One of the difficulties of the English language is to know whether to use a gerund (ex : doing) or an infinitive (ex : to do).
Generally speaking we can use the following rules:
Examples Rules Explanations Verb + gerund 1. I enjoy playing
2. I denied stealing
Often we use the gerund for an action that happens before or at the same time as the action of the main verb. 1. I enjoy myself at the time of playing.
2. I deny having stolen anything before.
Verb + infinitive 1. I decided to visit my uncle
2. I want to go out
Often we use the infinitive for actions that follow the action of the main verb. 1. Visiting my uncle was an action of my decision. It comes after.
2. What I want (now) is to go out (after/later)
These rules are helpful but DO NOT always explain all uses of gerunds and infinitives.
1- After verbs that express likes/dislikes :
" I like playing soccer but I hate boxing."
Note "like/love/hate..." can be also followed by an infinitive:
I like to watch TV in the evening.
2- After verbs such as :
Verbs Examples admit He admitted stealing the wallet. advise I wouldn't advise buying a used car. allow They don't allow smoking here. (Note that when an object is introduced an infinitive is used instead of a gerund: they allowed us to leave early.) anticipate He anticipated passing the exam. avoid She avoided meeting him. appreciate I appreciate working with you. complete They completed building their house. consider She considered starting a new business. delay She delayed doing her homework. deny He denied stealing the money. fancy Fancy meeting you here! finish She finished writing the letter. go go swimming. imagine He imagines meeting her. involve the job involves working in teams. keep He keeps complaining about his girlfriend. mention He mentioned working in that company. mind Would you mind helping me? miss He misses talking to her. permit The don't permit smoking here. (Note that, like allow, when an object is introduced an infinitive is used instead of a gerund: they permitted us to leave early.) postpone They postponed traveling to Japan. practice She practiced painting. reject He rejected working with them. resist He couldn't resist eating the cake. risk She risks losing her job. suggest I suggest leaving early. waste time/money
Don't waste my time complaining.
3- After prepositions
- aim at
- keep on
- interested in
- instead of
- good at
- before ...
- after ...
"I am interested in collecting stamps."
"After playing football I drank an orange juice".
4- After some expressions :
- It's no use ...
- It's no good ...
- There's no point in ...
- I can't help...
- I don't mind...
- I can't stand/bear...
" It's no use convincing him to meet her. "
1- After verbs that generally refer to a future event:
Verbs Examples afford We can't afford to buy a new car. agree She agreed to help him. aim The government aims to reduce illiteracy rates arrange He arranged to stay at a hotel. attempt He attempted to join them. choose He chose to stay at home. consent She consented to marry him. decide They decided to go to the movies. deserve He deserves to be punished. demand He demanded to speak to Mrs. Lynch endeavor They endeavor to provide the best possible service expect They expected to arrive early. fail He failed to convince him. happen They happened to be at the theatre when we met them. help She helped me to do the exercise. (Note, help is also followed by a bare infinitive: She helped me do the exercise.) hope I hope to join you as soon as possible. intend She intends to write an autobiography. learn He learned to play the guitar when he was young. manage He managed to do his homework without his mother's help. need I need to find a job. offer He offers to help us. plan He plans to follow a career as an engineer. pretend The child pretended to be asleep. proceed He proceeded to show us how to use the machine. promise She promised to come on time. refuse She refused to forgive him. seem He seemed to be unhappy. swear I swear to tell the truth. threaten He threatened to reveal her secret. volunteer He always volunteers to help the needy. want I want to finish my work early. would hate He would hate to lose. would like He would like to drink a cup of tea. would love I would love to meet you.
2- After adjectives
- be determined
- be disappointed
- be glad
- be happy
- be pleased
"I'm glad to know that you passed the exam."
"I'm pleased to meet you."
"I'm disappointed to hear that you flunked maths."
3- After "too" & "enough":
"It's too difficult to convince him to be helpful."
" But it's easy enough to fool him to get what you want."
Exercise on gerund or infinitive.
Some verbs can be followed by either a gerund or an infinitive. Here are some examples:
"I started smoking when I was young."
"I started to smoke when I left the office."