2.10: Using Gerunds and Infinitives to Improve Sentence Variety
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A gerund is formed by adding -ing to the base form of the verb
- EX: Talking
- EX: Reading
- EX: Saying
A gerund is not a verb
Study these two sentences. Is "hiking" the verb in each sentence?
- Hiking is one of his favorite activities
- They are hiking in the mountains today
- In the first sentence, "hiking" is a gerund. It is not preceded by "be" and it acts like the subject of the sentence; the verb is "is"
- In the second sentence, "hiking" is a verb. It is preceded by "be" (am) and follows the subject
A gerund acts like a noun in the sentence. Like a noun, a gerund can be the subject or subject complement of a sentence, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition
- Gerund + verb + object
- Subject + verb + prep + gerund
- Subject + verb + gerund
- Prep + gerund + subject + verb
Study these sentences. Which one has a gerund as the subject of the verb? Which one has a gerund as the object of the verb? Which has a gerund as the object of a preposition?
- Mentoring other employees is his favorite part of the job
- Her decision to major in medicine was based on volunteering at the hospital
- They love inspiring other students at the college
- In the first sentence, "mentoring" is the subject of the verb "is"
- In the second sentence, "volunteering" is the object of the preposition "on"
- In the third sentence, "inspiring" is the object of the verb "love"
An infinitive is formed with "to" and the base form of the verb
- EX: To talk
- EX: To read
- EX: To say
An infinitive is not a verb. It acts like a noun in a sentence. An infinitive usually follows certain verbs in a sentence in this pattern:
- Subject + verb + infinitive
Or a linking verb and an adjective in this pattern:
- "It" + linking verb + adjective + infinitive
Study the sentences below. What are the verbs? What are the infinitives?
- After he finishes college, he wants to work as a geologist
- It's important to listen to an interview
- The verb in the first sentence is "wants" and the infinitive is "to work"
- The (linking) verb in the second sentence is "is" and the infinitive is "to listen"
Verbs with Gerunds and Infinitives
Some verbs may be followed by gerunds, some may be followed by infinitives, and some may be followed by both
- EX: I like reading
- EX: I like to read
- BAD EX: I promise studying
- EX: I promise to study
- EX: She enjoys eating chocolate
- BAD EX: She enjoys to eat chocolate
A Short List of Verbs with Gerunds and Infinitives
|Verbs/phrases followed by a gerund||Verbs followed by an infinitive||Verbs/phrases followed by either with little change in meaning||Verbs followed by either with a different meaning|
Look forward to
Get (be allowed)
Cannot bear, Cannot stand
More complete lists may be found here and here...
The verbs below change meaning when used with a gerund or infinitive
Watch this video and this video for more information...
Using gerunds and infinitives enhances your writing by:
- Adding sentence variety
- Helping you develop your ideas
- Making your writing more formal and academic
Compare the following paragraphs. Which paragraph is better? Why?
- If you want to be happy, you should do five things. Be grateful. You should always be grateful for what you have. Count your blessings. You should make a list of good things. Be optimistic. You should think positive thoughts. Use your strengths. You should do things that you are good at. Commit acts of kindness. You should do kind actions
- In order to boost happiness, there are five methods people can use. First, being grateful can improve our sense of well-being. We can write a letter or email to someone who helped us, just to say "Thank you." Some people also express gratitude by praying or meditating. Second, it's important to notice the good things in life. Writing down a list of things we appreciate is a good way to count our blessings every day. Third, it helps to be optimistic. We should always try to keep a positive attitude and expect the best outcomes. Another method to boost happiness is by using our strengths. People feel happier when they are using their natural abilities. Finally, committing acts of kindness is one of the most important methods of increasing happiness. When we do something helpful for another person, we feel more satisfied with life
Answer the following questions about the two paragraphs above...
- What verb forms does the first paragraph use? What person (you, he/she/it, we, they) does each paragraph use?
- Which paragraph is more formal and sophisticated? Why?
- The second paragraph is more developed. What did the author do to develop the ideas more completely?
- Identify the gerunds and infinitives in the second paragraph
- The first paragraph uses second person (you). It uses one modal, "should," and the imperative voice. The second paragraph uses first person plural (we) and third person plural (they). It uses gerunds, infinitives, and a variety of modals
- The second paragraph is more formal because it uses first person plural and third person, and it is more sophisticated because it has more sentence variety
- The second paragraph is more developed because the author gave specific examples
- The gerunds and infinitives in the second paragraph after listed below
- To boost
- To say
- To notice
- To count
- To be
- To keep
- To boost
Videos and Other Resources
Watch this video for more information about gerunds and infinitives...
In this video, learn more about gerunds and infinitives as objects of verbs...
Try this website for a complete explanation of gerunds and infinitives with exercises and feedback...
Practice with Gerunds and Infinitives
Ask a friend or family member these questions. Then write a short paragraph (at least six sentences) with gerunds and infinitives about your friend. Use the chart in this slide presentation to decide if you should use a gerund or infinitive with each verb or phrase...
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- Describe your favorite memory from your childhood. What do you remember doing?
- What activity have you tried and failed to do?
- What movies or TV shows do you recommend seeing?
- What do you hope to do next year? In five years?
- What do you dislike most about your everyday routine? Why?
- What are you looking forward to doing tomorrow?