Infinitive or Gerund after Verbs with a Difference in Meaning
Some verbs are followed by the gerund and some verbs are followed by the infinitive. There is a group of verbs that can be followed by a gerund or an infinitive, but the meaning changes. Study the rule when we use infinitive or gerund after verbs with a difference in meaning.
Exam in Mind level B1/B2
Verbs which change meaning when followed by the gerund or infinitive form
When ‘stop’ is followed by the gerund, the verb in the gerund stops.
- I’ve stopped buying coffee – it’s too expensive.
- I’ve stopped smoking – it’s bad for my health.
When ‘stop’ is followed by the infinitive, we stop something else in order to do the verb in the infinitive.
- I stopped to buy a coffee on the way into work this morning. (I stopped walking in order to buy a coffee.)
- I stopped to have a cigarette (I stopped working in order to have a cigarette.)
When ‘regret’ is followed by the gerund you feel sorry about something you did – or didn’t do – in the past.
- I regret telling you I was going to enter that singing competition!
- You’ll regret not finishing university.
- I regret being late for school.
When ‘regret’ is followed by the infinitive, you regret something you are about to say. Often used in formal, written English with verbs ‘tell’, ‘say’ and ‘inform’.
- We regret to inform you that your application has not been successful.
- We regret to inform you that the flight has beeen delayed for another two hours.
When ‘go on’ is followed by the gerund, the activity in the gerund continues.
- She went on talking about verbs for hours – she didn’t stop! (She continued talking.)
- I can’t go on living in this tiny house.
- Go on reading the text.
When ‘go on’ is followed by the infinitive, one action finishes and another action starts. This is often the next stage in a process, the change in the activity.
- After talking about verbs she went on to tell a joke. (She changed activity.)
- After finishing his novel, he went on to direct a couple of plays.
- Go on to read the text.
When ‘remember’ or ‘forget’ are followed by the gerund it means you forget or remember something you have done. Remember/Forget + Gerund looks back in the past.
- I still remember being nervous on my first day of school.
- I’ll never forget seeing his face.
- He’ll never forget spending so much money on his first computer.
- I remember switching off the lights when I went on holiday.
When ‘remember’ or ‘forget’ are followed by the infinitive, there is something you need to do and you remember or forget to do it. Remember /Forget + Infinitive looks into the future.
- I forgot to bring my lunch today.
- Remember to call your mother tonight!
- Don’t forget to spend money on the tickets.
- Remember to switch off the lights when you go on holiday.
Try + -ing means that you are trying something as an experiment, especially as a possible solution to a problem, to see if it works or not.
- Have you tried turning the computer off and on again?
- I tried taking an aspirin but it didn’t help.
Try + to + infinitive means that something is difficult but you are making an effort to do it.
- I’m trying to learn Japanese but it’s very difficult.
- Try to be quiet when you come home late.
Mean + gerund expresses what the result of an action will be, or what will be necessary. The word mean could be replaced by the word involve.
- If you take that job in London it will mean travelling for two hours every day.
- We could take the ferry to France, but that will mean spending a night in a hotel.
- Buying this jacket now means not buying another until next year.
- Leaving school would mean finding a job.
- You have forgotten your homework again. That means phoning your mother.
Mean + infinitive expresses an intention or a plan. The word mean could be replaced by the word intend.
- Did you mean to dial this number?
- I mean to finish this job by the end of the week!
- I didn’t mean to hurt you.
- I meant to return the books on time.
- I meant to phone your mother, but my mobile didn’t work.
All four of these verbs can be followed by either an –ing form or an infinitive. There is no difference of meaning, but the structures are different.
These verbs are followed by –ing forms if there is no object. If there is an object, we use an infinitive.
- I wouldn’t advise buying a used car. (NOT I wouldn’t advise to buy a used car.) Here the –ing form is used because the verb advise has no object.
- I wouldn’t advise you to buy a used car. (NOT I wouldn’t advise you buying a used car.)
- The college doesn’t allow / permit smoking on the campus. (NOT The college doesn’t allow / permit to smoke on the campus.)
- The college doesn’t allow / permit students to smoke on the campus. (Here the infinitive to smoke is used because the verbs allow / permit has an object.)
These structures can be changed into the passive. Study the examples given below.
- Buying a used car is not advised. (Here the –ing form becomes the subject of the passive verb.)
- Smoking is not permitted on the campus. (Here again the –ing form becomes the subject of the passive verb.)
Now study the passive forms of the infinitive structures.
- You are not advised to buy a used car.
- Students are not allowed to smoke on the campus.
As you can see, it is the personal objects and not the infinitives that become the subject of the passive verb.
I like reading books. = I like to read books. – There is normally no difference in meaning.
- Use the Gerund when like is used in the sense of ‘enjoy‘: I like riding my bike.
- Use the Infinitive when you do sth. in the sense of a habit: I like to do my homework in the afternoon. (I think, it is good to do my homework in the afternoon). I like to check my essay before handing it in.
Mind the following examples:
- I like watching films.
- I would like to watch the film.
If we use a Gerund after need, then the sentence has a passive meaning:
- The window needs cleaning. (The window needs to be cleaned.)
- The house needs repairing. (The house needs to be repaired.)
Need is usually used with an infinitive or an object + an infinitive.
- He needs to call his boss.
- He needs him to call his boss.
The form to be / to get used to + Gerund means that the person is familiar with something.
- He is used to smoking. (He still smokes.)
The form used to + Infinitive means that the person did sonething. in the past.
- He used to smoke. (He does not smoke any more.)
Have practice. Use Infinitive or Gerund after Verbs.
Task 1. Choose Infinitive or Gerund after verbs.
- Please remember to cancel / cancelling your appointment if you are unable to attend.
- He says he feels a lot better since he stopped to eat / eating so much bread.
- Have you got hiccups? Have you tried to drink / drinking a glass of water? That often helps!
- There’s no milk. I forgot to buy / buying more when I went to the supermarket earlier.
- They stopped at the petrol station to fill / filling the car up.
- He’ll never forget to leave / leaving his daughter at nursery school for the first time.
- I know it’s difficult but try not to think / not thinking about it too much.
- You’ve definitely got the keys. I remember to give / giving them to you in the café this morning.
- I’d forgotten to go / going to Canada when I was small, but then my parents showed me the photos.
- I always forget to set / setting my alarm for Monday morning.
- She tried to read / reading the whole book but it was very long and complicated.
- You’ll be OK. I remember to be / being really nervous on my first day too!
- Try to watch / watching the video with subtitles. This might help you understand better.
- She had to stop halfway through the race to repair / repairing the wheel on her bike.
- Remember to pack / packing your swimming costume in case we go to the pool.
- He’s stopped to take / taking French classes and changed to Spanish.