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Athabasca University

Infinitives and Gerunds

There are a few basic rules regarding the use of infinitives and gerunds.

  • Infinitives and gerunds are noun forms. If used before the main verb, they are the subject of the verb; after the main verb, they are the object of the verb.
  • If a preposition is used after the verb, do not use an infinitive.
  • If a common expression ends with a preposition, then it may be followed by a gerund.

Examples:

  • Verb + infinitive (A):
    We cannot afford to wait.
  • Verb + (pro)noun + infinitive (B):
    That will cause him to think again.
  • A or B:
    They are allowed to stay out past midnight.
    Please allow her to be absent tomorrow.
  • Verb + gerund:
    I admit getting defensive when I am incorrectly blamed for something.
  • Verb + infinitive or gerund:
    You advised me to take that course.
    You advised taking that course.

In addition, some verb phrases take gerunds e.g. carry on (doing something), or put off (doing something). Also, infinitives may be used after a number of adjectives, e.g. happy (to do something) or determined (to do something), or other structures.

For further explanation and more examples of any of this grammar, please consult a grammar reference book.

Verb + infinitive (A) Verb + (pro)noun/ + infinitive (B) (A) or (B) Verb + gerund Verb + infinitive or gerund
afford cause allow admit advise
agree challenge ask anticipate begin
aim dare beg appreciate can't make**
appear enable choose avoid can't stand
arrange encourage convince complete continue
attempt forbid expect confess feel**
care force promise consider forget*
claim hire want delay guarantee
consent instruct wish deny hate
decide invite would like despise hear**
demand need detest let**
deserve order discuss like
fail permit dread love
happen persuade enjoy neglect
hesitate remind escape prefer
hope require excuse regret*
intend select fancy remember*
learn teach finish stop*
manage tell imagine start
mean urge involve try
need warn justify watch
offer (dis)like * meaning differs between gerund and infinitive forms

** "to" is omitted with these verbs, e.g. I helped him carry the ladder.
omit keep (on)
plan mention
prepare mind
pretend miss
propose postpone
prove practice
refuse quit
seek recall
seem recollect
struggle recommend
swear resent
tend resist
threaten risk
train save
turn out stop
undertake suggest
volunteer tolerate
wait understand

Updated September 10 2014 by Student & Academic Services

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