We usually use infinitives with to in the English language: I want to go. I told him to come.
The infinitive without to (bare infinitive) is used as follows.
1. After modal verbs - can, may, must, needn't, dare...
I can bring it. He may take it. You must buy it. We needn't open it. He dared not tell me.
The verbs dare and need can also be followed by the infinitive with to. In such sentences we use do to make questions and negatives.
I dared not call you. x I didn't dare to call you.
These two sentences have the same meaning, only the form is different.
You needn't listen to him. (You don't have to listen to him.) x You don't need to listen to him. (There is no need to listen.)
These two sentences are different in the form and meaning, too.
2. After the verbs of senses - feel, hear, see, watch.
We saw you swim. I heard her sing.
It is more common, however, to use -ing form in English after the verbs of senses.
We saw you swimming. I heard her singing.
But: In the passive voice the form is different.
She was seen to cry.
3. After some more expressions - let, make, would rather, had better, help.
Don't let him go. She made me drive. I'd rather finish it. You'd better start. I helped them carry it.
The verb help can also be followed by the infinitiv with to.
I helped them to carry it.
But with the passive voice we use the following form.
I was made to drive. He was let to go.
There are a lot of verbs and expressions that are used with these forms. In this chapter you will find the list of the most common examples of verbs followed by gerunds and infinitives.
In the English language there are verbs followed by infinitive (They agreed to come), other verbs followed by gerund (Did you enjoy flying?) and there are also verbs followed by both gerunds and infinitives (She began to work - She began working).
1. Examples of verbs followed by infinitive only:
agree, appear, arrange, ask, choose, decide, demand, encourage, fail, forbid, force, hope, instruct, invite, learn, manage, offer, order, permit, persuade, plan, prepare, pretend, promise, refuse, remind, seem, swear, warn
He decided to study at university. We hoped to find it. Did he seem to like it? I ordered my son to send it.
2. Expressions and phrasal verbs followed by infinitive:
be about, do one's best, make up one's mind, set out, turn out
He was about to start. I did my best to learn it. I haven't made up my mind to start yet. It turned out to be your car. We set out to cut the tree.
3. Examples of verbs followed by gerund only:
admit, consider, delay, dislike, enjoy, escape, excuse, finish, forgive, imagine, insist, keep, mind, miss, practise, prevent, risk, suggest, understand
She admitted telling him. Did you escape writing the test? I don't want to risk coming late.
Excuse, forgive and prevent are used with three different forms:
Excuse my being late. Excuse me being late. Excuse me for being late.
4. Expressions and phrasal verbs followed by gerund:
be against, be interested in, can't stand, can't help, care for, give up, look forward to, it's no use/good, it's worth
I can't stand waiting for hours. I can't help laughing. Don't give up studying this chapter. It's no use working so late. Is the film worth seeing?
5. Examples of verbs followed by gerunds and infinitives.
A. With the same meaning:
begin, advise, allow, can't bear, continue, intend, it requires, it needs, it wants, permit, recommend, start
Did you continue driving/to drive? He can't bear smoking/to smoke.
If the verbs advise, allow, permit, recommend are used with the indirect object, they are followed by infinitive. If not, gerund must be used.
They didn't allow us to eat there. They didn't allow eating there.
She recommended John to read this book. She recommended reading this book.
After the expressions it needs/requires/wants gerund is more common than infinitive.
The car needs washing/to be washed. The flower wants watering/to be watered.
B. The verbs that have a different meaning with gerunds and infinitives.
I remember watching the match. It was fantastic.
We use gerund to talk about earlier actions.
I remembered to watch the match. And so I sat down and switched on the TV.
The infinitive is used to talk about following actions.
I tried calling him because I needed to test my new mobile phone. (I made an experiment with my mobile.)
I tried to call him because I needed to meet him. (I made an attempt to get in touch with him.)
In the conditional tense these verbs are used with the infinitive.
I'd like to drive. I'd love to drive. I'd hate to drive. I'd prefer to drive.
In other tenses they are used with gerunds and infinitives, but both forms have a slightly different meaning.
I like driving. I love driving. I hate driving. I prefer driving.
I like to drive. I love to drive. I hate to drive. I prefer to drive.
I like going to the cinema. (I enjoy it.)
I like to go to the dentist twice a year. (I don't enjoy it, but I go there, because it is good for my health.)
I hate ironing. (It is my least favourite activity. I never enjoy it.)
I hate to iron on Sundays. (I don't mind ironing, but not on Sundays.)
After dinner he went on showing us his photos.
The gerund is used when we want to say that a previous activity continues.
He gave us a lecture on the Greek history. And then he went on to show us his photos from Greece.
The infinitive is used when we want to describe an activity that follows a previous action and is somehow connected to it.
I stopped smoking. (This means that I do not smoke anymore.)
I stopped to smoke. (I made a pause to have a cigarette.)
I didn't mean to hurt you. (I say that I didn't do it on purpose.)
We can go to Spain. But it means spending more money. (In this sentence we describe the consequences.)
She was afraid of getting married. (A marriage is something that frightens her.)
She was afraid to marry Bill. (She doesn't mind getting married, but the marriage with Bill frightens her.)
I'm sorry for telling you. (I apologize for a previuous action.)
I'm sorry to tell you that your flight will be delayed. (I apologize for something that will happen.)
The infinitive with this expression can also mean sorrow:
I'm sorry to hear that your wife is ill.