The English language features the category of Gerund, which is obsolete in many other languages. That is why non-native English speakers usually avoid it in the colloquial speech. Yet, while mastering the Gerund, remember that though it is much alike in its functions to the Infinitive, the selection of one category in favour of another can change the meaning of the whole sentence! Wondering how that is possible? Scroll down now and let’s bring those tricky guys to the light! Apply for the high-class research paper editing while preparing your own essay or any other academic paper! The talented and knowledgeable editor keen on working with students, will give you all the valuable hints and introduce necessary corrections. Upgrade your paper for your next A+!
Clarifying the basics: Gerund definition
Before plunging into details of the distinction between the two grammar categories, we should define each one of them and its properties and functions. For each category, we shall define its meaning, origin (related grammar categories), grammar function, syntactic function. We’ll, thus, make a breakdown for the Gerund and the Infinitive separately and then compare the tables.
Let us start with the Gerund:
The Gerund responds the question doing what? Meanwhile, it does not specify the conditions and circumstances of the action. Editing essays is a job requiring a certain level of the linguistic knowledge and skills.
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So, the Gerund does not refer to any actor at all and describes the action as it is – as a process (bargaining, going, exercising) or a state (meaning, being, getting). For instance, check the following phrase Getting is important as much as giving, and is necessary for going forward in one’s spiritual and psychological development.
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However, as we shall specify below, the Gerund can be also used in the passive voice. It is formed by the Gerund form of the Verb to be (being) and the passive Participle in the Past Tense:
Being run over is not a perfect way of starting a day. They seemed to be keen on nothing except regularly being seen in the company of the top stars.
Another form of the Gerund that we shall also mention further, is a Perfect Gerund form. It is formed by the Gerund form of the Verb to have (having) and the passive Participle in the Past Tense:
Having established the connections and proper communications was their number one priority that ensured their success in the business.
There is also a Passive form of the Perfect Gerund. It differs from the Active form by the form of the Participle (Passive form):
Having been put the first in the list became an additional responsibility for him, prompting him to arrive in time.
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The negative form of all forms of the Gerund is formed by adding the negative particle not. It is always put before the main part of the Gerund indicating the process (i.e., formally, the one that has –ing ending): not seeing, not being discovered, not having acted, not having been invited.
They were upset as not attending the event meant the automatic seclusion out of the Club.
Not having been read or at least shuffled through is the worst thing that can happen to a book.
That flippant walking of his made the teacher angry.
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As a Noun-closed category, the Gerund can be used with the prepositions as well. Actually, it is a good hint for identifying a Gerund in the sentence: prepositions accompany only Nouns and some Pronouns; that is why, when you see the Verb form with –ing ending connected with a preposition, you can definitely mark it as Gerund:
Lisa counted on arriving at the bus stop in time.
I thought of writing an e-mail to you but failed to access my mailbox.
As a Verb, the Gerund can be used in different Tenses. However, an assortment of the applicable Tenses is limited to the Indefinite and Perfect Tense:
Cleaning the windows outside in wintertime turned out not such a brilliant idea as it seemed beforehand. – the Indefinite Gerund.
Having visited the Planetarium had been the most remarkable experience of that day. – the Perfect Gerund.
While the Gerund indicates the actor-free process, it cannot be used in the Future Tense. Semantically, the Future Tense implies an active approach, a directed action that necessarily must have an initiator. See the smart tips helping to master Future Perfect Tense and other difficult aspects of the Verb Tenses. There is no similar thing in the Gerund. It is important not to mix up the Future Continuous forms of Verbs with the Gerund in this regard:
What do you plan? - Shall be coming to a fest in December. – in this sentence, the form with the –ing ending is a form of a Verb, not a Gerund. Though it does not have an explicit actor, his presence is implied by the context and the sentence’ meaning.
