Analyse the following sentence:
The doctor advised him to avoid eating fatty foods.
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main verb infinitive gerund
The above sentence shows how an infinitive or a gerund works in a sentence, but do you know why it is grammatically correct to use “to avoid” and not “avoiding”? Further reading will help you make the right choice.
Infinitives and gerunds are verb forms (neither of them can be a main verb), which can have several positions and functions in a sentence:
Mr. Wilson stopped to smoke. (= Mr. Wilson stopped in order to smoke)
Mr. Wilson stopped smoking. (= Mr. Wilson does not smoke any more)
To speak Mandarin is hard. (= functioning as a subject; used in more formal registers)
Speaking Mandarin is hard. (= functioning as a subject; used in formal and informal registers)
To make the movie a success, the distributors released it in ten languages. (= To show purpose or reason; used as a reduction of in order to)
We use both gerunds and infinitives as objects of a sentence:
She enjoys dancing Or she decided to dance at the annual day function.
Both sentences are correct, but you will notice that one has an infinitive as the object and the other has a gerund as the object. So, some verbs need a gerund and some will need an infinitive. In the above examples, we see that the formula is “enjoy” + [gerund] and “decide” + [infinitive].
What is the difference?
One of the most difficult aspects of using gerunds or infinitives is when we use them after a verb. There is no hard and fast rule or reason as to which one to use where, we could just rather memorize which verbs need a gerund and which need an infinitive.
There are certain verbs that can only be followed by one or the other, and these verbs must be memorized. With practice, you will be able to remember which one is which.
Examples of verbs that need to be followed by an infinitive:
agree: In settling the car accident dispute, she agreed to pay $10,000 in damages.
decide: In the end, they decided to go to the movies.
deserve: The American people deserve to know what the Justice Department is up to.
expect: We expected to see them at the party, but I guess they decided not to come.
hope: I hope to see you soon.
learn: My son learned to drive when he was 16.
need: Grandpa needs to do some shopping on his way home.
offer: He offered to take us to the airport.
plan: She’s not planning to stay here much longer.
promise: The new movie promises to be one of the biggest money-makers of all time.
seem: She seems to know more about him than anyone else.
wait: There were a lot of people waiting to use the washroom.
want: Do you want me to take you to the airport?
There are lots of verbs that need an infinitive after. You will learn them naturally, as you go deeper into the subject. Here are some more verbs that require to be followed by an infinitive include appear, arrange, ask, begin, can’t bear, can’t stand, care, cease, choose, claim, continue, demand, dread, fail, forget, get (be allowed to), happen, hate, hesitate, intend, like, love, manage, neglect, prefer, prepare, pretend, propose, refuse, regret, remember, seem, start, swear, tend, threaten, try, vow, wait, want, wish, would like, yearn, and many more.
Some examples of verbs that need to be followed by a gerund:
admit: Liam admits wasting time and money.
advise: I’d advise waiting until February.
avoid: I try to avoid going shopping on Sundays.
consider (think about): She’s considering selling the car.
deny: The thief denied breaking into her house.
involve: His job involves filing and other general office work.
mention (say something): Grandma mentioned seeing you the other day.
recommend: The doctor recommended jogging as the best all-round exercise.
risk: It’s always a risk starting up a new business.
suggest: I suggested putting the matter to the committee.
Here are some more verbs that take a gerund after them – anticipate, appreciate, allow, begin, can’t bear, can’t help, see, stand, cease, complete, continue, defend, delay, despise, discuss, dislike, don’t mind, dread, encourage, enjoy, finish, forget, hate, imagine, keep, like, love, mind, miss, need, neglect, permit, postpone, practice, prefer, propose, quit, recall, recollect, regret, remember, report, require, resent, resist, start, stop, tolerate, try, understand, urge, and many more.