Grammar Revision: Gerunds and Infinitives
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Okay, let’s talk grammar for a minute. Grammar is one aspect of English which can be quite tricky for our English language learners – and for English as a foreign language teachers too! Especially if you are a native speaker, there are probably many different concepts and rules for English grammar that you are not familiar with. Even though you can speak the language without making any mistakes, you may not be entirely sure exactly why you say certain things but not others. Because we are English teachers, it is our job to find out exactly what we don’t know and make sure we know everything we need to know about them, so we can teach our learners. Gerunds and infinitives are always popular topics!
Read more: 5 Grammar Rules You Should Not be Teaching
So let’s do some grammar revision today, starting with gerunds and infinitives.
Do you know the difference between a gerund and an infinitive? Do you even know what a gerund or an infinitive is? If you do, give yourself a pat on the back (but continue reading just to refresh your memory)! If not, have no fear, because in this post we’ll look at what exactly gerunds and infinitives are and how we use them in English so you can be confident when teaching this language point to your students.
What is a gerund and an infinitive?
Have a look at this paragraph:
Pedro wanted to learn English to be able to chat to his English friends online. Communicating in English was important to him but he found it difficult to speak English. His friend recommended going to lessons so he decided to go to a language school in Madrid. Pedro enjoyed speaking English but didn’t like doing grammar exercises so he joined a conversation class. He practiced speaking English every day and soon he was very good at speaking English.
In this paragraph you will have noticed there are examples of the verb which use to – these are infinitives – and verbs which end in ing – these are gerunds.
As you might guess, gerunds can be confusing for English language learners because usually words which end in –ing are a part of a continuous tense – i.e. I am sitting; He is reading; They were running. But when it comes to gerunds, they are actually nouns, and they are the subject or the object of the sentence.
All verbs except modal verbs have a gerund and infinitive form, which is why it can be quite challenging for our learners to know when to use which. However, there are a few general rules we can teach our learners to help them better understand the use of gerunds and infinitives.
When do we use a gerund or an infinitive?
- Gerunds can be the subject of a sentence
Communicating in English was important to him.
Here we want to use the verb communicate as the subject of the sentence. We cannot say Communicate in English was important or To communicate in English was important (well, we can but it sounds very formal). Instead we must use the gerund.
- Infinitives are used after adjectives
…he found it difficult to speak English
Here the adjective is difficult so we use the infinitive to speak.
- Gerunds are used after prepositions
…soon he was very good at speaking English.
After the preposition at we use the gerund speaking.
- Infinitives are used for purpose
Pedro wanted to learn English to be able to chat to his English friends online.
Here the second infinitive to be able to is used because it answers the question Why?
- After certain verbs we use…either the gerund or the infinitive
Pedro wanted to learn English
so he decided to go
Pedro enjoyed speaking English
His friend recommended going to
Ok, so this is a confusing one. When we use two verbs together, the first verb can dictate if the second verb will be in its infinitive or gerund form. Which one it is, depends on the verb. Unfortunately there are no rules to learn which verbs use the infinitive and which use the gerund; these need to be learnt by our learners. In these examples, the verbs which take the infinitive are: want, decide; and the verbs which take the gerund are: enjoy, recommend.
Other verbs which take the infinitive are:
Other verbs which take the gerund are:
Unfortunately, there are some verbs which can take either the gerund or the infinitive with no change in meaning, and there are some verbs which can take either the gerund or the infinitive with a change in meaning.
Start is one which can take either with no change in meaning; for example:
It started to rain.
It started raining.
Stop, try, remember and forget can use either but there is a change in meaning; for example:
He stopped smoking.
He stopped to smoke.
He no longer smoked vs he stopped walking or talking to have a cigarette.
She tried going on a diet.
She tried to go on a diet.
She went on a diet as per a suggestion vs she attempted to go on a diet but it was difficult.
I remembered locking the door.
I remembered to lock the door.
I locked the door and remembered doing so later vs I had the foresight to lock the door when I left.
I forgot locking the door.
I forgot to lock the door.
I locked the door but couldn’t remember later if I had vs I did not remember to lock the door.
Though there are a few rules we can apply to know when to use gerunds or infinitives, it can still be a bit challenging for your learners. Now that you know exactly what they are and how we use them you should feel very comfortable teaching them in your EFL class. Make sure you introduce plenty of practice and production activities in your lessons and soon your learners should have no more problems using gerunds and infinitives correctly.
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You have the right to object to the Everything TEFL Ltd processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the Everything TEFL Ltd has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, Everything TEFL Ltd is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the Everything TEFL Ltd.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to Everything TEFL Ltd, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
Everything TEFL Ltd
28 – 32 Pembroke Street,
Republic of Ireland
Telephone: +353 (1) 554 6227
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.