As a Verb form, the Gerund can possess the Active or Passive Voice. Though the action represented by the Gerund does not have an initiator in its basic, it can be defined as the action directed onto the Object (Active voice) or the one coming from outside (Passive Voice):
Carving the wood planks has been his favourite hobby. – Active voice, the action is aimed at the object (wood planks)
They were thankful for having been greeted and treated hospitably. – Passive voice, the action comes from outside, yet the actor is not present.
Being an infinite Verb form, the Gerund does not possess the category of a person. That is quite founded, as the essence of the category presumes there is no actual person or object we can relay the action to:
Verifying written works is one of the duties of a teacher. – Analyzing the sentence semantically, we would certainly relate the action (verifying) to the teacher. However, grammatically, there is no Subject of the action. The action as if exists on its own and is regarded as a separate Subject.
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The grammar characteristic of the Gerund also features the properties of the Noun; however, the Gerund has no article. That puts it in one row with Verbs and helps to separate the Gerund from the Verbal Noun:
This wall is asking for a new drawing. – a Verbal Noun
Drawing has been their favourite class. – a Gerund
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Having no Plural form is another distinction of the Gerund from the Verbal Noun. Describing a process or a state in its development, the Gerund can allow no plural forms, and also cannot be quantified (i.e., cannot be combined with Numerals):
From two to three buildings were to be refurbished. – a Verbal Noun
Building a business empire takes several important qualities and skills, spiced with huge luck. – a Gerund
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As we see, though being close to a Verbal Noun, the Gerund retains some important properties of a Verb. That does not allow mixing it up with other categories. However, the Gerund also possesses the features of a Noun. As a form close by its properties and functions to the Noun, the Gerund can be characterized by the following grammar attributes:
It can be used with the Attributes of a different kind (Adjectives, Adverbs), including the Possessive Pronouns:
His eccentric limping has been a part of the performance.
Checking the essay attentively and thoroughly is a part of the editing success.
Unlike other forms of a Verb (and this feature is also common for the Nouns), the Gerund is often used with the Prepositions:
We were particularly sorry about missing that conference.
Gregory thought of going to the concert with his friends.
The teacher insisted on writing the essay by hand.
As we see, another grammar property of the Gerund bringing it closer to a Noun is the possibility to use it with the other Verbs. Many of the examples were already presented above. As we see, a Gerund can be preceded by the Verb and act in capacity of its identifier and clarification:
Luckily, they allowed no violating of the rules during the Tournament.
Emma proposed singing for the Creative class, and many students voted for it.
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Subject As we already mentioned above, the independent action described by a Gerund can act as an actor as well. Thus, it can be the Subject of the sentence:
Liking anyone of Facebook does not provide you automatically with the rights to establish a connection with the person.
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Direct Object. Gerund can be an object of an action. In this regard, it can act as direct or indirect Object. Examples of the Direct Object:
Laura put blog-writing onto the first priority line in the list of her favourite jobs.
I don’t mind listening to the music in the car, but not at that speed limit.
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Indirect Object. The function of the Indirect Object presumes the Gerund is regarded as an object of the action (expressed by the Predicate), but acts rather as a benefactor of the action than its tool. It is often used with the Prepositions:
A group devoted all its efforts to winning the Art contest.
Claire has spent a lot of funds for her English writing to be improved.
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Part of the Compound Predicate. Gerund can also act as a part of a Predicate, just as some Nouns do. In this regard, it always plays a second member part:
Our mission was caring about the homeless.
My point is preventing the possible violations.
Adverbial Modifier. The Gerund can set or explain the circumstances and conditions related to the other parts of the sentence. In such capacity, it often acts as a part of the Adverbial Clause:
He stumped on a metal bar, heavily swearing.
They regarded the teacher’s words silently, without uttering a word.
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I disapproved of his way of talking to his seniors.
His point was to make his essay in a manner of copying the Hemingway style.
