Gerunds and infinitives
[scroll down for worksheet]
If your English teacher here in Prague has said that you have a problem with your gerunds and infinitives, don’t worry – it’s something which you can improve upon with a little practice!!
One thing that I see, especially at first among learners of English, is that they often separate grammar from vocabulary. For many students, grammar means ‘the tenses’ (eg present simple, present perfect) while vocabulary means ‘single words’, and they often study these areas without realising how ‘connected’ they really are.
For example, it’s quite common for students to have long lists of single words (eg cat, dog rabbit) written down in their notebooks followed by the Czech equivalent. Instead, try to see language more broadly:
It’s really important to know what words or patterns come before or after the vocabulary you are learning.
Take the verb deny. The Longman Dictionary says that we use deny when we want to say that we don’t believe that something is true.
Here are some real examples of how deny can be used:
1. He has denied that he spoke against government policy. [BBC.co.uk]
This example shows that deny can be followed by a ‘that’ clause. ie He denied that + clause.
Other examples of deny +(that) + regular clause taken from the BBC include:
- The Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has denied rumours that he is planning to leave the club in a dispute over control of the team. Ancelotti denies speculation that he wants to quit Chelsea..
- ..it denied that any Australian athlete had been involved in vandalism..
- Thomas denied that he and Melanie had a romance .
2. Now let’s look at a different way deny is used.
My question for you –> What comes after deny in these examples below (from BBC News)?
- The former royal butler denies betraying Diana, Princess of Wales, insisting his controversial new book was “a loving tribute”.
- she denies being drunk on an aircraft.
- A man denies helping a mugger who stole … £36, 000 watch in a nightclub toilet..
- A Chinese restaurant owner, fined after an insect was found in a meal, denies buying up every newspaper carrying a report of the story.
What did you notice about the sentences above?
Yep, deny can be also followed by a gerund (ie the ‘ing’ form of a verb, which functions as a noun).
Other verbs which are followed by a gerund or a noun include:
- can’t help
However, some verbs in English can be followed by an infinitive. For example:
- I need to see her.
- She deserves to get a bonus after all that hard work.
- She threatened to call the police.
- I asked to see her parents.
A little tricky
So you can guess the understandable difficulty that you may have when speaking quickly, especially if you’re learning new verbs without studying what comes next in the sentence.
Students can mix these patterns up, and make these mistakes:
* I imagined to hold her hand [instead of I imagined holding her hand]
* She admitted to kiss the piggy bank [instead of She admitted kissing the piggy bank]
* John threatened calling the police [instead of John threatened to call the police]
Please don’t worry about making these mistakes, as you should still try more complex sentences, but with some practice you’ll begin to feel more comfortable and confident using these verbs.
Have a go at this worksheet to practise some common gerund and infinitive patterns.
Also, try to do this by yourself first before you check your answers on page 2 – no peeping!
Tip: check out what the Longman Dictionary says about the verbs you find most difficult (I have a link on the right hand sidebar).