Gerund vs. Infinitive :  何時使用動名詞 vs. 不定詞

 

(1) To pass the test is important.  (O)

(2) Passing the exam is important.   (O)

 

Which sentence is right?  In reality, both are accurate.  There are different ways of writing a sentence.  The meaning of sentence may be different.  All in all, we should avoid sentences that create confusion.

 

More examples:

Working hard is the key to success.
To work hard is the key to success.
The key to success is to work hard.

To sleep throughout the night is the only thing I want.
Sleeping throughout the night is the only thing I want.

To drive under influence is dangerous.
Driving under influence is dangerous.

To rest is to rejuvenate.

Resting is rejuvenating.

 

Sometimes, infinitives and gerunds are interchangeable, meaning they mean the same.  Sometimes, they do not.  Sometimes, for certain sentences, you can only use infinitives, but for some, you can only use gerunds.

 

So, when exactly should we use infinitives and when, gerunds?  And what is the difference in meaning if they are not interchangeable?

 

A.  Infinitive and gerund are both correct in the following examples.   However, the meaning of the sentences is somewhat different.   

Infinitives:

1.        Infinitives sometimes indicate a future, potential, unreal or abstract event.

2.      Infinitives sometimes are used to state a reason; i.e., “in order to”

3.      Infinitives sometimes mean “to be able to”

 

Gerunds:

4.      Gerunds sometimes state an actual, concrete or fulfilled event as something happens in the present or happened in the past. 

5.      Only gerunds can be the object of a preposition

  

For example:

I.  Gerund and Infinitive as adjective

 

A4.  Indicating a past event

(a1)  The boy having been punished finally behaved. (O)

= The boy who had been punished finally behaved.

 

(a2)  Dating in Paris was the most romantic experience she ever had.

 

A1.  Indicating a potential / future event

(b1)  The boy who is to be punished will learn to behave. (O)

= The boy to be punished will learn to behave.

 

 

II. Gerund and Infinitive as subject

 

A4.  Indicating a fact

(a)  Excelling in English requires one's determination.

 

A1.  Indicating a means, a potential / future event

(b) To excel in English requires one's determination.

= It requires one’s determination in order to excel in English.

 

A3.  Indicating “to be able to”

(a)  To err is human, to forgive, divine. (Shakespeare)

= It is human (to be able) to err.  It is divine (to be able) to forgive.

 

A4.  Indicating a fact

(b)  Erring is human, forgiving, divine.

 

III. Gerund and Infinitive as object of a verb

Certain verbs change meaning when followed by infinitives vs. by gerunds.   

(1) Stop / Quit:

(a)  I stopped to pick up my dry cleaning.

= I stopped in order to pick up my dry cleaning. (A2.)

= I stopped what I was doing and picked up my dry cleaning.

=> I stopped what I was doing and went on to do something that had not happened yet.  “Pick up my dry cleaning” was an event not yet happened before I stopped.

(b)  I stopped picking up my dry cleaning.
=> I was picking up my dry cleaning but for some reason, I stopped the event.  “Picking up my dry cleaning” was something that happened until I stopped.

 

(2) Forget:

(a)  She forgot to feed the dog.

= She did not feed the dog because she forgot about it.

=> “to feed the dog” never happened.

 

(b)  She forgot feeding the dog.

= She forgot the occasion that she had fed the dog.

=> “feeding the dog” did happen, but she forgot about it.

 

(3)  Remember:

(a)  I remembered to buy a car seat on my way home.

=> I remembered that I needed to buy a car seat on my way home, and so I did.

 

(b)  I remembered buying a car seat on my way home.

= I remembered having bought a car seat on my way home.

=> I remembered the action of “buying a car seat” when I was driving back home.

 

(4)  Regret:

(a)  I regret to tell you that we have selected another candidate for the position.

=> I am sorry to tell you that we have selected another candidate.  Used to introduce a bad news.

 

(b)  I regret telling him a lie.

= I regret having told him a lie. 

=> I wish I had not told him a lie.  (I feel bad and I should not have done it, as I see having done it as a mistake). 

 

(5)  Try:

 

(a) try to = to make an effort or an attempt to do something that maybe hard to accomplish.

