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Gerunds and infinitives (grammar)

In English, if you want to follow a verb with another action, you must use either a gerund or an infinitive. For example:

She continued talking. (gerund – verb + ing)

I want to cook a meal with tomatoes. (infinitive – to + base verb)

It can be difficult to know when to use gerunds and infinitives because there are certain verbs that can only be followed by one or the other, and these verbs must be memorized. The following rules can help you decide which to use:

We use gerunds (verb + ing):

  • As the subject or object of a sentence – Driving can be tiring.
  • After certain verbs – I like driving.
  • After prepositions – I had lunch before going to work.

We use ‘to’ + infinitive:

  • After certain verbs – We decided to stay longer in Paris.
  • After many adjectives – It is difficult to learn Spanish.

We use the infinitive without to (bare infinitive):

  • After the words let, make and help- My mother lets me stay up late.
  • After modal verbs – I can take you home at eight o’clock
  • After some verbs of perception (see, watch, hear, notice, feel, sense) – I watched her playing with her kids silently.
  • After expressions with ‘why’ – Why drive if you can walk?

Here is a list of common verbs followed by gerund:

Examples:

  • I love reading.
  • He enjoys shopping with friends.
  • Swimming is my favourite sport.
  • He enjoys driving fast cars.

Here is a list of common verbs followed by an infinitive:

Examples: 

  • He asked me to leave.
  • She deserves to go to prison.
  • I forgot to close the window before leaving.
  • He loves to play football.

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