When do I have to use a gerund or an infinitive after verbs?

What are Gerunds and Infinitives?

Gerunds and Infinitives are types of Non-Finite verbs.

Non-Finite Verb: Verbs that have no separate subject and do not show tense (i.e.) these verbs are not conjugated in relation to a subject.

Example: I like to give him money today. (Here ‘like’ has ‘I’ as its subject so it is a Finite verb but ‘to give’ has no subject and limitation of number so it is a Non-Finite verb)

Types and Functions of Non-Finite Verb:

a) Infinitives. She comes here to swim. (functions as a noun, adjective or adverb)

b) Gerunds. She does not like swimming. (functions as a noun)

c) Participle. She participates in swimming events. (functions as an adjective)

Tips on using Gerund:

Tip #1: Subject-Object

Subject: Gerunds can appear at the beginning of a sentence when used as a subject.

Smoking is injurious to health.

Object: Gerunds can act as an object following the verb.

Dinesh quit smoking a year ago.

Tip #2: Gerund vs. Infinitive, Participle

Gerund vs Infinitive: Some verbs can be followed by both a gerund and an infinitive (being used as a noun) without causing a change in meaning.

a) Infinitive: I like to swim. (General/ habit)

b) Gerund: I like swimming. (General/ habit)

c) Infinitive: I like to swim today. (Note the meaning has changed from previous two examples)

Gerund vs. Participle: Gerunds always functions as nouns, whereas participles function as adjectives.

a) Participle: Barking dogs seldom bite. (‘Barking’ functioning as adjective to ‘dog’)

b) Gerund: We can hear the barking. (‘Barking’, functioning as a noun, is the sound heard by us)

Tip #3: To + Gerund

To + Gerund: used after certain verbs and phrases like ‘be used to, with a view to, accustomed to, owing to, given to, look forward to, prone to, in addition to,’ etc.

a) He is used to swimming early in the morning.

b) She is accustomed to speaking in English in school.

c) Naveen comes here with a view to studying.

Tip #4: Preposition + Gerund

Preposition + Gerund: is used after certain verbs and phrases that are followed by appropriate prepositions (in, on, from, of) instead of ‘to’.

a) She restrains from making any statement.

b) He is confident of winning.

c) He rebuked you for coming late. (Showing cause for the action)

d) The book is for reading. (Showing purpose for which the subject is used)

Tip #5: Direct Gerund

Direct Gerund: certain verbs are followed directly by gerunds (e.g.) avoid, love, like, dislike, prefer, consider, finish, miss, imagine, regret etc.

a) She enjoys (to ride) riding on the hills.

b) Paul avoids using chemicals on the vegetables he grows.

Give up, Put off, and Set about: Phrasal verbs like these ones are followed by Direct Gerund.

a) The coach called off practicing for the day.

b) Tom looked into finding a new job.

The infographic below will be useful for answering questions in English Grammar test on Gerunds–

You can also take this English Grammar test to improve your grammar.

2 Replies to “When do I have to use a gerund or an infinitive after verbs?”

  1. Gerunds are noun forms of verbs. They look like the present continuous forms of verbs but they are nouns themselves.

    Eg. Cooking

    My mom is cooking. (Verb here)

    Cooking is her favourite hobby. (Gerund here)

    Gerunds after verbs:

    1.Preethi makes cooking videos and posts them on YouTube.

    make is a verb.

    Cooking is actually a Gerund but it becomes an adjective here because it describes the type of videos.

    2.Kiran loves Bird watching.

    Love is a verb and Bird watching is a Gerund. (Supposedly)

    3.I practised running for the marathon.

    Practise is a verb and running is a Gerund.

    …………………………………………………………………

    Infinitives are usually to+present form of verbs.

    Eg. To cook

    I love to cook.

    To watch

    I love to watch science fiction movies.

    If you observe the above sentences, all the infinitives are after verbs.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Unfortunately, this is a purely idiomatic, random and unpredictable thing in English. You just have to learn them case by case. I notice that for fluent but non-native English speakers, this one of the last non-native errors to disappear.

    Here is a cheat sheet that I give my students:

    02. Infinitives and Gerunds

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