What is a Gerund?

A gerund (often known as an -ing word) is a noun formed from a verb by adding -ing. See also Nouns/Gerund.

You've probably been using them for years.

What is the infinitive?

An infinitive is to + the verb.

The most famous infinitive quote has to be, "To be or not to be. That is the question."

Gerunds and infinitives are forms of verbs that act like nouns. They can follow adjectives and other verbs. Gerunds can also follow prepositions.

When a verb follows a verb it either takes the gerund or infinitive form.

Some verbs can take either the gerund or the infinitive with no loss of meaning.

For example:

  • With the verb start - "It started to rain." or "It started raining." Both sentences have the same meaning.

Sometimes the use of the gerund or infinitive changes the meaning of the sentence.

For example:

  • With the verb remember - "I remembered to do my homework". or "I remembered doing my homework."

In the first sentence (I remembered to do my homework), the person speaking remembered they had some homework first and then carried out the action and did it. In the second sentence (I remembered doing my homework.), the person speaking carried out the action (their homework) first and then remembered doing it.

Other verbs only take one or the other, unfortunately there is no rule as to which form the verb takes. The same is true when the verb follows an adjective.

The best way to learn their correct use is with practice - these lists may help:-

List of verbs which are normally followed by the gerund - with some examples.

List of verbs which are normally followed by the infinitive - with some examples.

List of verbs which can be followed by the gerund or infinitive - with some examples.

Gerunds after Prepositions

When a verb is used after a preposition the verb takes the -ing form.

For example:-

  • You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

List of gerunds after prepositions.