=> I will try to finish my homework today.

= I will make an effort to finish my homework today.

= I will do my best and finish my homework today.

 

(b)  try + gerund = to do something and see if it works.

=> (b1) If the front door won’t open, try getting in through the side door. 

=> (b2) I have tried giving him different options to back down from the issue, but in vain. 

 

(6)  Go on:

 

(a)  go on to = to start something new

=> (a1) He went on to work as a consultant after getting PMP certified.

=  He got his PMP certification and then he started to work as a consultant.

 

=> (a2) He went on to swim after he completed weight training.

= He completed weight training and after that, he swam.

 

(b) go on + gerund = continue + gerund

=> (b1) He went on working as a consultant after getting PMP certified.

= He continued working as a consultant after getting PMP certified.

 

=> (b2) He went on swimming even though he had swam 20 laps.

= He continued swimming even though he had swam 20 laps.

 

 

(7)  Need:

 

(a) need to = must (active voice)

=> We need to boost our revenue to survive this economy.

= We must boost our revenue to survive this economy.

 

(b)  need + gerund = need to be (passive voice)

=> Our revenue needs boosting so we can survive this economy

=  Our revenue needs to be boosted so we can survive this economy.

 

(8) Advise, recommend and forbid:

(a)  John advices us not to take a vacation in Mexico for the recent outbreak of swine flu.

= John advices that we not take a vacation in Mexico for the recent outbreak of swine flu.

 

(b)  John advices against our taking a vacation in Mexico for the recent outbreak of swine flu.

= John advices us not taking a vacation in Mexico for the recent outbreak of swine flu.

 

** In traditional English grammar, a noun or pronoun preceding a gerund must be genitive (possessive).   However, nowadays, it is getting more common to see the objective used in place of the possessive.

For example:

(a)  The policeman catches his stealing in the grocery store.

(b) The policeman catches him stealing in the grocery store.

 

(9) Consider, contemplate and recommend:

These verbs are followed by an infinitive only in the passive voice or with an object pronoun.

 

(a)  Mary is considered to be the smartest girl in her class.  (passive voice)

= People consider Mary to be the smartest girl in her class.  (with an object pronoun)

 

(b) I consider doing work for others instead of providing work direction to them a disservice.

 

B.  Sometimes, the meaning of the sentence is very similar whether an infinitive is used or a gerund. 

(1a)  Mary continues to test her parents’ patience after being warned several times.

 

(1b)  Mary continues testing her parents’ patience after being warned several times.

 

(2a)  Mary started to learn Spanish last Friday. 

 

(2b)  Mary started learning last Friday.

 

(3a)  The volcano began to erupt this morning.

 

(3b)  The volcano began erupting this morning.

 

 

However, when expressing in conditional or when would is used in front of the verb, infinitive is more commonly used.

(4a)  Mary would like to sleep through the night without taking sleeping pills.

= Mary wants to be able to sleep through the night without eating sleeping pills.  (More commonly used)

 

(4b)  Mary would like sleeping through the night without taking sleeping pills. 

 

(4c)  Mary likes playing basketball.

= Mary enjoys playing basketball.

 

(5a)  I would hate to see such a good child turning into a juvenile delinquent. (More commonly used)

 

(5b)  I would hate seeing such a good child turning into a juvenile delinquent.

 

(6a) I (would) prefer to see John elected as the chairman. (More commonly used)

 

(6b)  I prefer seeing John elected as the chairman.

 

(6c)  I prefer eating gourmet food to buying a new purse. 

= I enjoy eating gourmet food more than I enjoy buying a new purse.

 

(7a)  I cannot bear to see John elected as the chairman. (More commonly used)

 

(7b)  I cannot bear seeing John elected as the chairman.

 

(8a)  I would love to see Mary participating at the spelling bee contest. (More commonly used)

 

(8b)  I would love seeing Mary participating at the spelling bee contest.

 

IV. Gerunds as object and as object of a preposition

 

(1) Mary likes to talk about eating around the world.

=> Gerund as object of a preposition

 

(2) I like fishing. 

=> “fishing” is a noun, an object of verb: like. 

 

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