Infinitive vs. Gerund: Mastering Verb Usage in English Grammar

Understanding the difference between infinitive and gerund verb forms is essential for clear and effective communication in English. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the various uses, rules, and examples of infinitives and gerunds, as well as tips for using them correctly in your writing and speech. Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

What Are Infinitives and Gerunds?

Infinitives are the base form of a verb, typically preceded by the word “to.” For example: to eat, to sleep, to play. Gerunds, on the other hand, are verbs that function as nouns and end in “-ing.” For example: eating, sleeping, playing.

While both infinitives and gerunds can act as subjects or objects in a sentence, they are used in different contexts and with various functions.

Uses of Infinitives

Purpose or Intention

Infinitives can be used to express the purpose or intention behind an action. In this case, they often follow the main verb. For example:

  • She went to the store to buy groceries.
  • He studied hard to pass the exam.

After Adjectives

When an adjective is used to describe a person’s feelings or emotions, the infinitive form can follow to explain the reason for the emotion. For example:

  • I am happy to help you with your homework.
  • She was relieved to hear the good news.

After Certain Verbs

Some verbs are followed directly by an infinitive, such as agree, decide, hope, learn, plan, and want. For example:

  • They agreed to meet at the coffee shop.
  • She decided to go for a walk.

As a Subject or Object

Infinitives can function as the subject or object of a sentence. For example:

  • To travel is my greatest passion. (subject)
  • He wants to learn a new language. (object)

Uses of Gerunds

As a Subject

Gerunds can function as the subject of a sentence, often describing an action or activity. For example:

  • Swimming is a great form of exercise.
  • Learning a new language can be challenging.

As an Object

Gerunds can also function as the object of a sentence, usually following the main verb. For example:

  • She enjoys reading mystery novels.
  • He considered moving to a new city.

After Prepositions

When a verb follows a preposition, it should be in the gerund form. For example:

  • She is interested in studying abroad.
  • They talked about going on a road trip.

After Certain Verbs

Some verbs are followed directly by a gerund, such as admit, avoid, consider, enjoy, finish, and suggest. For example:

  • He admitted cheating on the test.
  • She enjoys singing in the choir.

Tips for Choosing Between Infinitives and Gerunds

  1. Familiarize yourself with verbs that are typically followed by infinitives or gerunds.
  2. Look for prepositions, as they will always be followed by gerunds.
  3. Remember that infinitives are often used to express purpose or intention.
  4. Consider the context and function of the verb in the sentence.


In conclusion, understanding the uses and rules of infinitives and gerunds is crucial for proper English grammar. By familiarizing yourself with the various contexts and functions of these verb forms, you can improve your writing and speech, ensuring clear and effective communication. Remember to practice using infinitives and gerunds in your everyday language, and soon you’ll be a master of verb usage in English grammar!

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