How to Use Gerunds & Infinitives in Everyday English

Grammar, Vocab and Pronunciation | 11 comments

If I have a good book, I love to read all day. (Correct)
If I have a good book, I love reading all day. (Correct)

I enjoy visiting museums when I travel. (Correct)
I enjoy to visit museums when I travel. (Incorrect)

This summer I want to travel to Croatia. (Correct)
This summer I want traveling to Croatia. (Incorrect)

There’s no doubt about it… knowing whether to use a gerund vs. infinitive is challenging! How do you know which word is correct? Or how do you know when both can be correct?

In today’s lesson, you’re going to learn a few tricks plus common verbs followed by gerunds and/or infinitives that you can practice using in conversations with sample questions.

Be sure to watch the video for:

  • A review on gerunds vs. infinitives (what are they?)
  • Two quick tricks for which one to use
  • Confusing sentences with gerunds
  • Common verbs to practice with

Then in this lessons, I’ve provided you with lists of common verbs followed by gerunds or infinitives, example sentences, and practice conversation questions you can use with a language partner, a teacher, or even practice on your own by speaking aloud or recording yourself.

Using Gerunds & Infinitives in Everyday English

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Quick Tips on Gerunds vs. Infinitives

Tip 1: Both gerunds and infinitives follow certain verbs — you’ll learn much more about which verbs below. I’ve also included example sentences and practice questions for you.

 

Tip 2: Gerunds follow prepositions in a sentence, including prepositions in phrasal verbs. 

  • I love to drink a cup of coffee before running because it gives me an extra boost.
  • look forward to chatting* with you next week.

*This sentence is tricky. With “to” it seems we should use an infinitive, doesn’t it? But, to look forward to is a phrasal verb. That means “to” at the end is part of the verb, just like the verbs run, walk, drive, or manage. However, it’s also a preposition, so we follow it with a gerund. 

Here’s another example:

  • After the meeting, she broke down* crying. I’m not sure what happened but obviously it wasn’t a good meeting.

*to break down = to become very upset

 

Tip 3: Infinitives follow certain adjectives in a sentence.

  • Do you think it’s challenging to speak English in front of others?
  • She was nervous to find out about her exam results.

Here is a list of common adjectives that can be used to follow this pattern.

ahead | amazed | anxious | ashamed | bound | careful | certain | challenging | content | delighted | determined | disappointed | eager | fortunate | glad | happy | hesitant | likely | lucky | pleased | proud | ready | reluctant | sad | shocked | sorry | surprised | upset

Verbs Followed by Gerunds, Infinitives, or Both

Use the lists below to help you get more comfortable with gerunds and infinitives.

I’ve shared with you some common verbs and phrasal verbs that are followed by gerunds, infinitives, or both so you can practice. This is not a complete list, but it’s a great way to get started. The more you practice, the easier it will become when you hear/learn new verbs.

Common Verbs Followed by Gerunds OR Infinitives (with No Meaning Change)

love | like | hate | prefer | start | begin | continue

Let’s look at a couple examples. In the sentences below, both gerunds and infinitives are used after the main verb and there is no change in the meaning of the sentence.

The good news is: the list of verbs for this possibility is short, so they’re easy to memorize and practice with example questions.

I love reading all day when I have time.
I love to read all day when I have time.

She prefers to study in the evening.
She prefers studying in the evening.

I’ll begin to work in the new position next month.
I’ll begin working in the new position next month.

Practice Questions:

Here are some example questions you can use to practice. Try them with a language partner, your teacher, or talking to yourself aloud:

  • What do you like/love/hate doing on the weekends?
  • What do you love to do but you don’t have much time to do it?
  • When do you prefer to exercise – in the morning or evening?
  • Where do you prefer eating when you go out to eat?*
  • When did you start to study English?

*Out to eat = go to a restaurant for a meal

Common Verbs & Phrasal Verbs Followed by Gerunds

admit | advise | avoid | be/get used to* | can’t stand* | consider | discuss | dislike* | enjoy* | feel like | finish | forget | give up | have difficulty/problems/trouble | imagine | keep | look forward to* | miss | recommend | remember | quit | stop | suggest | understand | waste time

Here are a few example sentences:

She admitted going to the party without telling her parents.

