The Infinitive and Gerund

The gerund should not be confused with the verbal noun, which has the same suffix -ing. The main points of difference between the gerund and the verbal noun are as follows;

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Like all the verbals the gerund has a double character-nominal and verbal.

Verbal noun has only a nominal character.

The gerund is not used with an article.

The verbal noun may be used with an article.

e.g. The making of a new humanity cannot be the privilege of a handful of bureaucrats (Fox)

3) The gerund has no plural form.

The verbal noun may be used in plural.

e.g. Our likings are regulated by our circumstances. (Ch.Bronte)

4) The gerund of a transitive verb takes a direct object.

e.g. He received more and more letters, so many that he had given up reading them. (Priestly)

A verbal noun cannot take a direct object; it takes a prepositional object with the preposition of.

e.g. Meanwhile Gwendolyn was rallying her nerves to the reading of the paper. (Eliot)

5) The gerund may be modified by an adverb.

e.g. Drinking even temperately, was a sin. (Dreiser)

The verbal noun may be modified by an adjective.

e.g. Tom took a good scolding about clodding Sid. (Twain)

  1. A gerund is a noun made from a verb by adding “-ing”. The gerund form of the verb “read” is “reading.” You can use a gerund as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence.

Examples: Reading helps you learn English. (subject)

Her favorite hobby is reading. (complement)

Gerunds can be made negative by adding “not.”

Examples: He enjoys not working.

The best thing for your health is not smoking.

  1. Infinitives are the “to” form of the verb. The infinitive form of “learn” is “to learn.” You can also use an infinitive as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence.

Examples: To learn is important. (subject)

The most important thing is to learn.( complement )

He wants to learn. (object)

Infinitives can be made negative by adding “not.”

Examples: I decided not to go.

The most important thing is not to give up.

  1. Both gerunds and infinitives can be used as the subject or the complement of a sentence. However, as subjects or complements, gerunds usually sound more like normal, spoken English, whereas infinitives sound more abstract. In the following sentences, gerunds sound more natural and would be more common in everyday English. If this sounds confusing, just remember that 90% of the time, you will use a gerund as the subject or complement of a sentence.

Examples: Learning is important. (normal subject)

To learn is important. (abstract subject – less common)

The most important thing is learning. (normal complement)

The most important thing is to learn. (abstract complement – less common)

  1. As the object of a sentence, it is more difficult to choose between a gerund and an infinitive. In such situations, gerunds and infinitives are not normally interchangeable. Usually, the main verb in the sentence determines whether you use a gerund or an infinitive.

Examples: He enjoys swimming. (“Enjoy” requires a gerund.)

He wants to swim. (“Want” requires an infinitive)

  1. Some verbs are followed by gerunds as objects.

Examples: She suggested going to a movie.

Mary keeps talking about her problems.

  1. Some verbs are followed by infinitives.

Examples: She wants to go to a movie.

Mary needs to talk about her problems.

  1. And, finally, both gerunds and infinitives can act as a Direct Object: Here, however, all kinds of decisions have to be made, and some of these decisions will seem quite arbitrary.

Although it is seldom a serious problem for native English speakers, deciding whether to use a gerund or an infinitive after a verb can be perplexing among students for whom English is a second language. Why do we decide to run, but we would never decide running? On the other hand, we might avoid running, but we would not avoid to run. And finally, we might like running and would also like to run. It is clear that some verbs take gerunds, some verbs take infinitives, and some verbs take either.

  1. With a number of verbs and word- groups both the gerund and the infinitive may be used. The most important of them are: to be afraid, to begin, to cease, to continue, can afford, to dread, to fear, to forget, to hate, to intend, ti like, to neglect, to prefer, to propose, to remember, to start, to stop.

e.g. The young man began turning over the pages of a book.(Eliot)

At length she began to speak softly.(Eliot)


Participle 1

There are two participles in English: Participle1 (Present Participle) and Participle 2 (Past Participle). Participle 1 is formed by adding the inflection -ing to the steam of the verb. Participle 1 has both verbal and nominal properties. The verbal properties are as follows:

1) Participle 1can take a direct object:

e.g. He sat reading a book.

