I've heard expressions like this:

1: I was born forgiving you.
2: I was born to forgive you.

What if any difference is there between these?

  • content is singular here!
    – Maulik V
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 8:41
  • What exactly are you asking? What difference does it make to you whether forgiving in your example is called a gerund? In fact, it's not - since a gerund is a verb form functioning as a noun, which clearly is not the case here. The difference between using the present participle and the infinitive is that forgiving describes what you were doing at the time you were born (and possibly ever since), but to forgive describes the purpose for which you were born (which you may or may not have yet started to do). Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 13:14
  • @user10222: Of course. But you still haven't answered my question. Are you asking about the difference between identifying a usage as present participle or gerund, or about the difference between using forgiving and to forgive in your example sentence? Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 13:31
  • @FumbleFingers i guess latter one was my intention i was just wondering about in what situations would them be used and natural. I was going too far away alone sorry my question seems to have been beside the point
    – user10222
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 13:49
  • @@user10222: I've extended someone else's "edit awaiting approval" to clarify what I think you're asking. If I've got it wrong you can reverse the edit, but I did this because there's already one "closevote" saying the question is "Unclear". Following my edit, the question might be a duplicate (I haven't checked), but at least it shouldn't get closed as Unclear. Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 14:16

1 Answer 1


In OP's examples, #1 uses the present participle (forgiving), and #2 uses the infinitive (forgive). You might think the infinitive is "to forgive", but this is misleading.

It's actually a bare (unmarked) infinitive. The preceding to is a preposition - which as usual, has the general sense of in the direction of, towards, for the purpose of. Specifically here it's probably easiest to understand it as being a shortened form of in order to. Thus, OP's example #2...

I was born to forgive you.
The reason I was born was in order to forgive you.

In OP's context, the continuous verb form forgiving can never have that sense of "purpose". It could only ever describe something I was doing at the same time as I was being born - as in, for example,...

I was born kicking and screaming
I was kicking and screaming while/during the time when I was being born

Since babies are obviously not capable of "forgiving" whilst being born, OP's #1 is effectively nonsense.

  • 1
    I agree, but note that "I was born forgiving you" does still work if it's hyperbole for poetic/emphatic purposes. I can imagine it being used in an emotional exchange: "I'm so sorry. Can you forgive me?" "I was BORN forgiving you!"
    – ZsigE
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 16:42

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