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どんな時に"-ing"や"to ..."を使うの?

2016.06.15

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When do I use "-ing"and when do I use "to ..."?

A couple months ago we looked at a grammar point that is difficult for all English learners, from beginners to advanced students. That point was articles such as a, an, and the.  This month, we are looking at another one, gerunds and infinitives.  

For those who don’t know, a gerund is a noun made from a verb by adding "-ing." The gerund form of the verb "read" is "reading." You can use a gerund as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence. Infinitives are the "to" form of the verb. The infinitive form of "learn" is "to learn." You can also use an infinitive as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence.

Essentially, whenever you have two verbs in a row in English, the second one will almost always be either a gerund (-ing) or an infinitive (to …).  But how do I know which one to use?

This basically depends on what the first verb is.  Some verbs are always followed by an infinitive i.e. “He wants to learn.”, and some are always followed by a gerund, i.e. “I enjoy reading.”  Still, there are a few verbs which can take either, such as “I like to play sports.”, and “I like playing sports.”  These two sentences are both ok and have the exact same meaning, however, there are a few verbs which take both but the meaning changes depending on which one you use. 

Ok, so, I still haven’t answered the question from above.  “How do I know which one to use?”…

Basically, you have to remember which verbs are followed by which form, so it’s a good idea to start learning new vocabulary as a phrase.  Don’t just write down new words you learn like “look forward to”, instead make sure you include what it’s followed by “look forward to ____ing something”.

Let’s look at all the rules in more detail.


Gerunds vs. Infinitives

1. A gerund is a noun made from a verb by adding "-ing." The gerund form of the verb "read" is "reading." You can use a gerund as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence.

Examples:

  • Reading helps you learn English. subject of sentence
  • Her favorite hobby is readingcomplement of sentence
  • I enjoy readingobject of sentence


Gerunds can be made negative by adding "not."

Examples:

  • He enjoys not working.
  • The best thing for your health is not smoking.


2. Infinitives are the "to" form of the verb. The infinitive form of "learn" is "to learn." You can also use an infinitive as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence.

Examples:

  • To learn is important. subject of sentence
  • The most important thing is to learncomplement of sentence
  • He wants to learnobject of sentence


Infinitives can be made negative by adding "not."

Examples:

  • I decided not to go.
  • The most important thing is not to give up.


3. Both gerunds and infinitives can be used as the subject or the complement of a sentence. However, as subjects or complements, gerunds usually sound more like normal, spoken English, whereas infinitives sound more abstract. In the following sentences, gerunds sound more natural and would be more common in everyday English. Infinitives emphasize the possibility or potential for something and sound more philosophical. If this sounds confusing, just remember that 90% of the time, you will use a gerund as the subject or complement of a sentence.

Examples:

  • Learning is important. normal subject
  • To learn is important. abstract subject - less common
  • The most important thing is learningnormal complement
  • The most important thing is to learnabstract complement - less common


4. As the object of a sentence, it is more difficult to choose between a gerund or an infinitive. In such situations, gerunds and infinitives are not normally interchangeable. Usually, the main verb in the sentence determines whether you use a gerund or an infinitive.

Examples:

  • He enjoys swimming"Enjoy" requires a gerund.
  • He wants to swim"Want" requires an infinitive.


5. Some verbs are followed by gerunds as objects. List of Verbs Followed by Gerunds

Examples:

  • She suggested going to a movie.
  • Mary keeps talking about her problems.


6. Some verbs are followed by infinitives. List of Verbs Followed by Infinitives

Examples:

  • She wants to go to a movie.
  • Mary needs to talk about her problems.


7. Gerunds can often be modified with possessive forms such as his, her, its, your, their, our, John's, Mary's, the machine's, and so on. This makes it clearer who or what is performing the action.

Examples:

  • enjoyed their singingThey were singing.
  • She understood his saying no to the offer. He said no.
  • Sam resented Debbie's coming late to the dinner. Debbie came late to the dinner.
  • We discussed the machine's being broken. The machine is broken.


8. Gerunds are used after prepositions. Most commonly, these are "verb + preposition" combinations. You don't have to memorize these resources, you just need to remember that gerunds are used after prepositions!

Examples:

  • They admitted to committing the crime.
  • Leslie made up for forgetting my birthday.
  • He is thinking about studying abroad.


9. Remember that there are many "adjective + preposition" combinations and "noun + preposition" combinations in English as well. These are also followed by gerunds. Once again, you don't have to memorize these resources, you just need to remember that gerunds are used after prepositions!