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As we see, the Gerund is a grammar category combining the grammar properties and syntactic function of both the Nouns and Verbs. However, it stays a Verb form due to its strong connection with an action (in term of semantics). Its usage follows a single pattern of formation (-ing ending). The properties of the Noun enable such syntactic functions as the Subject, part of the Noun Predicate, the Direct and Indirect Object, the Attribute. As a Verb form, possessing the features of a Verb, it can act as the Subject, the Adverbial Modifier, the Direct Object.
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In the next clause, we shall perform the same analysis of the Infinitive in order to find out its essential features and functions. Steaming ahead! (By the way, have you noticed a Gerund in the previous sentence?)
Clarifying the basics: Infinitive definition
The Infinitive seems to be one of the simplest grammar categories. Indeed, the learning of the foreign language often starts with remembering the basic Nouns (cat, dog, man, baby, house) and Infinitives (to go, to see, to talk, to sit). However, apart from the high understanding capacity, the Infinitive also possesses a number of grammar categories and functions, some of which approximate it to other forms of the Verb. Let us perform the analysis of this basic category.
We did not realize at the moment to perform the task.
Sarah had to buy a package of chips for talking with the seller.
Can you name the initiator of the underlined action? You might be tempted to define the initiator as a Subject of the sentence. However, the Subject has another Predicate referring to it directly and corresponding with it in number and person (know, had).
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Compare with the next phrases:
We did not know how we should perform the task.
Sarah crossed the street to reach a subway.
In these sentences, the Verb forms are put in agreement with the Subjects. However, the Infinitive vanished.
The Infinitive’s question is also described by the Infinitive: to do what? – to sail, to taste, to heat up.
What are you up to? – I’m going to proofread my essay on writing styles.
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Thus, the Infinitive serves to identify a pure action, regardless of its initiator and performer. As such, it does not determine the limits (time or physical) of the action. The latter is described in its development only (even when the semantics implies it to be the other way: to complete, to finish, to cut up). The meaning of a process, of a continuous / limitless action is the main component of the Infinitive.
Elijah wished the performance to be over as soon as he heard the first few chords.
Fortunately, it did not take much time for the team leader to put the team together.
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The to + Verb form is applied for the simple Infinitive, Active Voice. Further on, we shall discuss the different grammar forms of the infinitive stressing on their meaning. In this sub-clause, we’ll just mention the way they are formed.
The simple Infinitive can be also put in a Passive Voice. In this case, it is formed by the Infinitive of the Verb to be and the Past Participle:
My cat likes to be patted on the hair.
The lab report needs to be revised for grammar reasons.
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Both Active and Passive Infinitive have a Perfect form. For the Active voice, in order to form it, you need to use the Infinitive to have followed by the Past Participle:
The teacher was surprised to have received so many positive reports on the issue.
Steve was glad to have completed the task on time.
Perfect form of the Passive Infinitive is formed by means of the Infinitive to have + third form of to be (been) + Past Participle. The construction is harder to describe than to use. See the examples:
My job seems to have been estimated high, and paid accordingly.
The parcel was implied to have been returned to the sender.
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There are other two forms of the Active Infinitive that have their peculiarities of formation. The Continuous Infinitive gets shaped by using the Infinitive to be without a particle to + Continuous form of a Verb:
They must be going home at the time.
The kids should be enjoying an entertainment at this Play center.
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Another Active voice form is a Perfect-Continuous infinitive. To use it, you must also drop the Particle to and take an Infinitive form (to) have been followed by the Continuous form of a Verb:
The garden tools must have been staying in the closet since last autumn.
Jack could have been training his linguistic skills for a long time.
The to particle can be omitted in the following cases (such an Infinitive is called a zero-Infinitive or a bare Infinitive):
We might help you, if you only let us to.
John can visit the conference free of charge this time.
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We couldn’t make the dog leave the territory.
Josh let the visitors come in.
The class saw the robot slowly lift his hand.
I heard him talk yesterday.
