succeed in actually doing it. In the sentence below, an infinitive is used because she cannot successfully climb the tree.
She tried to climb the tree, but she couldn't even get off the ground.
An infinitive is also used if you are asking someone to try something they may or may not be able to accomplish.
Try not to wake the baby when you get up tomorrow at 5 AM.
Be a master at Gerunds & Infinitives!
Some verbs can be followed by a gerund or an infinitive with little difference in meaning.
He can't bear being alone. He can't bear to be alone.
Nancy can't stand working the late shift. Nancy can't stand to work the late shift.
The government ceased providing free health care. The government ceased to provide free health care.
She continued talking. She continued to talk.
He hates studying science. He hates to study science.
Samantha likes reading. Samantha likes to read.
We love playing golf. We love to play golf.
He neglected practicing the piano. He neglected to practice the piano.
He prefers taking showers at night. He prefers to take showers at night.
Tom proposed paying for the trip. Tom proposed to pay for the trip.
There are many "be + adjective" combinations that are commonly followed by infinitives.
He was amazed to discover the truth.
She was anxious to start her new job.
He was ashamed to admit he had lied.
She is bound to be elected class president.
He is careful to complete his homework on time.
She is certain to get the job.
The student was content to receive second place in the competition.
We were delighted to be invited to the party.
He was determined to finish the marathon.
He was eager to get started.
They were not eligible to participate in the program.
She was fortunate to receive the research grant.
I will be glad to help out.
She was happy to see them at the party.
Mary was hesitant to say anything.
The mountain climber is liable to hurt himself if he doesn't prepare well.
They are likely to show up late.
You were lucky to have such an opportunity.
I am pleased to meet you.
He was proud to have been chosen as a finalist for the award.
I'm ready to go now.
The witness was reluctant to tell about what he had seen.
She was really sad to leave.
He was shocked to discover the truth.
I am sorry to tell you that the tickets are sold out.
She was surprised to discover that he had never learned how to swim.
There are also many nouns that are commonly followed by infinitives.
His advice to continue was good.
The appeal to reduce pollution was ineffective.
Her attempt to find her glasses was unsuccessful.
In New York, you will have a chance to improve your English.
The decision to increase homework was not popular.
His desire to get a good job motivated him.
Her dream to become an actress was never realized.
His goal to run a marathon seemed unrealistic.
Her motivation to enter university impressed everyone.
Bob's need to be the center of attention was irritating.
The opportunity to live in New York interested Sandra.
They followed the general's order to retreat.
She couldn’t get permission to go on the ski trip.
Mary's plan to move to France bothered her parents.
NASA's preparations to launch on Monday moved forward.
Her proposal to host the party was accepted by the committee.
His recommendation to close the school upset everyone.
Debra's refusal to help did not go unnoticed.
Her reminder to review the vocabulary helped me pass the test.
Their request to participate was granted.
Their requirement to speak four languages was unreasonable.
His suggestion to leave seemed like a good idea.
His tendency to tap his desk during a test annoyed me.
Her wish to be treated normally was respected.
One way to improve your English is to read novels.
You will also notice that infinitives are frequently used to express the idea of "in order to do something."
Look at the following examples:
He bought the English dictionary to look up difficult words.
(= in order to look up)
Jen sold her car to get the money that she needed.
(= in order to get)
Edward uses the internet to learn Spanish.
(= in order to learn)
This idea of "in order to do something" is found in many English patterns.
[too + adjective/adverb + infinitive]
The box is too heavy to carry.
The television is too expensive to buy.
John ran too slowly to win the race.
We arrived too late to see the beginning of the movie.
[adjective/adverb + enough + infinitive]
She is tall enough to reach the book on the shelf.
Jim was smart enough to enter the best middle school in the city.
Linda studied hard enough to pass the test.
[enough + noun(s) + infinitive]
He has enough money to buy his own car.
Diana needs enough time to finish her homework in the morning before school.
Certain expressions are followed by "ING" forms.
He had fun fishing.
They had difficulty finding a parking place.
She spent time practicing the piano.
Verbs which indicate location can often be followed by "ING" forms.
[verb of location + location +verb + ing]
Rachel sat in her car waiting for her son.
Melissa lay in bed thinking about her future.
Doug held on to his seat trying to forget that the plane was getting ready to take off.
Congratulations on getting to the end of Gerunds and Infinitives.
It’s our longest and - for many students - our most complicated lesson.
You’ve also reached the end of the Qwyqr Advanced lessons. So now you are reay to take the test. Before you take the test … here’s a story so you can give your brain a rest!
It’s story time
Now that we’ve learned a lot about gerunds and infinitives, let’s see how they are used in a short story. As you read the following story, pay attention to how the gerunds and infinitives are used.
Mike and Ricky loved to play together in the summertime. Mike would often ride his bicycle to Ricky’s house, and they enjoyed hanging out and playing sports. Each boy hoped to become a professional athlete in the future. Mike loved to play baseball, and he wanted to become a pitcher. Ricky was bigger than most kids, so he dreamed of becoming a star football player.
When Mike and Ricky were playing sports together, they never thought about stopping. They couldn’t stand to sit inside the house. Sometimes Ricky’s mom tried to convince them to stay at home and relax. It never worked. After a while, Mike and Ricky would start to talk about sports, and then they would attempt to sneak out of the house without Ricky’s mom noticing.
The local school had a football field, and Ricky and Mike would just run around the field throwing the football back and forth between them. Then they would find time to practice baseball. It was difficult to practice hitting because they didn’t have enough kids playing with them.
Sometimes, they would sleep over at each other’s house. So, after they had finished playing sports all day, they finally felt tired and sat down to watch TV before bed. Of course, they proceeded to watch sports on TV before they finally fell asleep.
For those two friends, when they think about the summertime they remember thinking about, talking about, dreaming about, and of course, playing sports.
That’s the end of the lesson on Gerunds & Infinitives.
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