a) Gerunds are the verb forms we need to use after certain verbs and expressions:
- I don’t mind walking to school in the morning. I find it invigorating.
- I can’t stand waiting for people who don’t turn up at the arranged time.
- I was very tired, so I stopped dancing and went home.
b) Expressions with the –ing form can also be used as subjects of sentences or as complements after the verb TO BE:
- Swimming can help you to be fit.
- My favourite pastime is cycling.
In these cases, a TO-INFINITIVE can also be used (To swim can help you to be fit, my favourite pastime is to cycle), but in informal English it is less natural than the -ING form.
c) After prepositions, we always need to use an –ing form, and that includes phrasal verbs:
- This pan is for baking cakes.
- When she retired, she took up knitting, but she soon got fed up with it, gave it up and carried on trekking.
- I look forward to hearing from you soon.
2. INFINITIVE WITH ‘TO’:
a) In other occasions, it is the TO-Infinitive the verb form we need to use after certain verbs and expressions:
- I have decided to send my son to an English boarding school next year.
- I can’t afford to go on a cruise.
b) As the complement of an adjective:
- That’s quite easy to do.
- I find it difficult to understand.
c) As the complement of a noun:
- You have the right to remain silent.
d) To express PURPOSE:
- Jack is saving money to go on holidays.
- We had been driving for two hours, so we stopped to have a coffee.
e) After question words:
- I don’t know what to say or where to go. BUT “Why pay more?”
f) As subject or complement of a sentence, but, as mentioned above, it is more unusual, especially in informal contexts.
- To study hard is a must in any degree.
- The main idea is to draw a plan of the city centre.
3. INFINITIVE WITHOUT ‘TO’:
a) After auxiliaries and modal verbs. Remember that we teachers go mad when we hear our students say something like “***I must to do…”
- She could play the piano when she was 9.
- I don’t like lamb.
b) After some expressions like ‘had better’ or ‘would rather’:
- You’d better study now and go out later.
- I’d rather eat out at the weekend. On weekdays I’m too busy to enjoy it.
c) After ‘make’ and ‘let’ + object:
- That song makes me dance.
- His father doesn’t let him stay up after midnight.
But MAKE takes the infinitive with TO in the passive voice:
- Philip was made to wear a uniform at school.
And the meaning of LET in the passive is expressed with ALLOW + TO-infinitive:
- He wasn’t allowed to go to the disco until he was 16.
4. LIKE, LOVE, HATE AND PREFER:
These verbs are usually used followed by the gerund in British English, and by the To-infinitive in American English. However, in British English, we tend to use the gerund to talk generally and the infinitive to talk specifically:
- I like going shopping.
- I like to go shopping for food first thing on Saturday mornings.
When these verbs are used with WOULD, they are always followed by To+infinitive:
- I would prefer to travel with you.
5. VERBS THAT CAN BE FOLLOWED BY EITHER GERUND OR INFINITIVE:
a) Some verbs can be followed either by the gerund or the infinitive without difference in meaning, the most common cases being start, continue and begin:
Patrick began dancing / began to dance when he was only 6.
b) Other verbs can be followed either by the gerund or the to-infinitive with a change of meaning:
o I remember going to school on foot since I was 6 = I remember a past action.
o Remember to buy some bread tomorrow morning = Remember something for the future
o I’ll never forget going to Iguazú = I did something which I won’t forget. This use is typically negative. Also
o I had forgotten reading that novel = I had read it but I had forgotten it.
o Don’t forget to go to the supermarket. We have run out of bread and milk. = Don’t forget to carry out a future action.
o Try to be on time. = make an effort to arrive on time.
o If you feel so distressed, try doing yoga. = to see if it works.
o I need to tidy my bedroom. = Active meaning
o My room needs tidying. = My room needs to be tidied. = Passive meaning.
- Malcolm MANN and Steve TAYLORE-KNOWLES (2008): Destination B2 Grammar & Vocabulary with answer key, Oxford, Macmillan.
- Mark FOLEY and Diane HALL (2012): My Grammar Lab Intermediate B1/B2, Harlow, Pearson Longman.
- Michael SWAM (2005): Practical English Usage, Third Edition Fully Revised, Oxford, Oxford University Press.