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The Simple Infinitive (Active and Passive) is used when the action it describes is taking part simultaneously with the one described by the Predicate Verb:
We’re delighted to invite you to our party.
I’m frustrated to be estimated this low.
Otherwise, the action can take part independent of a time limit of the Predicate Verb’s action:
I like to be praised high.
I’m glad to be a part of this tremendous innovative project.
A Simple Infinitive used with the Modal Verbs (ought to, must, should etc.) and some Verbs (hope, expect, intend etc.) indicates the action is to take part in the future:
We intend to make a good presentation at the student’s conference.
She must be given the highest grade for this report.
The Continuous Infinitive indicates that the action is going on simultaneously with the one expressed by the Predicate Verb:
Jill is quite good at her English lessons. She seems to be overcoming her fear to talk foreign languages.
The road construction turns to be brushing away all the greenery.
The Perfect Infinitive serves to transmit the meaning of the action preceding (in terms of time) the one expressed by the Predicate Verb:
He’s been delighted to have invited you to the gala dinner.
Lisa was sorry to have forgotten the lines at the rehearsal.
The Perfect form of the Infinitive gets a particular meaning when being used with the Modal Verbs. Combined with such words as ought to, might, could, was / were, it implies the action could or should be taken, yet hasn’t been performed:
We were to have submitted this report last week. – This form implies that we haven’t actually submitted the report.
Gregory might have received a bad score for his impertinent behavior. – It is possible to continue “but was lucky to avoid it”.
Being put together with Modal Verbs may and must; the Perfect form of the Infinitive implies the action presumably to be performed already:
I must have written my essay well, for it was put on a top of the list.
You may have forgotten, but we are going to attend the Rock concert tomorrow.
When a Perfect Infinitive follows certain Verbs (to mean, to intend, to hope, to expect), this combination creates the meaning of an action that was planned to take place yet has not been performed / completed:
Alisa meant to have made the Christmas presents herself. – And we can presume that she finally bought them at Amazon.
The play was intended to have inspired the feelings of joy and happiness. – “But turned out to be rather a gloomy stuff”.
The Perfect-Continuous Infinitive describes the action that has started before the action of the Predicate Verb and is being performed at the moment:
The mails seemed to have been arriving to his mailbox since the last New Year. – We can extend the phrase “and they continue to arrive”.
I must have been doing this mistake in all of my essays. – “and I’m doing it again now”.
Thus, different types of the Infinitive serve to express different time connections with the Predicate Verb and also some tints of a meaning: purpose, intention, regret, expectation.
Meanwhile, the Infinitive possesses a Voice (Active or Passive):
I have to relay this issue to the judgment of the chairman committee. – Active Voice, the action has its direct object and is presumed to have the initiator eventually.
This issue has to be relayed to the judgment of the chairman committee. – Passive Voice, the action will presumably have the Subject in place of the Object of an action. The action is enforced from outside and does not originate from the Subject.
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It also has a Tense grammar aspect; however, not all the Tenses the Verb has. The Infinitive can be expressed by means of the Indefinite Tense:
Susan likes to read fiction.
We need the car to be fixed as soon as possible.
It also has a Perfect Tense:
I was wrongly said to have missed this lesson on Poisonous Plants.
Cary was surprised to have been accepted to this committee so fast.
The Infinitive can also be used in the Continuous Tense:
I seemed to be charging the same task to the different persons simultaneously.
The music might have been hitting the walls visibly.
