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Are these sentences have a difference with meaning, tense or etc. between each other:

  • Playing is easy.
  • To play is easy.

and

  • They need getting up early.
  • They need to get up early.
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There is little or no difference in the meaning of the gerund and the "to"-infinitive.

Some words require one or the other.

Need normally requires a "to"-infinitive, so They need to get up early. In this it is like want and ought.

As it happens, need has a second, different, construction with the gerund. It is rather colloquial, and it has a passive sense. So They need getting up early means Somebody should get them up early. It cannot mean the same as They need to get up early. This is a special feature of need, and is not necessarily shared by other words.

In fact, in this sense, it is about the speaker's need, not the subject's. When the subject is inanimate (eg This salad needs washing) this does not make much difference, but when it is people, as in your example, the implication of They need getting up early is something like Somebody should get them up early, whether they want to get up early or not!

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  • Thanks for your answer I didn't understand a point. Which one is passive voice and how? And what about my "play" example? Is it same and have a passive voice? – user123960 Jan 17 at 19:53
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    @user123960: In the normal use of need, with an infinitive, the infinitive is active: in They need to get up it is they who have the need, and they who get up. In I need them to get up, I have the need, but they do the getting up. In the colloquial They need getting up, it is the speaker who has the need, and getting up is something that is done to them: somebody is to make them get up - that's what I mean by "passive". In the case ofyour play example, both are grammatical, and there is little difference in meaning. Playing is easy is more idiomatic. – Colin Fine Jan 17 at 22:50

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