Some words or expressions in English are followed by the infinitive or gerund form of a verb. Sometimes either infinitive or gerund can be used depending on the meaning.


The infinitive is the basic form of the verb. We use the infinitive:

  • after certain adjectives
    It was impossible to go back.
  • after certain nouns
    There was no need to get angry.
  • after certain expressions
    I would rather stay at home.
  • after certain verbs (with or without an object)
    We might stay at home.
  • after certain verbs + question words
    We didn’t remember where to meet.


The word “gerund” is used to describe the ing-form of a verb, when the verb is used with certain words. We use the gerund:

  • as the subject of a sentence
    Cycling is good for your health.
  • after certain prepositions
    Instead of studying for her exams, she went out every night.
  • after certain adjectives with a preposition
    I am interested in visiting the museum.
  • after certain nouns (with or without a preposition)
    There’s no point in waiting any longer.
  • after certain verbs (with or without a preposition)
    I enjoy cooking.


When constructing the ing-form, there may be certain exceptions we need to pay attention to.

see: Present Participle

Infinitive or Gerund

In addition to the words that are only used with the infinitive or the gerund, there are also words which can be used with both. However, this sometimes changes their meaning.

Unchanged Meaning

For the following words, it doesn't matter if we use the infinitive or the gerund – their meaning will remain the same.

I started to read./I started reading.
  • attempt
  • begin
  • bother
  • cannot bear
  • cease
  • continue
  • hate
  • intend
  • love
  • prefer
  • start

Unchanged Meaning, Various Usages

The meaning of the following words also remains unchanged. The only difference is that we use the infinitive in sentences with an object, and the gerund in sentences without an object.

(sentence with object)
(sentence without object)
advise I advise you to go by bus. I advise going by bus.
allow/permit They do not allow people to smoke in the building. They do not allow smoking in the building.
forbid The teacher has forbidden his students to use mobile phones in class. The teacher has forbidden using mobile phones in class.

Changed Meaning

wordmeaning with infinitivemeaning with gerund


refers to the future

Remember to switch off the lights.

refers to the past

Do you remember losing your first tooth?

go on

to start something new

After his studies he went on to become a teacher.

to continue doing the same thing

He stopped reading, looked up a word and then went on reading.


to be sorry about what is about to be said

I regret to say that you cannot come with us.

to be sorry about something in the past

I regret saying that I hated her.


to stop moving in order to do something

I stopped to smoke.

to quit doing something

I stopped smoking.


to do something complicated

I tried to solve this riddle, but I couldn’t.

to attempt something (and see what happens)

We tried baking the cake without flour, but it did not work.


After verbs of sensation (feel, find, hear, listen to, notice, see, smell, watch) as well as go/come, we also use the infinitive sometimes and the ing-form at other times. This ing-form is, however, not a gerund in this case, but rather a present participle.

see: Participles

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