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Grammar: Gerund or Infinitive?

Gerund or Infinitive

Grammar: Gerund or Infinitive?

How do you know when a verb is followed by gerund or infinitive? Well, there are no hard and fast rules to tell us which verbs take the gerund (-ing form), which are followed by to + infinitive, and which can take both forms; you just have to learn them.

Reading is a good way to get used to what sounds right or wrong. Before we start, get a pen and paper, and copy this table:

Verb + gerund

Verb + to + infinitive

Both are possible

Now read the article below and complete the table with the verbs in bold. We recommend adding to this table with the verbs that come up in the following exercises too. (Answers at the foot of the page.)

Enjoy yourself!

When it comes to entertainment and ways to spend our free time, we’re faced with a wide range of options. Some people want to start their leisurely days with a walk in the park; I like listening to the birds as I stroll along. Others may prefer to sit down with a cup of coffee and a good book.

Many people enjoy attending live music concerts or seeing a play, while others might decide to take up a new hobby such as painting or cooking. And it’s never too late to start to study a language, or learn to play a musical instrument. Go swimming, or if you prefer playing team sports, join a football club. Why not offer to help out at your local community centre? Imagine being able to meet new people and do something useful at the same time!

OK, I admit that some aspects of entertainment aren’t much fun. Everyone hates queueing up for tickets, and having to put up with crowded venues or warm, overpriced beer. Yet we still like to get out of the house, and the world of entertainment promises to provide us with opportunities for relaxation and enjoyment. So don’t tell me you don’t have any free time – get out there and start having fun!

NOTE: like, love, dislike, hate, prefer

In British English these verbs are followed by verb + ing, plural nouns or uncountable nouns. In American English it’s also common to use to + infinitive. In British English we mostly use this structure to say something’s a good idea, rather than to express enjoyment. For example:

When I have a flight to catch, I like to get to the airport two hours early (I don’t actually enjoy going to the airport early, but I think it’s a good idea)

But remember that we always use to + infinitive after would like / would love / would prefer: I’d like to see you again, I’d love to live in a hot country, I’d prefer to stay at home tonight.

Gerund or Infinitive Practice

A. Without looking at the table you’ve made, try to complete the sentences with the correct from of the verb in brackets (in British English). Then check your answers by referring back to your table.

  1. I offered __________ (give) her my ticket because I knew she loved __________ (go) to the theatre.
  2. She decided __________ (buy) Game of Thrones on DVD for her brother, because he’d wanted __________ (see) it for ages.
  3. Once I’ve downloaded the album, I promise __________ (burn) it onto a CD for you.
  4. He’s started __________ (speak) a little French, even though he hates __________ (study) languages.
  5. I’m learning __________ (play) the guitar and I’ve begun __________ (listen) to country music.
  6. I’d like __________ (see) the Cold Play tribute band, but I’d prefer __________ (go) to a Cold Play concert!

NOTE: To express general preferences, we use prefer + gerund, whereas to express a particular preference for the future, we use would prefer + than + to + infinitive:

I usually prefer going to the theatre than to the cinema, but tonight I’d prefer to see a film.

B. Now try to complete the following sentences with these verb forms:

going, to go, performing, to become, listening, spending, to take, to help, helping

  1. Some singers try to avoid___________ live.
  2. Do you mind___________ me to book the tickets online?
  3. You can’t hope___________ a good musician if you don’t practise every day.
  4. Are you planning ___________ to the opening performance?
  5. He suggested___________ to the theatre on Saturday.
  6. They keep___________ to the same album – it’s driving me crazy!
  7. We agreed___________ him to the cinema on his birthday.
  8. She asked him ___________ her rehearse for the play.

Now add the verbs in bold to your verb table and do this quiz: Gerund or Infinitive?

Next Steps

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You’ll also find loads more practice on all aspects of the Aptis tests in our Guide.

Answers

Original table

Verb + gerund

imagine

enjoy

Verb + to + infinitive

want

decide

learn

offer

promise

Both are possible

start

prefer

hate

like

Exercise A.

  1. I offered to give her my ticket because I knew she loved going to the theatre.
  2. She decided to buy The Matrix on DVD for her brother, because he’d wanted to see it for ages.
  3. When I finish downloading the album, I promise to burn it onto a CD for you.
  4. He’s started speaking/to speak a little French, even though he hates studying languages.
  5. I’m learning to play the guitar and I’ve begun listening/to listen to country music.
  6. I’d like to see the Oasis tribute band, but I’d prefer to go to an Oasis concert!

 

Exercise B

  1. Some singers try to avoid performing live.
  2. Do you mind helping me to book the tickets online?
  3. You can’t hope to become a good musician if you don’t practise every day.
  4. Are you planning to go to the opening performance?
  5. He suggested going to the theatre on Saturday.
  6. They keep listening to the same album – it’s driving me crazy!
  7. We agreed to take him to the cinema on his birthday.
  8. She asked him to help her rehearse for the play.

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