Welcome to another episode of Everyday Grammar on VOA
English learners have difficulty with gerunds
and infinitives. A gerund is the –ing form of a verb that
functions the same as a noun. For example, “Running is fun.” In this sentence,
“running” is the gerund. It acts just like a noun.
The infinitive form of a verb appears either as
the basic form (with no marking) or with the word “to.” For example, you can
say “I might run to the store” or “I like to run.” In this
sentence, “to run” is the infinitive.
It is difficult for English learners to know whether
to use a gerund or an infinitive after a verb.
Here’s an example. Which sentence is correct?
Sentence one: I suggested going to dinner.
Sentence two: I suggested to go to dinner.
Sentence one, with the gerund, is correct. “I
suggested going to dinner.” Why? You can only use a gerund after the verb
Let’s take the word “like.” You can say “I like"
running” or “I like to run.” Both sentences have the same meaning. You can use
either a gerund or an infinitive after “like.” Now let’s try “enjoy.” We can
say, “I enjoy running.” But we cannot say, “I enjoy to run.” Why? Only a gerund
can follow the verb “enjoy.”
Are you confused yet? You’re not alone. Gerunds and
infinitives confuse even very advanced English learners.
Basically, some verbs are followed by gerunds, some
verbs are followed by infinitives, and some verbs can be followed by gerunds or
infinitives. Native speakers do not think about the difference. But English
learners have to memorize the hundreds of different verb combinations.
Here are a few tips.
Tip number one: you almost always find a gerund after a preposition.
For example, “She is afraid of flying.” In this sentence “of” is the
preposition and “flying” is the gerund. You cannot say “She is afraid of to
fly.” An infinitive cannot be the object of a preposition, only a gerund can.
You could say, “She is afraid to fly,” but in this sentence, the preposition
“of” is gone.
Tip number two: When you are talking about an activity, you usually
use a gerund. For example, “I stopped smoking.” You can describe many
activities by using “go” before a gerund. “Let’s go shopping,” or “We went
Let’s see how much you know. Try to complete these
sentences using the verb “study.” Ready? I’ll read the first part of the
sentence and you finish it.
I enjoy … (studying)
I considered … (studying)
I managed … (to study)
I hope … (to study)
I suggested … (studying)
I like… … (studying) or … (to study)
This is only a simple introduction to a complicated
There is no quick and easy way to learn gerunds and
infinitives. It takes years of practice and familiarity with the English
language. Next time you read or listen to a VOA Learning English story, pay attention
to use of gerunds and infinitives. Over time, you will begin to hear the right
Below is a helpful reference list for using gerunds