How to Use Gerunds and Infinitives

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Transcript of video

Welcome to our first lunchtime lesson on gerunds and infinitives. So these are going to be short lessons where we look at things that very commonly cause problems for people. And at the moment, I’ve asked you how difficult you find gerunds and infinitives, and I’m seeing quite difficult to OK. And the other question I’m just going to ask before we go further, can everyone put in the chat box your first language? So I think most people’s first language on this call is Spanish, but not everyone’s OK.
So, Greek I’m not sure about Maria, but I think. Yeah, for Spanish, French speakers, Latin origin languages, we’re all going to have the same similar problems because of gerunds and infinitives. So I’m just going to present my screen for you guys. Right, so let’s get started. I’m just going to take you through the most important things you need to know about gerunds and infinitives and then there will be time afterwards for questions. OK, so if there’s anything that you want to ask me that you’re not sure about  make a little note and then we can deal with questions at the end of the class.
OK, guys, so we’re going to look, first of all, just the basic rules for gerunds and infinitives, OK? And you’ll find quite a lot of more complex rules or difficult ways to understand them. But essentially, if you know these basics, it should solve most of your problems.

When to use infinitives in English

1) After certain verbs

​So basically, if we look at the infinitives first I’m guessing everyone knows what I’m talking about when I say an infinitive. So that means that we’re going to follow a verb with to. There are some verbs in English which just have this pattern. OK, so I wouldn’t say decide  have a coffee. I would decide to have a coffee. I wouldn’t help make dinner, I would help to make dinner.OK, so these verbs are naturally following a verb pattern. In English, we don’t really have difficult grammar tenses like you do in in Latin or Greek languages. But we do have these slightly more complex verb patterns. So just approach it like you have to learn irregular verbs in your language. This is what you have to do in English. Now, there’s no rule as to which of these words will follow an infinitive. A way to think about it that sometimes my students find helpful is that they follow or they deal with kind of like a basic need, like think about it as a part of being human. You want something, you offer something, you plan something. It’s not perfect. But it’s an idea to think  about it and how to approach it. So we’ve got some verbs that unfortunately we need to learn these patterns.

2) After adjectives

OK, another nice and easy rule. When you have an adjective, we follow that with an infinitive. Right? So he’s happy to drive. It’s easy to learn. It’s nice to eat.

3) To express purpose

​When you want to express why you’re doing something so to talk about purpose, we use to plus infinitive. A really common mistake that students make is that you confuse for and to. OK, so what I hear is all the time is I am going to to Scotland for study English, to give you an example. A way to think about if you should use the word for or if you should use the word to is to ask yourself the question why? So let me give you an example. So I’m going to Scotland to do Claire’s course. Why are you going? The answer is here, right? To do Claire’s course, you’re expressing your purpose. But if we look at this example, I work for my father. Why? There can be lots of reason.  I work for him because it’s a family business or I work for him because he’s a nice guy. I’m not expressing a purpose here, right?  I’m giving you an explanation. And for is basically always followed by a noun here too.  So you shouldn’t be following for with a verb.

When to use gerunds in English

1) After certain verbs

All right, so that’s our infinitives, if we move on to our gerunds, there’s also going to be some verbs which always followed by gerund, although I’m going to come back to this point in a second, but very often, if you’re talking about verbs of preference. OK, so we’re thinking like prefer, like,  all these kind of ones. We’re generally following those with the gerund we’re going to talk about,

​2) After linkers

After linkers, we’re going to be following with a gerund as well.So, “however, listening to music is fun”.

3) After prepositions

If you’ve got verbs which have a preposition, except, of course, to, because that’s over here with our infinitives, you need to use the gerund and that means if you’re using a phrasal verb. OK, so he spends a lot of money on (preposition) going to the cinema. Yeah. Be careful. Right. So if in this example I’m looking forward to my phrasal verb  is all three of those words. So because that’s your phrasal verb, I still need to use the gerund here. All right? But all of those examples guys come down to the same point

Number 1 rule to use gerunds correctly

When the verb functions as a noun, you need to use a gerund. And this is very difficult for, for example, Spanish speakers, because in Spanish, you guys do the exact opposite. You use the infinitive to function as a noun.  So it’s a really, really common error for you guys because you’re quite often making a direct translation and it’s a difficult one to fix. Let me show you what I’m talking about to illustrate a little bit better. So these are the examples that I had here in all of these examples.
I could change the words to “it”. , so I prefer”it” however, listening to music, so all of this here, this is my verb phrase. All of that could be changed to “it”. All right, and he spends a lot of money on so all of that there, guys is going to be your noun phrase “it”. The same as here. I’m looking forward to “it”. So as a general rule, again, if you’re not sure. Think about if you can substitute. In a lot of grammar books, they’ll tell you that it functions as the subject. That’s true, but it’s not the only time that it’s going to function.
The gerund is going to function as a subject or it might be an object as well, right? If the verb functions as a noun, use a gerund. OK, so this is a great thing to get tattooed you’re looking for for a new design or something like that, get it on your arm (JOKING!). OK, a good word to remember and a nice mantra to have as well.

