Verbs


Students of English often use the infinitive of an English verb where the gerund is in fact a better or sometimes even the only correct form.

Remember that the gerund, not the infinitive, should be used:

  1. After prepositions. (He worked without stopping; He went away instead of waiting.)
  2. After words which regularly take a preposition, such as fond of, tired of, insist on, object to, etc.
  3. After so-called phrasal verbs, such as give up, put off, etc. The only exception here is go on, which can take the infinitive as well. This will be dealt with specially later.
  4. After certain verbs such as avoid, admit, etc.
  5. After the adjectives busy and worth.

Exercise 1. Supply the correct form of the verb in brackets.

Avoid (use) the infinitive after the expression ‘It is no use’. 2. We couldn’t risk (leave) him alone. 3. The police hope (solve) the mystery soon. 4. This room will look very cheerful once you’ve finished (decorate) it. 5. The defeated champion swore (have) his revenge. 6. You must practise (speak) English whenever you can. 7. People should be asked to refrain from (use) such words. 8. He asked for his parents’ advice before (decide) on such an action. 9. I couldn’t resist (laugh) outright. 10. Will you dare to deny (go) there without permission? 11. He says he detests (read) science fiction. 12. Did he consent (come)? 13. He never fails (ar­rive) in time to help me. 14. He says he is considering (go) to the Crimea this summer. 15. They endeavoured (sing) in chorus but failed hopelessly. 16. How long shall I have to bear (listen) ( to it all? 17. He refused (join) us. 18. He would never miss (go) to such a good party. 19. I suggest (go) there on foot. 20. He-threatens (resign) if we don’t agree to his proposal.

A typical mistake in the use of verbals is putting the infinitive as the subject of a sentence far more often than is possible. An infinitive is in fact very seldom found as the subject. The predicate of a sentence with the infinitive as subject is almost exclusively a nominal one with a link-verb of being. Thus, in a sentence like Being young has its drawbacks, the in­finitive could not replace the gerund in the subject position.

An infinitive is used as the subject when the speaker refers i to a specific occasion: To stay here any longer would be absolute folly.

An infinitival subject may refer to an action unlimited in time | or unspecified with respect to time: To know defeat is to know I humiliation. But the infinitive cannot render the idea of a general I practice. Thus, in a sentence like Smoking is not allowed here only the gerund may be used as subject. In spoken English, I sentence with the infinitive as subject occur even less frequently. I Instead we find the construction with the so-called anticipatory I it and the infinitive in apposition, as in It is a pleasure to talk I to her.

Exercise 2. Revise the following sentences so that they begin with gerunds acting as subjects.

Example: It was enjoyable to climb the mountain. — Climbing the mountain was enjoyable.

1. It was tiresome to wait for such a long time. 2. It is sometimes preferable to live alone. 3. There were many problems involved in selecting a college. 4. It is your privilege to disagree 5. It is a custom in many countries to send Christmas cards.

Some verbs may be followed by either a gerund or an infinitive. The choice of form is, of course, a problem. Sometimes it may not matter very much which is chosen, but in a number of cases it may be of fundamental importance. The following remarks will help you to deal with these cases.

  1. Avoid using the gerund after an -ing form of the main verb BS in It’s just starting to rain.
  2. The choice may also depend on the nature of the second verb. You may have noticed that there is some correspondence between the infinitive and an indefinite verb form, and between I he gerund and a continuous verb form. Now, some verbs are rarely used in the continuous form, and the gerund could hardly replace the infinitive in the following sentence: He began to realize that he had made a mistake.
  3. With verbs expressing feelings (like, love, prefer, hate, loath, dread, cannot bear), the distinction between the gerund and infinitive corresponds to the distinction between the general and the particular. Compare / like looking round antique shops and I’d like to visit you in your new flat. Moreover, while in the first sentence like is very similar to enjoy, in the second it is closer to the idea of desire, or choice. This may help to explain why dislike is always followed by the gerund, while do not like may be followed by either the gerund or the infinitive in the same way as like, being merely the negative of the latter.
  4. After the verbs remember, forget, regret the gerund refers to an action earlier in time than that of the main verb, while the infinitive refers to an action occurring at the same time as that of the main verb, or later: / regret saying that you were mistak­en = / regret that I said that you were mistaken; I regret to say that you were mistaken — I regret that I must now tell you that you were mistaken. Note. Just as like changes its meaning according to whether it is followed by the infinitive or the gerund, so remember -f- the infinitive means ‘not forget’. (Will you remember to ring me up? = You won’t forgetto ring me up, will you?)
  5. After go on the gerund indicates that an existing state of affairs continues, the infinitive indicates a new activity in a chain of events.
  6. Try + gerund = do something, and see what it’s like; try -f-U- infinitive = see whether or not you can do it.

Exercise 3 . Open the brackets.

1. Let’s invite him. I’m sure he would love (come). 2. That was only a mistake; I regret (cause) you inconvenience. 3. Who would permit (smoke) during lessons? 4. I vaguely remember (he, say) something like that. 5. I always try (be) punctual, bill I seldom succeed. 6. We plan (take) our holidays in the mountains this year. 7. Come over here! I’d like (you, see) this. 8. It is a tricky problem. I recommend (you, consult an expert). 9. If you can’t sleep, try (take) a walk before going to b J. 10. The film was so terrifying that she could hardly bear (watch) it. 11. A child should start (learn) a foreign language at primary school 12. They began (drive) at six in the morning and were still on the road ten hours later. 13. I can’t find my notebook anywhere though I remember (put) it into my bag.

It seems advisable to deal specially with two particularly confusing verb phrases, used to and to be used to. The word to presents a problem here: is it a preposition or is it an infinitive particle? We can discover the function of to in a sentence by trying to put the pronoun it. after it. If it is possible, then to is a preposition and the gerund, not the infinitive, must ‘be used I’m used to it. — Vm used to hearing about the odd things he does.

It would be impossible to put it after to in the following sentence: When I was in the Caucasus I used to bathe two or three times a day. Therefore only the infinitive can be used here.

You will notice that used to + infinitive refers to habitual action in the past, while to be used to suggests familiarity through a repetition of the activity; it does not refer to a habit as such. Note also that used to is a set phrase and does not occur in any other tense, whereas the finite verb in to be used to (i. e. to be) can be used in any appropriate tense. Besides, being a link-verb, it is interchangeable with other link-verbs: He became used to being criticized by his opponents.

Exercise 4 . Insert the verbs in brackets in the appropriate form.

1.He said he wasn’t used to … in public (speak). 8. He used to … London but he now seems resigned to living there (dislike). 3. Being so well-known an author you must be used to … letters from your readers (receive). 4. I hope that by the time his baby learns to speak he will be used to … called ‘father’ (be). 5. I remember we used to … him all sorts of funny names (call). 6. It’s a bad thing for a child to get used to … in bed (read). 7. Do you really mean to say you used to .,, such hideous clothes when you were young (wear)?