Difference Between Infinitive and Gerund

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.

Example 1

He always helps people.

Example 2

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

Main Difference - Infinitive vs Gerund

To err is human to forgive divine.

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;

Example 1:

He taught me swimming.

He taught me to swim.

Example 2:

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.

Difference Between Infinitive and Gerund

Learning never exhausts the mind.

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.

Example 1:

He stopped smoking.

He stopped to smoke.

Example 2:

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.Difference Between Infinitive and Gerund - infographic

Image Courtesy: 

“Asking For Forgiveness” by Vic (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

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