These rules are really helpful for reviewing your writing

​So these are the basic rules. This is what you need to be confident about. In terms of your writing  really recommend thinking about these rules. So using it after an adjective and using it after a preposition or a linker, this is really useful when you’re revising writing because you can check to see if you’ve made that error. If I’ve got an adjective, it should be followed by to.

Unusual gerund and infinitive patterns

Let’s move on. So there are some patterns which are unusual or have a slight difference in meaning when we’ve got gerunds and infinitives. Some of them are very small differences or don’t really matter. Others actually make quite a big difference. So we’ve got six examples here. The first one is here, guys. I love I like I don’t like –  we saw these before. So these verbs will usually be followed by a gerund because we’re talking about an activity, so you need to have a noun.
But we can also follow it with to. . The difference between these here, it’s a tiny difference, don’t get too obsessed about it. But basically in the second example with to,  you’re being more specific. So I like swimming the activity in general. I like to swim in the sea, OK? I like shopping. I like to shop in the sale. I like cooking. I like to cook fish. All right. It’s a small difference. Don’t get too obsessed. It doesn’t really matter too much because it’s not going to change the meaning.
OK,In this one here with the verbs, this is the same, number two and number three, the same thing is happening here, guys. Remember, to, or remember with -ing. So the rule we gave before, it’s functioning as the noun. It’s happening here as well – ” I remember visiting Rome” You’re talking about a memory. Because you’re talking about a memory, you’re talking about a thing – I remember “it”. It’s the same here – I2’ll never forget seeing James Brown”,  I’ll never forget “it”. I’m talking about a memory. But these ones here – “I remembered to lock the door” or “don’t forget to buy the milk”,  these were things I needed to do, right?These were actions I had to do, OK? They’re not memories. If I was going to talk to a policeman, for example, because somebody has robbed my house, I might say “I remember locking the door” because I’m talking about the memory in that example. But if I’m giving an instruction, I’m going to use this here.
Number four with “try” is a good example of where we do get quite a difference in meaning. So if I tell you that you should try doing yoga to help you relax, what I’m saying here is that you should experiment with it. OK, again, we’re talking here about a noun –  like try “this”, try “it”. If I, as your teacher, say that your results are very bad and you must try to improve, here I’m telling you to make an effort. So we’ve got a difference in meaning with these two here. The example with stop is also the same, it’s a different one. So if I stop to smoke a cigarette, I was doing something and I interrupted that action but if I stop smoking. I finish an activity because I have my gerund here, so again, he stopped “it”-  the rule works. So the first one here, if I stop to do something, I interrupt an action. If I stop doing something, I end an activity. And then in number six, you’ll see these three verbs which are all synonyms, right? Start, continue, begin. And these can take both –  I started to smoke or I started smoking, it does not affect the meaning at all. The ones which are more important to remember here, guys, are two, three, four or five, because these will be the ones that will have a difference in meaning. Number one and number six, just be aware that there are two options, and like I said, number one, there is that difference of to be more specific, but it’s really not a big deal. Don’t get to worried about that,  the others are more important to remember.

Modals and Semi-Modals

​OK. Another time that people quite often get confused with to and infinitives is with modals or semi-modals because pure models don’t to take “to” but our semi-models do so it can be really quite confusing.
So this one here, guys, I’m going to get you to write your answers in the chat box this time. Is this correct or incorrect? If it’s incorrect. can you put the correct answer in the chat box for me? So can I say I must to go, . Good work, everyone. Right. Excellent. OK, what about the next one, I would rather to go. Is I would rather to go correct. No, no, I would rather go. OK, what about “I would like to go”. Do you think that’s OK, does it need changed?  And what about “I prefer to go”? Correct. OK, Tatiana, “I prefer going” or “I would prefer going”, you could do that if you don’t have “would”, OK, because they’re you’re just expressing your preference. So because it’s your preference, you’re going to have something functioning as a noun. Right? So I prefercooking. So in that case, you could. But if we’re using would here, you’re making a choice, right? And here, if you need to use “to”. OK, the last one “I had better to go”.  Sorry, bad news, that one is incorrect – I’d better go. So, of course, these can be confusing, right? Because sometimes we’re using “to”, sometimes we’re not using”to”. Sometimes we’re using gerunds. You just need to learn these, please. If it’s what we call a pure modal, like “must” OK or “should” or a “may”, these pure models never have “to” and they’re always followed just by bare infinitive -must go, should see. These –  would rather and would prefer – if anyone’s doing any Cambridge exams, they’re quite often tested in keyword transformations. So it’s a good difference to know. So “I’d rather go, I would prefer to”.  “I would like”-  If you’re using a verb is always with “to”, if you’re using a noun we don’t use that. And “I had better” is never going to be followed by “to”. Right. That’s confusing because we have the semi-modal “have to”. No one said this was going to be easy. But just watch out for these because they are things that quite often, if you’re doing Cambridge exams, are very often tested.

