What is the difference between gerunds and infinitives? When should you use each? Let's start from the beginning.
What is a Gerund?
A gerund is a noun made from a verb. To make a gerund, you add "-ing" to the verb.
In the sentence "I swim every day", the word "swim" is a verb.
In the sentence "I like swimming", the word "swimming" is a noun.
Therefore, "swimming" is a gerund. Second example:
In the sentence "She reads several books a week", the word "read" is a verb.
In the sentence "Reading is important", the word "reading" is a noun.
Therefore, "reading" is a gerund. More examples of gerunds: buying, fishing, running, watching, telling, and so forth.
The word "gerund" actually comes from the Latin word gerere, which means "do".
You could say this actually makes sense: the gerund describes an action, something you do.
Gerunds are often used when actions are real or completed.
Examples: (Note how the main underlined verb relates to real or completed actions.)
I finisheddoing my homework.
They keep onfighting.
We discussedmoving to Florida.
You recommendedwaiting until tomorrow.
He recalledfalling asleep on the couch.
She practicesplaying those drums all the time.
John completedfixing the car.
The job involvesdealing with animals.
Brian mentionedstaying up late.
They suggested not keeping the luggage.
We startedworking on this yesterday.
What is an Infinitive?
An infinitive is the basic form of the verb + "to".
Examples: to buy, to fish, to run, to watch, to tell, and so forth.
"I want to swim."
"They asked us to leave."
"To be, or not to be – that is the question."
"The goal is to win."
The word "infinitive" comes form the Latin word infinitus, from in- (not) and finitus (finished, limited).
You could say this actually makes sense: the infinitive describes an action, but unlike a regular verb, it is not limited in any way.
The regular verb is limited to the tense and subject. For example, in the sentence "Diana danced" the action is limited to Diana and to the past.
However, the infinitive is unlimited. In the sentence "To dance is easy", the action is not limited to any subject or to any time.
Infinitives are often used when actions are unreal, general, or future. Examples: (Note how the main underlined verb relates to unreal, general, or future actions.)
Kate agreedto come.
I hopeto see you soon.
We planto finish this shortly.
They decidedto return home.
She promisedto stop smoking.
We agreed never to talk about it again.
He offeredto sell the house.
I refuseto pay!
You seemto be disappointed.
She asked him not to leave.
I wantto drink.
They needto get up early.
Gerunds or Infinitives?
If you want to speak correct and natural English, you should know when to use gerunds, and when to use infinitives.
Deciding between a gerund and an infinitive as an object is much more difficult than subjects. You must learn which verbs are followed by gerunds, infinitives, or both.
The tables show which verbs are followed by gerunds and which are followed by infinitives.