I’m used to* working out in the morning.

They finished painting the house last week.

I recommend/suggest going to the restaurant for lunch because it’s usually less crowded and the prices are lower.

Our family enjoys going to the beach in the summer.

I feel like going out for dinner tonight.

I’m looking forward to* visiting my family this summer. 

*can’t stand = strongly dislike something/someone or have an aversion for something/someone

*dislike and enjoy — while “like,” “love,” and “prefer” can be used with gerunds or infinitives, dislike and enjoy can only be used with gerunds.

*look forward to/be used to — remember these three words together form a phrasal verb; even though they end with “to” we follow with the gerund because the “to” is a preposition and part of the verb

Practice Questions:

Here are some example questions you can use to practice. Try them with a language partner, your teacher, or talking to yourself aloud:

  • What do you have difficulty/trouble doing in English?
  • What do you look forward to doing this summer?
  • Is there anything you should stop wasting time doing?
  • Where do you recommend going to get the best local cuisine in your city?
  • Have you ever given up doing something? What was it?

Common Verbs Followed by Infinitives

Now, I know this whole gerunds vs. infinitives grammar thing is tricky. It is. But it’s going to get a little trickier with infinitives. There are two ways a verb might be followed by an infinitive:

  1. Directly after the verb: I want to go out to dinner tonight.
  2. A noun/pronoun is between the verb and the infinitive: She taught him to play the piano for 7 years.

And, of course, some can do both:

  • I asked him to meet me after work.
  • I asked to meet him after work.

I know this seems confusing but with practice, this will become more natural for you.

 

Here are common verbs followed by infinitives. If a noun/pronoun is used with the verb, I’ve added a ^ symbol after the verb:

afford | agree | allow^ | appear | arrange | ask^ | care | challenge^ | convince^ | decide | demand | expect^ | fail | force^ | forget | hire^ | hope | invite^ | learn | manage | offer | order^ | pay^ | plan | prepare | pretend | program^ | promise | refuse | remember | teach^ | tell^ | volunteer | wait | want^ | warn^ | wish

Let’s look at some example sentences:

I can’t afford to go on vacation this summer.

His parents won’t allow him to go to the party this weekend.

Did you manage to get that new position you wanted?

I forget to buy stamps today.

She always remembers to call me on my birthday.

Let’s invite our new neighbors to have dinner with us.

Practice Questions:

Here are some example questions you can use to practice. Try them with a language partner, your teacher, or talking to yourself aloud:

  • What did you decide to study at university?
  • Have you ever forgotten to do something really important? What was it?
  • What responsibilities do you hope to change or to add at your work?
  • Have you ever taught someone to do something? What was it?
  • What is one thing you really want to do in English that you can’t do now?
  • Have you ever felt reluctant about something but then found out that it was easy to do? 

CHALLENGE: Common Verbs Followed by Infinitives or Gerunds (Meaning Changes)

Of course, we need to have a little more fun. There are just a few verbs that can be followed by a gerund or infinitive, but the meaning changes. For example, the verb stop can be followed by either a gerund or infinitive, but the meaning changes.

**This is your challenge question for the day. Can you identify how the meaning of the sentences below change based on the gerund vs. infinitive?**

  • He stopped drinking water during his workouts.
  • He stopped to drink some water during his workout.

It’s Your Turn to Practice

Wow! That was a tough lesson! But the good news is, now you can practice and become more familiar with using gerunds & infinitives.

There are two activities I’d like you to do for practice:

  1. In this lesson, I’ve provided many questions to practice. Choose 1-2 questions from each group and share your answers in the comments section below.
  2. Review the CHALLENGE question and share your thoughts in your answer.

And don’t forget – if you have a language conversation partner or have a friend/colleague you can speak with, practice asking and answer these questions so you become more comfortable with this grammar structure. The more you practice, the more natural you’ll communicate in English. 

Thanks for joining me and, as always, have a wonderful week!

~ Annemarie

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