I am curious if study can be followed by a gerund or a infinitive or both?

  1. I studied to be a doctor :)
  2. I studied to pass the test :)
  3. I studied to ... (hard to think of examples)
  4. I studied playing the piano for years (seems odd to me)
  5. I studied reading and writing in class (these seem more like nouns than gerunds)
  6. I studied speaking Japanese with Taro (sounds weird to me)

Any thoughts?

1 Answer 1


The infinitives give the purpose of the studying, and and can be paraphrased with "in order to"

I studied [in order] to be a doctor.

I studied [in order] to pass the test.

The infinitive phrases are not the object of the verb "study" but form an adverbial modifier. Above the object is implied, but you could give a noun as the object.

I studied calculus to past the test.

On the other hand the gerund form is the object and tells us what you are studing:

I studied being a doctor (I investigated what life is like for doctors, slighly odd)

Other examples sound odd because you don't "study", you "practise" or "learn"

I studied playing the piano (I investigated how a pianist plays)

I practised playing the piano

But there is no reason that you can't use a gerund, but it is unusual to study a verbal action, normally you study a subject at school, or a thing.

For my PhD, I studied rodents making nests.

I think your confusing might come from a slightly different meaning of the word "study" in Engish and your language. In English it means "to investigate in detail" or "Acquire knowledge of a particular subject". So "study playing the piano" doesn't mean "learn to play the piano" but it means "investigate the playing action in detail."

  • I think it's better to say that verbs like "study" and "practise" are catenative verbs taking gerund-participial clauses as complement (not object). "Playing the piano", for example, would then be the catenative complement of "studied / practised".
    – BillJ
    Aug 3, 2020 at 8:56

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