Gerund or Infinitive – English Verb Patterns

Introduction

The infinitive is the basic form of the verb. Depending on the verb, adjective or noun it follows, we can use the infinitive with or without to e.g. (to) be, (to) have, (to) do. The gerund is the -ing form of a verb. It acts as a noun in a sentence and follows certain verbs, prepositions and adjectives.

Learn when to use the gerund and when to use the infinitive in English grammar with Lingolia’s online lesson. Then, practise verb patterns in English grammar in the interactive exercises.

Infinitive

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

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

Gerund

The gerund is also called the ing-form of a verb and is conjugated in the same way as the present participle. We use the gerund:

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

Infinitive or Gerund

Sometimes a word can be followed by either an infinitive or a gerund, but be careful because there is often a change in meaning.

No Change in Meaning

The following verbs can be followed by either the infinitive or the gerund without changing their meaning.

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

Same Meaning, Different Usage

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.

wordinfinitive
(sentence with object)
gerund
(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.

Change in Meaning

We can use the infinitive or the gerund after the following verbs, but the meaning changes.

wordmeaning with infinitivemeaning with gerund

forget/remember

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.

regret

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.

stop

to stop moving in order to do something

I stopped to smoke.

to quit doing something

I stopped smoking.

try

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.

Info

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