One of the things English learners find difficulty in grasping is when to put a gerund (‘ing’ form of a verb) or the infinitive into a sentence or phrase. This is a common problem as not all languages have such a system. Often people just choose the wrong form to use, which is, of course, undesirable. But there are also cases when learners not only make a mistake of choosing the wrong form, but then it lead to a change in meaning.
Let’s go through some verbs and see which verbs are followed by a gerund or the infinitive and when.
In English there are three groups of verbs:
- Verbs followed by a gerund.
- Verbs followed by the infinitive.
- Verbs accepting both forms, but, with a change in meaning.
Actually, the third group are the kinds of verbs I love. They seem a challenge at the beginning but later you’ll see that they are really friendly. They help you to form your thought by changing one little particle. Thus, I decided to dedicate this article to such kinds of verbs.
So, do we need to be afraid of such verbs? Is it important to remember the right usage, or can you get away with mistakes?
Well, as we can understand from above, in the case of the third kind of verbs you have to be really attentive in choosing the right form because it may change the whole meaning of what you are trying to put across.
Let’s go through five must-know verbs belonging to that dangerous group and see when we can use gerund or infinitive.
This is one of the most commonly confused verbs. However, if you look closely you won’t find any difficulty. When the speaker uses the gerund form, it means he/she is no longer doing the action. But if the speaker uses the infinitive, it means that they are just going to start the action that is followed by the verb ‘stop’. Let’s look at the following examples:
- I stopped talking when I saw that no one was listening to me.
- I was writing, then I stopped to talk.
So, what do we see here?
In the first case the speaker uses the gerund form, which means that he is no longer talking.
The second case shows that he stops the action of writing to talk, the infinitive takes the meaning of ‘in order to’, that is, he stops in order to talk.
Again, let’s look at two examples:
- I remember locking the door, I’m sure of it!
- Remember to lock the door, otherwise thieves will enter.
In the first case the speaker says that he remembers how he has locked the door, he is sure that he ‘has locked’ it. In the second case the speaker tells someone to lock the door, in other words, not forget to do it.
Here, as we see, using the gerund form refers to a past action, while the infinitive is yet to come.
Do you remember regretting something? Which form would you use if you regretted doing something? That’s right - the gerund form! For example:
- I regret telling him the truth.
As you can see from the example above, when the verb is followed by the gerund form, it refers to an already ongoing or past action, which needs to be stopped, remembered, and in this case, regretted. Here, the speaker has already told the truth to someone and now regrets it.
However, the verb ‘regret’ can also be followed by an infinitive. What meaning will it have in this case? Let’s see:
- I regret to tell you, but your son has failed his exams.
We can paraphrase this sentence by replacing the verb ‘regret’ by ‘to be sorry’:
- I am sorry to tell you, but your son has failed his exams.
Thus, when followed by the infinitive, ‘to regret’ means to be sorry that you are going to upset them.
The verb ‘forget’ is just like the verb ‘remember’, which was discussed above. Let’s just confirm it by using these examples:
- I forgot locking the door.
- Don’t forget to lock the door.
This has the contrary meaning to remember, but the usage of the gerund form and infinitive is the same.
Consider the two examples written below:
- I was trying to fix the television, but I couldn’t.
- I couldn’t lift the sofa so I tried pushing it.
The case of this verb is a bit different. In the first case the verb in the infinitive is difficult or impossible to achieve.
In the second case, the gerund refers to something experimental. When you can’t do something, and you try doing something else to achieve the desirable result.
To sum up, the choice of the gerund form or infinitive can sometimes be vital. If we look closely at the problem, we can work out an important tip. In the majority of cases:
- If the verb is followed by gerund, then the action put in gerund form has already taken place.
- In the case of infinitive, the action put in the infinitive form is yet to take place somewhere in the future.
*However the case of the verb ‘try’ differs and just needs to be remembered.
Congratulations! You just took another step in learning the English language. Now you can move on to the next phase! But of course, remember to soak in this language through practice as well.