Difference between Make and Let

​OK, the other thing that’s quite often tested for gerunds and infinitives is the difference with these two verbs as well, because this is a little bit tricky. So we’ve got “make” and “let”. If we look at this example – “I made him tidy his room” – you’ll see that we don’t have “to” here or a gerund, we just have an infinitive without “to” and the same with “let”. I’m just following with a bare infinitive, “to”. But if I change it here – “he was made to tidy his room” – can anyone tell me what structure that’s in? What’s different between “I made him” and “he was made to”. Yes, it’s the passive. So we’ve got the active sentence here, but if I’m using this in the passive voice, it changes, right? So when you’re using the verb “make” in passive, you need to use “to” plus infinitive. If you’re using it in an active sentence, the same with “let”, we need to have the object first,  OK, so “make” + object. “let” + object, and then you’ve got the infinitive by itself. Can I use this structure  –  “he was let to kiss her”? Could I  put this into the passive, does that sound OK? No, I can’t and I can’t because of the verb, right? So the meaning of i”let” cannot be put into a passive structure because one person has to do it to another,  so that’s why we can’t use it that way. So, “make” and “let”  will  have your object plus an infinitive without “to”, unless it’s in the passive with “make”. Again, guys, if you’re doing Cambridge exams, that’s one of these things they like to test. So it’s a useful thing to have


OK, so to summarize what we’ve talked about so far. When do we use an infinitive plus “to”, what are the rules?  After some –  so things like meet, decide, help. After adjectives and when your answer is “why”, when you’re expressing purpose. For example, . I am studying English to get a job.
Can anyone remember the test if I’m not sure if I should use “for” or “to”? So you guys that rule that you’re putting i now,  for changing for it, that’s for gerunds. So if I’m not sure if I should use”for” or “to”,for is for nouns, and remember, this is where you ask the question “why” – I’m learning English to pass the exam. Why? To pass the exam.
What are the common mistakes students make with infinitives? So we didn’t talk about this, but let me just summarize for you. The mistakes I see very often is confusing “for” or “to” and sometimes putting them in the same sentence – “I am studying English for to get a good job”. Really common mistake that I hear all the time.
OK, what’s the number one rule to use the gerund? So after some verbs is not the number one rule. After linkers, yes, but it’s not the number one rule. When it’s functioning as a noun, well done. When the verb is functioning as a noun – that’s what you have to remember, guys. So that’s the trick that some of you put before . If you can change your gerund for the word “it” then it’s going to be working. That’s your test. Remember, sometimes it’s more than just one word. So it’s not just “listening”, it would be “listening to music”, for example. All of that verb phrase would be functioning  as your noun, but you can substitute with “to”. OK, so especially for Spanish or French speakers, why do you make mistakes like this – “to run is my favorite hobby?” Because you guys do the exact opposite, right? So in Spanish and French, you guys use the infinitive as the subject instead of the gerund.
And my last question, do you think it’s quite common for a  verb to function as a noun in English? Do you think that’s something that happens quite a lot or it’s not very common? It is, it’s really common, OK, we use it all the time, and this is one of the problems why it’s such a common error in  people’s speaking and writing. Now, just to say as well,  it’s not really a communicative problem. If you say to somebody ” I  like smoke, I like to smoke – sorry that’s a bad example because we could use both of them. But “Smoke is a bad habit” – I’m going to understand what you’re saying, OK? It’s not a communicative issue here. I will understand what you’re saying. It is going to be more of a problem when you’re coming to your written English, because it’s one of these mistakes that really comes out from the page and doesn’t look very nice.
So you want to try and think about working with your gerunds and infinitives, especially for your written English, OK, to have that accuracy. And remember as well, if you make a mistake when you’re speaking, you’re making a mistake generally when you’re writing. So if you work on it in your writing, it’s going to naturally eradicate itself from your spoken English

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