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Gerunds and infinitives A guide for level B2 students
At this stage, you know: that when one verb follows another, the first verb determines the form of the second. This can be the gerund (verb + ing) Or the infinitive (with or without to)
When to use the gerund After certain verbs you always need the gerund: admit, avoid, enjoy, fancy, finish, risk, regret, begin, miss, imagine, suggest
Certain expressions I can’t stand working in an office! I can’t help falling in love with you! No more complaining!
After phrasal verbs Give up smoking. Keep on dancing! Take up gardening. I look forward to meeting you.
The infinitive 1. (with to) After certain verbs including: Agree, appear, offer, be able to, decide, expect, promise, refuse, seem, threaten, want, need, plan, manage, learn, help
The infinitive 2 (without to) After modal verbs: can, can’t, may, might must, should, had better, would rather, make and let. We should do this more often. My boss makes me work hard all week. She lets me leave early on Fridays.
I like cooking v. I like to cook? In the past, you probably learnt that after verbs such as “like”, it’s better to use the gerund. but, you may have noticed that in fact, verbs such as like, love and prefer can be followed by either the gerund or the infinitve.
As a guideline... The gerund is more common when talking generally, while the infinitive is more specific: I like going out ( in general) I like to go out on a Saturday night (specific). I don’t like cooking (in general) But I like to cook for my partner sometimes (more specific).
No change in meaning I began studying French when I was 14 I began to study French when I was 14 I started driving when I was 17. I started to drive when I was 17. I continued studying after work. I continued to study after work.
Change in meaning (you have to learn these) Please remember to buy some bread! I remember buying sweets after school. I forgot to do my English homework. I’ll never forget seeing her for the first time. I stopped going to German classes. I stopped to talk to my friend in the street.
Change in meaning Try to finish work early on Friday so we can go away for the weekend. Try finishing work early on Friday (to see if you feel better) I try to do yoga twice a week, but sometimes I only go once. Why don’t you try doing yoga once a week?
Change in meaning I need to clean my car. The car needs cleaning (passive contruction) My teacher made me work hard. I was made to work hard at school.
If in doubt... More verbs are followed by the infinitive than gerund. Remember phrasal verbs are always follwed by the gerund. Use your intuition!