Gerunds and infinitives – the easy rule


When you put two verbs together in a sentence, most of the time the second verb is either an infinitive (to go) or a gerund (going).  Which verbs are followed by infinitives and which ones are followed by gerunds is often a difficult thing to learn.  Teachers give students lists to memorize and practice, but this is the hard way.  An easier way to learn this grammar is to look at a single verb (stop) and apply its rule to all the other verbs.  Although this rule is only 80%  accurate (true,) it’s better than no rule at all.

Look at this example:
After he had driven for an hour, John stopped to text his girlfriend.

In this example, the action John stopped was drivingnot texting.  In other words, stopping was the first thing that he did, and texting was the second thing that he did.  The order of verbs in the sentence (stopped/ to text) is the same order of verbs in real time (he stopped first; he texted second).  When the order of the verbs in the sentence is the same as the order of verbs in real time, then use an infinitive (to text) for the second verb.

Look at this example:
After he started his car, John stopped texting his girlfriend.

In this example, the action John stopped doing was texting.  In other words, he was texting first and then he stopped.  The order of verbs (stopped / texting) in the sentence is the opposite order in real time (he texted first; he stopped second).  When the order of the verbs in the sentence is opposite the order of verbs in real time, then use the gerund (texting) for the second verb.

The verbs remember, forget and regret are just like stop.

Examples:

She remembered to meet him for lunch.  (remember is first and to meet is second in real time)
She remembers meeting him last year.  (meeting was first and remember was second in real time)

Did you forget to lock the door this morning?  (forget is first and to lock is second in real time)
Did you forget locking the door because I know you did?  (locking is first and forget is second in real time)

I regret to tell you that you failed the test.  (regret is first and to tell is second in real time)
I regret telling you my secret.  (tell is first and regret is second in real time)

The verb try is different than the above verbs.  If you are trying to do something difficult or impossible, then the infinitive follows.  However, if you’re trying different things to find a solution to a problem, then the gerund follows.

Examples:

You should try to finish as soon as possible.  (to finish is difficult to do)
If you’re hot, try opening the window, or taking off your sweater.  (opening and taking off are possible solutions to being hot)

Now let’s look at other verbs to see how they follow this rule.

Example 1:  I want to go to bed early tonight.

First I want, and then I will go.  It’s the same order in the sentence (want / go) and in real time (want / go).  Therefore, the second verb is an infinitive.

Example 2:  She enjoys watching cartoons on Saturday mornings.

She watches first, and then she enjoys the activity of watching.  It’s a different order in the sentence (enjoys / watching) and in real time (watching / enjoys).  Therefore, the second verb is a gerund.

Example 3:  I forgot to brush my hair this morning.

First I forgot, and that’s why I didn’t brush my teeth.  It’s the same order in the sentence (forget / brush) and in real time (forget / brush).  Therefore, the second verb is an infinitive.

Example 4:  He admitted stealing the necklace.

First he stole the necklace, and then he admitted that he had stolen it.  It’s a different order in the sentence (admit / steal) and in real time (steal / admit).  Therefore, the second verb is a gerund.

This a list of the most common verbs that are followed by infinitives.  The ones in [brackets] are exceptions to the rule:

he agrees to make…           he deserves to pass…        he plans to meet
[he appears to be]          he fails to stop…                  he pretends to be
he arranges to move…     he hesitates to close…       he refuses to stop
he can afford to buy...      he hopes to finish…           he seems to know
he cares to give…                he learns to make…           he struggles to make
he claims to know…           he manages to put…         [he swears to have]
he decides to go…               he means to say…               he threatens to end
he demands to know…     he offers to help…              he waits to open
he wishes to give

This is a list of the most common verbs that are followed by gerunds.  Again, the ones in [brackets] do NOT follow the rule:

he admits taking…               he enjoys walking…                 he practices doing
[he anticipates going]     [he feels like singing]        he quits smoking
he appreciates doing…       he finishes painting…             he recalls meeting
[he avoids washing]        [he imagines living in…]         [he recommends buying]
[he can’t help telling]      it’s no use asking…                  [he resists making]
he completes making…      it’s worth seeing…                   [he risks losing]
[he considers asking]     he keeps taking…                       [he suggests meeting]
[he delays finishing]       he minds being…                       he tolerates smoking
he denies stealing…            he mentions doing…                 he understands needing
[he discusses going]       he misses visiting
he dislikes having…            [he postpones making]

Another thing you should know is if you use a person or a personal pronoun such as “me” after the first verb, an infinitive always follows.

he asks me to go…                  he hires me to wash…           he promises me to see
he begs me to help…             he invites me to visit...          he reminds me to go
he convinces me to stay…  he instructs me to finish…  he tells me to forget
he dares me to climb…        he needs me to know…         he wants me to buy
he expects me to be…           he orders me to wait…         he warns me to stay
he forces me to clean…       he prepares me to do

And of course there are a few verbs that are followed by either gerunds or infinitives.  It makes no difference.

he begins to play…              he continues to stay...    he likes to eat
he begins playing                he continues staying      he likes eating
he can’t stand to wait…    he hates to get…                he prefers to sit
he can’t stand waiting…   he hates getting…             he prefers sitting
he loves to beat…                 he starts to wait
he loves beating…               he starts waiting

Use these flashcards to help you study for the following exercises.

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

Use these flashcards to help you study for the following exercises.

  • 301 Moved Permanently
  • Moved Permanently

  • The document has moved here.

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

© 2013 Ambien Malecot

 

Comment (1)

  • You must be logged in to post a comment