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A gerund is a form of verb ending in –ing. The way we use a gerund is what makes it different from a verb. Gerunds can act as nouns or as the names of behaviors, actions, or states of mind.


Gerunds can give an explanation of something. For example:

  • It is expensive.

What is it? We know that it is expensive, but we don’t know anything else about it.

  • Living in Manhattan is expensive.

The verb living is the gerund in the above sentence. That is the it that is expensive. Living in Manhattan is considered a gerund phrase because it adds more information to the sentence.


Let’s look at another example.

  • I enjoy it.

Again, the question we have to ask is, what is it?

  • I enjoy going to the beach.
  • I enjoy eating cookies.

Graphics: A dancing figure with the word dancing -ing highlighted in red to illustrate gerund

The following sentences give different examples of how to use gerunds:

  • Dancing is good exercise. (Gerund as a subject)
  • Josh enjoys dancing. (Gerund as an object of a verb)
  • He knows a lot about dancing. (Gerund as an object of a preposition)
  • It is interesting to watch good dancing. (A modifier preceding a gerund is usually an adjective)
  • Dancing well requires practice. (A modifier following a gerund is usually an adverb)
  • We enjoyed the girl’s dancing.
  • My dancing made my boyfriend laugh.  (When a gerund has a subject it is possessive)

These are some common verbs that are often followed by gerunds:
                                    Enjoy               Postpone         Think about     Finish
                              Mind                Put off             Consider          Stop
                               Keep (on)        Wait                 Talk about       Quit


An infinitive is the simple form of a verb preceded by the word “to.” Infinitives can also act as the names of behaviors, actions, or states of mind, like gerunds do. The following is an example of an infinitive as the subject of the sentence.

  • It is one of my ambitions.

What is it?Graphics: a flying witch captioned I love to Fly. emphesis on To demonstrating infinitives

  • To fly is one of my ambitions.

Infinitives following certain verbs, such as let or make, appear without the “to.”

  • The coach let the team choose it’s own captain.


  • The coach let the team to choose it’s own captain.
  • The editors made the reporters check their facts thoroughly.


  • The editors made the reports to check their facts thoroughly.

Infinitives can also be the direct object of a sentence, for example:

  • Since ancient times, people have attempted it.
  • Since ancient times, people have attempted to fly.

Using infinitives with negatives can be tricky, since the placement of the negative can change the meaning of the sentence. For example:

  • You are not wrong to tell me about that.
  • You are wrong not to tell me about that.

In sentence #1, the subject has told something and was right in doing so, whereas in sentence #2, the subject has not told anything and was wrong in doing so.


These are some common verbs that are often followed by infinitives:
Want                Hope               Decide             Seem
Need                Expect             Promise           Appear
Would like       Plan                 Offer               Pretend
Would love      Intend              Agree              Forget
 Try                  Mean               Refuse             Learn             
Afford               Wait


illustration graphic for exercise: a pen & paperExercise:


Complete the sentences with the gerund or the infinitive form of the word in parenthesis and identify which form you are using.

  1. I need (study)_____________ tonight.                                               Gerund / Infinitive
  2. I enjoy (cook) _____________ gourmet meals.                                  Gerund / Infinitive
  3. Ellen started (talk) _____________ about her problem.                      Gerund / Infinitive
  4. Bud and Sally have decided (get) _____________ married.               Gerund / Infinitive      
  5. We finished (eat) _____________ around seven.                               Gerund / Infinitive
  6. Are you planning (take) _____________ a vacation this year?           Gerund / Infinitive
  7. I like (meet) _____________ new friends.                                         Gerund / Infinitive
  8. We discussed (visit) _____________ the park.                                  Gerund / Infinitive
  9. I’ve decided (rent) _____________ the house.                                   Gerund / Infinitive
  10. My friend offered (loan) _____________ the money to me.              Gerund / Infinitive
  11. I try (look) _____________ neat and clean every day.                       Gerund / Infinitive
  12. I forgot (buy) _____________ milk at the store.                                Gerund / Infinitive
  13. I started (like) _____________ Jim.                                                   Gerund / Infinitive
  14. Let’s keep (work) _____________ on the homework.                       Gerund / Infinitive
  15. I went (fish) _____________ early in the morning.                            Gerund / Infinitive

This handout is based on the following texts:

Azar, Betty Schrampfer. Chartbook: A Reference Grammar, Fundamentals of English Grammar. Englewood Heights: Prentice Hall Regents, 1995.
Furey, Patricia R. and Lionel Menasche. Making Progress in English: Grammar and Composition. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990.
Holschuh, Louis W. The Functions of English Grammar. New York: St. Martins Press, 1991.
Kolln, Martha. Understanding English Grammar. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1982.

For further reference, see the following books:
Foote, Ronald C., Cedric Gale, and Vincent F. Hopper.  Essentials of English.  4th ed.  Hauppauge: Barron’s, 1990.
Harris, Muriel.  Prentice Hall Reference Guide to Grammar and Usage.  Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1992.

All of the above texts are available in The Writing Center.

Rev. 5/17/04



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