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Could someone please tell me what it's wrong to use the infinitive instead the gerund in these examples? Why Can't I do this? To me is sounds better with the infinitive.

"Thieves broke into the house, but didn0t take anything. There was nothing worth to steal.

"I had no trouble to find a place to stay."

"Did you have a problem to get a visa?"

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    There is no general rule. Every verb has its own list of requirements, permissions, and prohibitions in terms of what its subject and object can be. Worth takes gerund complements, and not infinitives; it's not a matter of logic or sounding good. That's just how worth is, and no other word is exactly the same. Trouble and problem both take gerund complements as well. Feb 27, 2020 at 22:40

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The infinitive is more abstract than the gerund.

Given a verb X, if the following applies:

  • X can or can't happen

  • X has or hasn't happened

  • someone's going through a process to make X happen.

X is a real thing and not abstract.

If you're expressing something like you wish or want X, or talking about the nature of X, the infinitive is used.

There was nothing worth stealing (You actually looked)

I had no trouble finding a place to stay (finding is something you actually did)

I want to find a place to stay (X in want to X is abstract until you get it)

Did you have a problem getting a visa (You went through the process to get a visa)

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  • Hi, thank you for your help, but unfortunately I didn't understand what you mean. Feb 27, 2020 at 22:17
  • I am not sure about the universality of the statement "The infinitive is more abstract than the gerund." Also, what about, "I didn't find anything "to steal"? (You actually looked.) It seems to me that it is not about abstract/general but rather about the first verb dictating the form of the second verb and this is more or less "set in stone" with the logic, if any, long lost in the mist of history.
    – PPH
    Apr 16, 2022 at 8:09
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What I am going to write may come across as verbose and stating the obvious, for which I apologise in advance. So here we go...

Why can't I do this?

The short answer is because.

But if you are one for long answers:

Because hundreds of years ago some people started saying, "I had no trouble finding a place to stay," and this form was copied/adopted by others. Was it a calculated move by the first few people to use "finding" and not "to find"? Most probably not. Was it totally random? I don't think so. Languages - though extremely inadequate and reductive forms of communication - have their own internal pervasive but loose logic, so loose at times that we would be better off perhaps calling it "tendency" rather than logic.

Think of the subject of the development of languages and their present forms as history rather than physics or mathematics.

While learning physics, you can argue, you can ask why, you can claim that an alternative is perfectly valid. You can't do that with well-established historical facts. What happened, happened. It could have happened differently but it didn't. The present state of things is the result of what happened.

So what with your actual question?

Is there a logic there? Probably yes. Maybe not.

Is it a good idea to be looking for the logic. I don't think so.

As a non-native speaker of English I set myself some rules years ago which I think have served me well and which you may wish to consider:

  1. Whatever a native speaker says is right unless proven otherwise.
  2. Whatever I (i.e. a non-native speaker) say is wrong unless proven otherwise.
  3. If something "doesn't feel right", first double-check to make sure you have the right form and then keep repeating and using it until the day it "feels right".

I suppose I have not told you anything you don't already know and I apologise if I have wasted your time.

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