Gerunds versus Infinitives – Know the right use of them in a sentence.
Frequently, the main verb in a sentence is followed by another verb which is either an infinitive with ‘to’ (ex. hope to do) or a gerund (ex. avoid doing). The main verb determines which form is used. On the TOEIC grammar questions there will generally be both choices amongst the answers, so you need to know which one is the right form. In addition, there are also some verbs that can be followed by either form, but the meaning is different.
Verb + infinitive
Here is a list of some of the verbs which are followed by the ‘to-infinitive’ (the verb ‘to do’ is added in order to help you memorize this list):
agree to do claim to do hope to do pretend to do
aim to do decide to do intend to do promise to do
can’t afford to do expect to do manage to do refuse to do
can’t wait to do fail to do offer to do seem to do
choose to do happen to do plan to do wish to do
Verb + gerund
The following list includes verbs that are followed by gerunds (‘doing’ is added to help you memorize this list).
admit doing deny doing imagine doing miss doing
avoid doing dislike doing involve doing postpone doing
can’t help doing discuss doing justify doing practice doing
can’t stand doing enjoy doing keep on doing put off doing
consider doing finish doing mention doing resent doing
delay doing give up doing mind doing risk doing
Things to look out for
There are some verbs that can be followed by either the gerund or the infinitive but the meaning is different. Take a look at the examples below:
- I’ve stopped smoking. (That means I no longer smoke.)
- I stopped for a few minutes to rest. (That means I stopped what I was doing in order to rest.)
- I still remember buying my first bicycle. (That means I have a particular memory of something that took place during my childhood.)
- Remember to save your files before logging off. (With this meaning, we often use the imperative to remind someone to do something.)
- I forgot to send her the message. (This is similar to ‘remember to do’.)
- I’ll never forget meeting the President. (This is similar to ‘remember doing’.)
> Allow and permit:
- We don’t allow/permit smoking. (When there is no direct object the gerund is used.)
- We don’t allow/permit people to smoke. (When there is a direct object the infinitive is used.)
> Go on:
- He went on talking for over an hour. (Here ‘go on’ means ‘continue’.)
- He went on to talk about company sales. (Here ‘go on’ means ‘change to another subject’.)
- I advise repackaging the product. (When there is no direct object, then use the gerund.)
- I advise you to repackage the product. (With a direct object we use the infinitive with ‘to’.)
- I suggest breaking off the meeting here. (When there is no direct object, then use the gerund.)
- I suggest we break off the meeting here. (With a direct object we use the infinitive or what’s really the subjunctive form – see next example.)
- I suggest that he find a later date. (Here for the verbs advise, suggest, recommend we can use this construction with a subjunctive, but be careful with the 3rd person of the singular as there is NO ‘-s’!!)
- I recommend finishing the report before the weekend. (See comments for ‘advise’ and ‘suggest’.)
- I recommend that you finish the report before the weekend.
- They expect us to find a solution to the problem.
- He wants her to respond to the email.
> Used to:
- She used to swim every single after after class. (In the past she swam, she doesn’t swim anymore).
These verbs – expect, want, allow, help, enable, encourage invite, order, remind, tell, warn are often followed by a direct object and then an infinitive with ‘to’.
Verb/Adjective + preposition + -ing form
Another related area which is often seen on the TOEIC is the structure of a verb or adjective followed by a preposition which is then followed by a gerund (-ing form).
- I’m thinking of applying for the Assistant to the Director positions.
- She is interested in learning Italian because she works in the fashion industry.
- He had to get used to studying after school. (It required an effort).
- They were used to playing video games after school. (They had the habit).
A list is these verbs and adjectives + prepositions can be found on another grammar explanation sheet.
Common mistakes: verbs or adjectives that are followed by ‘to’ when it is acting as a preposition need to be followed by a gerund (NOT the infinitive) as mentioned above.
- I am looking forward to hearing from you.
- Pierre is accustomed to driving on the left as he has lived in England for 20 years.
For this last example, if we substitute the expression ‘be used to’ in the place of ‘be accustomed to’, a gerund also needs to come after the preposition ‘to’.
- Pierre is used to driving on the left…
Don’t confuse this with ‘used to’ (without the verb ‘to be’) which means a habit from the past that no longer exists today and is not followed by a gerund.
- Jane used to ride her bike to work, but when she got a new job she had to take the train.