Gerunds and Infinitives (-ing or to?)

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Shall I say “I put off seeing Bob?” or “I put off to see Bob?” 

These guidelines work well if your level of English is roughly B1/B2 (intermediate) and you are studying for an exam such as the FCE (Cambridge First Certificate).

  • When we put two verbs together, the second verb is usually in the –ING form or the INFINITIVEWhich pattern we use generally depends on the first verb:
  • ING –> I love eating pasta.
  • TO –> I want to eat pasta.

 

 

We use –ING:

1. Basically, when something “comes from our heart“. That is to say, if we like or don’t like, love or don’t love, hate doing something

• Ann loves riding horses • I like eating pasta • We don’t like listening to music • My brother hates watching football • I don’t mind going to the zoo • They enjoy playing cards • Don’t you regret waking up late?

2. If the verb is the subject of the sentence:

Smoking is bad for you – Drinking wine can rot your teeth


3.
If the first verb is a phrasal verb or if there’s a preposition

– I gave up drinking coffee – I’m good at skiing – I’m bad at swimming


4. Some other verbs need –ing:

Avoid, practise, fancy, recommend, feel like, risk, finish, spend time, imagine, suggest, keep, postpone

– I finished working at 9 – I suggested going to the cinema –

You should practise speaking English –We spent the weekend sleeping


5. Some verb phrases with CAN’T follow the same pattern:

– I can’t help falling in love with you (Elvis Presley)

– I can’t stand losing you(The Police)

We use TO:

1. After adjectives:


– It’s important to relax – It’s difficult to say – It’s easy to do


2. After all the other verbs:


– I want to learn Japanese – I would like to learn Japanese

Please notice the difference between like and would like!


3. Some “tricky” verbs followed by TO may be:

Agree, hope, promise, dare, manage, refuse, decide, mean, seem, expect,

offer, want,fail, prepare, need, happen, pretend, forget

– Columbus didn’t manage to reach India – Columbus failed to reach India – He pretended to be rich –

I promise to call you tomorrow – I forgot to call you yesterday

-ING or TO:


Some verbs can be followed by ing or to. The meaning of the sentence is the same:

 


Begin – Continue – Prefer – Start

 


2. A few verbs can take an infinitive or –ing form but the meaning is different:

– I remembered to see the doctor (I remembered I had an appointment)

– I remembered seeing the doctor (I remembered that I saw the doctor)

– I stopped smoking = I gave up, I don’t smoke anymore

– I stopped to smoke = I did it in order to smoke

– He tried ringing the bell (but there was no answer)

– He tried to ring the bell (but still it wasn’t working)

Negative


Either if you need to use –ing or to, use NOT before the verb to make negative sentences:

– I decided NOT to go to the interview – I hate NOT being punctual

Check out these two song videos on youTube! Can you find any exceptions?


There are some exceptions to these rules, but for the moment try to apply them… … or is it try applying them? 😉

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