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(to) vary

(to) present

tolerable (adj.)


(a) gerund

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What Is a Gerund?  What Is an Infinitive Phrase?

Hello, and welcome to today's episode of the ESL Help! Desk . I love to go fishing. We try to vary the activities we present you with, and today, because we've had a recent request to discuss grammar, we're going to talk about gerunds and infinitive phrases.  

Oops....I hope I haven't lost you with this grammar terminology!

For those of you who would rather listen to a nice dialogue or story, we'll try to make this grammar lesson tolerable. And for all you grammar lovers, this podcast is for you.

So now back to today's lesson.

Part 1

First question: What looks like a verb but is a noun? Or, in a linguist's language, what has the structure of a verb but the grammatical function of a noun?

The answer is - a gerund.

A gerund is a noun that takes the ~ing form.

    I like fishing, too.

An infinitive phrase is also a noun, and it has the " to + base form of the verb" structure.

    Then I get ready to eat breakfast.

Part 2

Gerunds and infinitive phrases can exist in several positions in a sentence . They can exist as the subject of the sentence:

    Skiing is the best way for me to relax.

    To finally have my dream come true was a wonderful experience.

 Gerunds and infinitive phrases can also exist as the object of the verb:

    When they went fishing that afternoon, he had to slow down and (to) have patience.

    We go dancing or go someplace special to eat.

Part 3

Gerunds and infinitive phrases can be so confusing.  Somebody learning English can easily wonder whether in a particular sentence he should use a gerund or an infinitive phrase.

For the sentence below, should we write worrying (a gerund) or to worry(an infinitive phrase) in the blank?

    He was so upset and he couldn’t stop ________________ about what to do.

Write your response in the box below.

If you answered
worrying, you are correct!

There are many patterns which will help you to know when to use the gerund form and when to use the infinitive form.

Unfortunately, there is no automatic way to know which to use.

  • Worrying won't help.

  • Reading a good grammar book and reviewing the many patterns of use will help.

  • Complaining about how difficult it is isn't going to help.

  • Paying careful attention to what native speakers say is going to help.

  • Stopping by the ESL HELP! Desk for more lessons in gerunds and infinitive of course is also going to help.

And as we say every week, we are looking forward to you visiting us next week.

You will find more lessons on Gerunds and Infinitive Phrases in Our Library.


Music Copyright, permission of Luca De Bernardi
Photo of Headphones Copyright Karl-Erik Bennion

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