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Infinitive can be a Subject of the sentence. The action is regarded as an independent essence that can have its own predicates. However, the Verb to be, as well as the Modal Verbs, limit the assortment of predicates available:
To find a way out was not an easy task. – Subject
To explain might be as hard as to refuse to do it. – Subject
The Infinitive can describe different conditions and situations. As such, it can be used in the function of the Adverbial Modifier:
We’ve been busy enough to pay attention to such “trifles” as proofreading. – Adverbial Modifier of consequence / condition
They have written this report to please the teacher with their dutifulness. – Adverbial Modifier of purpose
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The Infinitive, due to its properties described above (impersonality), cannot act as a Predicate, yet it can form a part of a Compound Predicate:
Lisa was ready to assist them in cleaning the garden. – Compound Verbal Predicate
Her intention was to help her parents. – Compound Nominal Predicate
Representing a form of a Verb, Infinitive features many of the latter’s properties (Voice, Tense, syntactic functions). It has two types of formation (regular and a zero-infinitive), can be combined with the Modal Verbs. It might serve as a Subject, part of the Compound Predicate, an Adverbial Modifier. Depending on the particulars of the grammar form, the Infinitive can determine different meaning of the sentence and establish the correspondence in time with the Predicate Verb.
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Spot the difference: Gerund vs. Infinitive
Now, when we have defined both categories, we can perform their comparative analysis basis the data we have. See the main principles of the comparative analysis in linguistics for better understanding of the process. Let us indicate the similar and distinctive features following the breakdown proposed above, and then pass on to the recommendations regarding the usage of the both categories.
What the Gerund and the Infinitive have in common:
1. Both grammar categories originate from the Verb (scolding – to scold – scold). And both of them do not specify or imply any actor initiating the action they indicate (Unauthorized passing of the border line is strictly prohibited. – To pass unauthorized is strictly prohibited.) The main focus stays on the action as a continuous process:
The kids enjoyed jumping in the puddles as much as gathering the dry sticks for the fire.
It was an outstanding experience to remember for a lifetime.
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2. Due to the Verbal nature, both these categories neither possess a grammar aspect of a person nor need an article to be used:
They enjoyed metal carving.
They enjoyed to carve metal.
Meanwhile, such grammar aspects as the Voice (Active / Passive) and the Tense are applicable:
Being rewarded is quite a pleasant feeling, especially when a great job is done. – Passive Voice of the Gerund
It was unlikely that Greg would go to a party just to be introduced to some important people. – Passive Voice of the Infinitive
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Both Gerund and Infinitive have the Indefinite Perfect and Continuous Tense that can be also combined. Meanwhile, neither of these two grammar categories has a Future Tense:
Having designed a new carbon coating for a spaceship was his favourite dream. – Perfect form of the Gerund
Students claim to be having the equal rights to vote, according to the new regulations. – the Continuous Infinitive
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3. Both categories have the features and grammar properties of a Noun. Meanwhile, the Gerund has more attributes of a Noun; the Infinitive possesses only some traces of the Noun, like syntactic function of the Subject and that of the Compound / Complex Predicate:
Fixing the mistakes before the essay is submitted is a must-do step. - Subject
It is a must-do step to fix the mistakes before the essay is submitted. - Subject
The lecturer’s intention was bringing attention to the problems of the homeless. – Compound Predicate
The lecturer intended to bring attention to the problems of the homeless. – Compound Predicate
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4. Another syntactic function pertaining to both Infinitive and Gerund is a function of the Adverbial Modifier. Mainly, it is the type of the Adverbial Modifier specifying condition or manner:
On that day, Jeremiah delivered too many holiday letters to be accused of laziness. – Adverbial Modifier of condition
The group was waiting for a teacher silently, sometimes exchanging the low whispers. – Adverbial Modifier of manner.
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Where the Gerund and Infinitive differ:
1. Way of formation. The Gerund has a single way of formation and always features the ending –ing. Meanwhile, the Infinitive has two ways of representation (the regular Infinitive and bare Infinitive) that differ by the presence or absence of a particle to:
We caught a glimpse of Josh sweep by in his new car. – Zero Infinitive
Persuading to buy is a number one intention of all the retail shops. – Gerund
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2. The Gerund has more properties of a Noun, than the Infinitive has. It can be combined with the Attributes of a different kind (His unbearable snoring has made the meeting yet less serious) and can be used with the Prepositions (Joanna thought of making juice but could not make herself stand up from the chaise-longue).
