I am struggling between gerund and infinitive in some cases, to me they look the same, is there a rule to decide or both are okay?

A university diploma is not needed for earning high profits trading cryptocurrencies.

A university diploma is not needed to earn high profits trading cryptocurrencies.

  • See the following illustrations: english.stackexchange.com/questions/384/… Nov 9, 2022 at 11:45
  • Thank you, there is a very detailed and complicated discussion in there but I see no actionable principle for my examples. It looks like this is an intuitive and evident choice for speakers where there is no clear principle for learners?
    – wichian
    Nov 9, 2022 at 12:14
  • 2
    There are several rules that determine when each is OK. Following those rules, you would determine that both for earning and to earn fit the context. It's too much to ask for us to give all the rules governing gerund and infinitive choice in one answer, but if you like I can explain what the rules for this example are. If you're looking for a "silver bullet" rule that answers the question every time, there isn't one.
    – gotube
    Nov 9, 2022 at 16:26
  • There are not several rules regarding which is OK. There are two different grammatical forms. One takes a to-infinitive and the other takes a gerund noun. This grammatical difference is explained in my answer. And so it when both can mean for the purpose of.
    – Lambie
    Nov 9, 2022 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


To need something for something else

  • We need this money for the kid's baseball team. [“to the team” does not work]
  • That isn't needed for making a fortune. [to make also works, AND “making a fortune” is a noun-gerund phrase]
  • I need this money for him. [“to him” does not work]
    She needs the rice for the sweets. [“to the sweets” does not work]

Notice that in the preceding cases, there is a noun (pronoun) or gerund noun after the preposition for. There is no verb [making a fortune is a participial phrase functioning as a noun, Making a fortune is not easy.]

To need sth for is not grammatically the same as:

To need something to do something

  • A university diploma is not needed to earn high profits trading cryptocurrencies.

  • A university diploma is not needed for earning high profits trading cryptocurrencies.

However, HERE they can mean for the purpose of in those examples. But they do not exhibit the same grammar. And for and to are not always interchangeable as can be seen in the examples at the beginning of this answer.

This is not a grammar rule. These are the grammatical features of the two sentences.

  • 1
    The OP is looking for a guiding principle to choose between them. I don't see one in your answer. Is there one that I'm missing? The OP's question is about two different forms of a verb, so noun examples don't apply at all
    – gotube
    Nov 9, 2022 at 16:22
  • @gotube I am a little tired of your comments which miss the point. The point is 1) there is no principle per se 2) there is a grammatical difference 3) to and for are not always interchangeable. Also, he says: are they both OK? And I say yes, they are if the meaning is "for the purpose of". Your comment under the question is really poor. "It's beyond the scope of this site to explain what all the rules are, but if you like [...] Are you looking to have this brought up on Meta? All grammar rules are within the scope of this site. [sigh]
    – Lambie
    Nov 9, 2022 at 16:33
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    If that's your point, then say it directly. Maybe I'm not smart enough, but I can't derive from your examples that there's no such principle. If that's what you mean, then you should start your answer off with the words "There is no principle per se", and then go on to use appropriate transition words to show how your examples support this statement. If you think I miss the point all the time, by the same token I find your comments and answers often fail to connect the dots. I've modified my comment above. You misunderstood it, but I hope it's clearer now.
    – gotube
    Nov 9, 2022 at 17:33
  • @gotube His question actually says: "Are both the gerund and infinitive OK"? AND I answered that. I really do not need directives about how to answer questions.
    – Lambie
    Nov 9, 2022 at 17:44
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    Nowhere in this answer do you say whether gerund or infinitive are correct in the OP's context, just that they're both correct sometimes, and they're not interchangeable.
    – gotube
    Nov 10, 2022 at 3:36

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