Gerunds and Infinitives

There are many different verb forms and tenses. Gerunds and infinitives are two specific verb forms. 


A gerund is a noun made out of a word that typically functions as a verb, by adding “–ing” to the end of the verb.

You can use a gerund as the subject, object, or complement in a sentence.  You can make a gerund negative by adding “not.”


Reading helps you learn English (subject)

I enjoy reading. (object)

Her favorite hobby is reading. (complement)

He enjoys not working. (negative)


An infinitive is a noun made from the “to” form of a verb.  

You can use an infinitive as the subject, object, or complement in a sentence.  You can make an infinitive negative by adding “not.”


To learn is important. (subject)

He wants to learn. (object)

The most important thing is to learn. (complement)

He makes a point not to learn. (negative)

Things to Consider

Both gerunds and infinitives can be used as the subject or the complement of a sentence. However, as subjects or complements, gerunds usually sound more like normal, spoken English, whereas infinitives sound more abstract. Gerunds sound more natural and would be more common in everyday English. Infinitives emphasize the possibility or potential for something and sound more philosophical.


Riding my bike is really fun. (casual)

What’s really fun is to ride my bike. (formal or philosophical)

As the object of a sentence, it is more difficult to choose between a gerund or an infinitive. In such situations, gerunds and infinitives are not normally interchangeable. Usually, the main verb in the sentence determines whether you use a gerund or an infinitive.


He enjoys swimming.

He wants to swim.

Even verbs that can use either a gerund or an infinitive often indicate different meanings depending on which is used.


He stopped smoking.

He stopped to tie his shoe. (this implies “in order to”)

Kayla | 2019

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