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3. The closer proximity of the Gerund to the Noun makes a basis for its wider syntactic functions: while the Infinitive can act only as a Subject, part of the Compound Predicate and Adverbial Modifier, the Gerund can also undertake many other functions. That implies a function of the Direct Object (The sisters enjoyed attending the Red Cross charity auction), the Indirect Object (Prof. Jones organized each lecture individually and creatively for keeping student’s attention on the subject for a long time afterwards) and the Attribute (His cousin liked his way of treating people with politeness and care).
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So, while both Gerund and Infinitive represent the Verbal grammar categories, the Gerund features more attributes of a Noun. This provides for its wider syntactic and grammatical functions. At the same time, these two grammar categories have a lot in common. In particular, they can perform the same function in a sentence. That is why Gerund and Infinitive often can be mixed up and wrongly used by non-native English speakers.
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Let us mention the situations where the usage of each of the categories is determined by the grammar rules or by the context:
1. Syntactic function.
Fighting the shadows can be exhausting yet not bringing any result. – Gerund
To fight the shadows can be exhausting. – Infinitive
The hardest thing is overcoming yourself. – Gerund
The hardest thing is to overcome yourself. – Infinitive
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In the phases above, while the constructions with the Infinitive are acceptable by the grammar rules, they sound less natural than the construction with the Gerund. So, it is preferable to use the Gerund, whenever you need a Verb form for a Subject or a part of the Compound / Complex Predicate.
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George likes cooking vegetarian meals. – [He always likes cooking it] Gerund
George would like to cook vegetarian meals. – [He wants to cook it right now] Infinitive
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We bought the dictionary to learn more of English words. – Infinitive, more natural
We bought the dictionary for learning more words that are English. – Gerund
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2. Grammar properties.
Requested deep editing exceeded their most optimistic expectations. – Gerund
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We talked a lot about walking three miles a day as a means of health support. - Gerund
Corinna dedicated a whole chapter to analyzing the issue of editing. – Gerund (not Infinitive)
I do remember putting the book on your desk before leaving. – Gerund
A new student did not understand their laughing at the teacher’s joke. - Gerund
They planned to leave without notifying anyone. – Infinitive
Greta hoped to grow the plants in a greenhouse. – Infinitive
For instance, used after the Verb try, the Gerund means either non-acceptance of the trial by a person or multiple trials and experiments. Such constructions are often followed by the Conjunction but:
Chuck tried recognizing the letters, but their meaning was incomprehensible for him. – Gerund
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The Infinitive in the same position can mean either unsuccessful trial or non-determined position of the person regarding the trial:
I tried not to upset them by this news. – [but they got upset nevertheless] Infinitive
My friends and I often go skating on Saturdays. - Gerund
My refusal to eat crabs was met with a look of incomprehension on her face. – Infinitive
Howard gave them advice to learn grammar before trying to edit the essay themselves. - Infinitive
The auditory was amazed to hear such words from him. – Infinitive
Are you happy to have this grade for your essay? – Infinitive
As we see, the grammar properties and syntactic functions of the Gerund and Infinitive determine their usage in certain syntactic patterns. Meanwhile, there are also many Verbs and constructions that allow either the use of only one of these categories, or change their meaning depending on the actual category used. However, this does not imply one should know by heart the lists of these constructions in order to use them properly. These set language patterns are the product of the generally accepted language usage, and all you need to remember them properly is – talk and listen to English!
Hope that the current post has helped you to put all the pieces of the Gerund – Infinitive puzzle together and make the picture clear. For any grammar issue, you can always consult our online blog. It features not only smart and entertaining articles on editing but also the reviews on the most difficult grammar issues of the English language. We are top class paper editing website online! Remember that you can approach our competent team of editors any moment! Just fill in your request on the contact page of the website or use the opportunity of a live chat with the professional linguist!
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