Examples:

  • Sandy is scared of flyingadjective + preposition
  • Nick is anxious about taking the examination. adjective + preposition
  • His interest in becoming a professional snowboarder was well known. noun + preposition


Thomas' story about seeing a grizzly bear was really exciting. noun + preposition


10. Some verbs can be followed by a gerund or an infinitive with little difference in meaning. List of Verbs Followed by a Gerund or Infinitive (Similar Meaning)

Examples:

  • She likes swimming.
  • She likes to swim.

 


11. Some verbs can be followed by a gerund or an infinitive, but with a difference in meaning. List of Verbs Followed by a Gerund or Infinitive (Different Meaning)

Examples:

  • Nancy remembered getting married. Nancy has a memory of getting married.
  • Fred remembered to bring sunblock to the beach. Fred remembered that he needed to bring sunblock.


12. There are many "be + adjective" combinations that are commonly followed by infinitives. List of Be + Adjective Combinations Followed by Infinitives

Examples:

  • They were anxious to begin.
  • She was delighted to receive such good feedback.
  • He is lucky to have such good friends.


13. There are also many nouns that are commonly followed by infinitives. List of Nouns Followed by Infinitives

Examples:

  • It was a good decision to move to San Francisco.
  • His wish to become an actor was well known.
  • Laura's desire to improve impressed me.


14. Sometimes infinitives are used to express the idea of "in order to do something."

Examples:

  • He bought the English dictionary to look up difficult words. in order to look up
  • Janine sold her car to get the money that she needed. in order to get
  • Juan uses Englishpage.com to learn English. in order to learn


This idea of "in order to do something" is found in many English patterns.

too + adjective/adverb + infinitive

Examples:

  • The box is too heavy to carry.
  • The television is too expensive to buy.
  • Fiona ran too slowly to win the race.
  • We arrived too late to see the beginning of the movie.

adjective/adverb + enough + infinitive

Examples:

  • She is tall enough to reach the book on the shelf.
  • Brian was smart enough to enter college at the age of 12.
  • Linda runs quickly enough to win the race.

enough + noun(s) + infinitive

Examples:

  • He has enough money to buy his own car.
  • Cheryl owns enough books to start her own library!
  • Diane needs enough time to finish writing her book.


15. Certain expressions are followed by "ING" forms. List of Expressions followed by Verb+ing Forms

Examples:

  • He had fun fishing.
  • They had difficulty finding a parking place.
  • She spent her time practicing the piano.

Your Turn

Choose the correct form to complete the sentences.  Scroll to the bottom of the page to check your answers.

1. Dan enjoys  science fiction.

2. Cheryl suggested  a movie after work.

3. I miss  in the travel industry. Maybe I can get my old job back.

4. Where did you learn  Spanish? Was it in Spain or in Latin America?

5. Do you mind  me translate this letter?

6. He asked  to the store manager.

7. You've never mentioned  in Japan before. How long did you live there?

8. If he keeps  to work late, he's going to get fired!

9. Debbie plans  abroad next year.

10. I agreed  Jack wash his car.

11. I hope  from college next June.

12. The models practiced  with a book balanced on their heads.

13. Mandy has promised  care of our dog while we are on vacation.

14. Mr. Edwards chose  the management position in Chicago rather than the position in Miami.

15. I don't know what she wants  tonight. Why don't you ask her?

16. Frank offered  us paint the house.

17. Sandra decided  economics in London.

18. Witnesses reported  the bank robber as he was climbing out of the second-story window.

19. Stephanie dislikes  in front of a computer all day.

20. Mrs. Sato appears  the most qualified person for the job.





Answer Key
1. Dan enjoys reading science fiction.

2. Cheryl suggested seeing a movie after work.

3. I miss working in the travel industry. Maybe I can get my old job back.

4. Where did you learn to speak Spanish? Was it in Spain or in Latin America?

5. Do you mind helping me translate this letter?

6. He asked to talk to the store manager.

7. You've never mentioned living in Japan before. How long did you live there?

8. If he keeps coming to work late, he's going to get fired!

9. Debbie plans to study abroad next year.

10. I agreed to help Jack wash his car.

11. I hope to graduate from college next June.

12. The models practiced walking with a book balanced on their heads.

13. Mandy has promised to take care of our dog while we are on vacation.

14. Mr. Edwards chose to accept the management position in Chicago rather than the position in Miami.

15. I don't know what she wants to do tonight. Why don't you ask her?

16. Frank offered to help us paint the house.

17. Sandra decided to study economics in London.

18. Witnesses reported seeing the bank robber as he was climbing out of the second-story window.

19. Stephanie dislikes working in front of a computer all day.

20. Mrs. Sato appears to be the most qualified person for the job.

 

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