2) Participle 1 can be modified by an adverb:

e.g. He walked away, laughing loudly.

3) Participle 1 has the following verbal forms:

 Active Voice Passive Voice
Indefinite translating Being translated
Perfect Having translated Having been translated


The present participle can be used to describe the following verbs: come, go, sit

Example: The girl sat crying on the sofa.

The present participle can also be used after verbs of the senses if we do not want to emphasize that the action was completed.

feel, find, hear, listen to, notice, see, smell, watch

Example: Did you see him dancing?

Furthermore, the present participle can be used to shorten or combine active clauses that have the same subject.

Example: She left the house and whistled. – She left the house whistling.

Use of the present participle

Progressive Tenses – the present participle emphasizes the idea of a continuous, ongoing action.

e.g. He is reading a book.

He was reading a book.

Gerund- Present participles should not be confused with gerunds, which are nouns formed from verbs. Gerunds also end -ing

e.g. Reading books is fun.

He likes reading books.

Adjective Here are some examples of present participles being used as adjectives:

e.g. Look at the reading boy.

Together with other words

e.g. He came reading around the corner.

He sat reading in the corner.

I saw him reading.

The function of participle 1 in the sentence.

Participle 1has the following syntactic functions:


e.g. She saw the smiling face of the child and calmed down.

2) Adverbial modifier of

  1. a) time e.g. Coming nearer he recognized an old friend of his.
  2. b) cause e.g. Being of romantic nature he didn’t like science fiction.
  3. c) manner e.g. He looked at her, admiring every feature.
  4. d) comparison e.g. He turned to me as if asking for help.
  5. e) attendant circumstances e.g. She sat on the sofa, saying nothing.
  6. f) parenthesis; e.g. I don’t like rock music.


Participle 2

A participle is a form of a verb that is used in a sentence to modify a noun, noun phrase, verb or verb phrase, and thus plays a role similar to that of an adjective or adverb

Participle 2 is formed by adding -ed to the steam of a regular verb or by different ways in case of irregular verbs. It has only one form and it functions as

1) Attribute:

e.g. Take away the broken chairs.

2) Adverbial modifier of

  1. a) time (when, while)

e.g. When asked about it, he kept silent.

  1. b) condition (if):

e.g. If invited, he would gladly join them.

  1. c) comparison (as if, as though):

e.g. She stood before the portrait as if lost in wonder and admiration.

  1. d) concession (though):e.g. Though greatly disappointed, they tried not to show it.

The past participles for regular verbs are the same as their past forms (look-looked-looked and study-studied-studied), for example. For irregular verbs, the past and past participle forms are different (for example, be- was/were-been and go-went-gone).

The past participle is commonly used in several situations:

  1. Past participles are used as part of the present and past perfect tenses (both “regular” and continuous).The non-continuous present perfect tense uses has or have + the past participle; the present perfect continuous tense uses has or have + been (the past participle of BE) + the – ing form of the main verb.

Examples: He has taken a vacation. / He has been taking a vacation.

I have taken my medicine. I have been taking that medicine for three days.

The non-continuous past perfect tense uses had +the past participle; the past perfect continuous tense uses had + been + the – ing form of the main verb.

Examples: She had lived here for 10 years when I met her.

She had (She’d) been living here for 10 years when I met her.

He had (He’d) waited a long time before he left.

He had (He’d) been waiting a long time before he left.

  1. Past participles are also used to make one of the past forms for the modal verbs (modal auxiliaries).These forms use a modal + have + the past participle.

Examples: could have gone, may have been, should have known, might have seen, would, have written, must have forgotten.

  1. Another use for past participles is as participial adjectives (verb forms used as adjectives).

Participial adjectives may be used both singly and in phrases.

Examples: We were bored / excited / interested.

We were bored with / excited about / interested in the movie.

It’s broken / gone / done. It’s broken into two pieces / gone from where I usually put it / done by machine, not by hand.

Abandoned, he didn’t know what to do. Abandoned by everyone he had considered to be his friends, he didn’t know what to do.

One more use of past participles is in making the past form of infinitives (to + the base form).

Examples: to be / to have been; to live / to have lived; to go / to have gone; to have / to have had.