Author Topic: Infinitives and Gerunds  (Read 7202 times)

English Maiden

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Infinitives and Gerunds
« on: November 05, 2011, 01:15:19 PM »
Hi, Joe!

What I know is that gerunds and infinitives can be commonly used interchangeably with no difference in meaning, as with these examples:

I like eating.
I like to eat.

But I recently came across an online article on gerunds and infinitives that states otherwise, saying that in most cases, there is little to great difference in meaning with the use of gerunds and infinitives. Do the examples above mean exactly the same? Or, like what the article that I read explains, is there difference in meaning between them? I hope you will help me with this. Thank you in advance!

Joe Carillo

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Re: Infinitives and Gerunds
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2011, 10:21:58 AM »
Forum member Miss Mae posted a related question in the Forum last October 19 (“Is there bias against infinitives?) In my answer, I explained that infinitives and gerunds, although both verbals or verb forms that function as nouns, are not freely interchangeable and not mutually equivalent. In English, some verbs can take either a gerund or an infinitive as direct object, but other verbs can only take the gerund as direct object.

In the case of the verb “like,” it just so happens that it’s one of those verbs that can take either a gerund or an infinitive as direct object. We can see this in the case of your examples, “I like eating” (the direct object is the gerund “eating”) and “I like to eat” (the direct object is the infinitive “to eat”). These two sentences have practically the same meaning, a particular instance where the gerund form and the infinitive form are interchangeable.

In contrast, the verb “suggest” can’t take an infinitive as direct object. This is why the sentence presented by Miss Mae in her posting, where the infinitive “to assign” is the direct object of the verb “suggest,” doesn’t read and sound right: “I suggest to assign a doctor that would handle all the walk-in appointments.” But look when we change that infinitive into a gerund: “I suggest assigning a doctor that would handle all the walk-in appointments.” It’s now a perfectly worded sentence that reads and sounds right.

In my reply to Miss Mae, I gave a list of the common verbs that can take only gerunds as direct object and of the common verbs that can take only infinitives as direct object. I suggest you thoroughly familiarize yourself with them. For a more comprehensive discussion of the subject, though, check out Section 5- “Harnessing the Various Grammar Structures” of my book Give Your English the Winning Edge. It devotes four chapters to the usage of gerunds and infinitives.



nomana89

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Re: Infinitives and Gerunds
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2011, 05:57:47 PM »
Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!