Main Difference – Infinitive vs Gerund
Many English learners find it difficult to choose between the use of infinitive and gerund. In this article, we are going to explain the use and role of infinitive and gerund. The main difference between Infinitive and Gerund is, the infinitive often takes the base form of a verb while the gerund is a verb in its –ing form.
What is an Infinitive
The infinitive can be introduced as a verb-noun. Though it does not act as the verb of a sentence, it has certain qualities of a verb. An infinitive can act as the object, the subject or the complement. It is not limited by person or number as a finite verb. The example below will throw light into these characteristics.
He always helps people.
He always tries to help people.
In the first example, helps has he for its subject; hence the verb like is limited by person and number. It is called the finite verb.
In the second example, to help simply names the action denoted by the verb try and is used without mentioning any subject. It is, therefore, not limited by a person and number as a verb that has a subject.
The preposition to is frequently used with the infinitive, but this does not mean that it is an essential part or sign of it.
Uses of the Infinitive
Infinitive can be used,
As the subject of a verb
To err is human.
To respect our elders is our duty.
As the object of a transitive verb
He likes to read books.
They refused to confess.
As the complement of a verb
His greatest pleasure is to collect stamps.
His custom is to clean the house in the morning.
As an objective complement
I saw her fall.
As a qualifier
He called to see my father. – qualifies a verb
The students are eager to learn. – qualifies an adjective
This is not the time to regret. – qualifies a noun
To tell the truth, I was afraid he would reveal everything. – qualifies a sentence
What is a Gerund
A gerund is a form of a verb which ends in –ing, and has the force of a noun and a verb. Therefore, it is a verb-noun that can act as either the subject or the object of a verb. A gerund can indicate an action or a state of being and any action verb can be made into a gerund.
Uses of the Gerund
A gerund can be used,
As a subject of a verb
Smoking is prohibited here.
Reading poems is his favorite hobbit.
As an object of a transitive verb
Please stop shouting.
She likes sewing.
As an object of a preposition
They are tired of waiting.
The little boy was punished for misbehaving.
As a complement of a verb
What he most detests is lying.
Seeing is believing.
As both infinitive and gerund have the force of a noun and a verb, they have the same uses. They can be used without any special difference in meaning as;
He taught me swimming.
He taught me to swim.
Giving is better than receiving.
To give is better than to receive.
It is important to remember that the use of an infinitive or a gerund depends on the main verb.
However, there are some instances where infinitive and gerund give two completely different meanings in a sentence. We’ll discuss this under difference between Infinitive and Gerund section.
Difference Between Infinitive and Gerund
Some verbs have different meanings when they are followed by a gerund or an infinitive.
He stopped smoking.
He stopped to smoke.
I forgot meeting him.
I forgot to meet him.
Other differences between infinitive and gerund are as follows.
Subject and Complement of a Sentence
Infinitive sounds more abstract, philosophical and formal when used as the subject or the complement of a sentence.
Gerund sounds more normal and common when used as the subject or the complement of a sentence.
Infinitive is frequently preceded by the preposition to.
Gerund is generally followed by prepositions.
Object of a Preposition
Infinitives are only rarely used as the object of a preposition.
Gerunds can be used as the object of a preposition.
“Asking For Forgiveness” by Vic (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr