I'm tutoring a native Chinese speaker and having some trouble expressing the different forms of gerunds versus infinitives, specifically in the following examples. I can answer the questions myself intuitively, but I don't have a good way of explaining when to use one versus the other. Can any of you explain these questions? Are there any tricks to decide which to use?

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    I believe it's a matter of verb government which should be memorized with each new verb. "stop" requires +ing, "start" can take both to-infinitiva and verb+ing. I don't think there's an easy rule for this. Nov 16, 2014 at 16:15
  • No, there's no rule; every verb is different in what kind of complement clause it can appear with. See Complements, plus the Logic and Verb Phrase study guides, for more details. When you're familiar with that, the varieties of Noun phrase movements and deletions become important, and that's discussed with solved exercises in the Cliff's on Equi and Raising. Nov 16, 2014 at 19:24
  • I think this is a great question, and particularly suited to the ELL site. If they close it there, you can post it here again.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Nov 17, 2014 at 0:58
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    From a learner's point of view, telling them the difference between stop to think and stop thinking or between stop smoking and stop to smoke, carefully, works best. This can work even without having to use any terminology. Nov 17, 2014 at 8:38
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    @DamkerngT. I don't agree. Iis a false distinction. Stop to Y really means Stop Xing to Y. Teaching stop to Y gives learners the false idea that stop can have an infinitive as a complement. It can't. The to Y phrase is just some extra information. It is that same thing as I studied to improve my English. The phrase to improve my English is just a bit of extra information - it has nothing to do with the verb study. If you teach students 'infinitives of purpose' then you don't need to teach this false distinction about stop! And your students won't get confused :) Nov 17, 2014 at 12:58

2 Answers 2


Remember to X/ forget to X:

  • the remembering should happen before the doing.

Remember doing/ forget doing:

  • you can or can't replay the video in your mind.

Used to do, be used to doing:

  • NEVER teach these forms together, however tempted you feel. It just causes cross-association which a a dangerous form of linking things in the brain. Once this happens it can never be undone: HEALTH WARNING: DON'T DO IT!

Besides this, in "I am used to going to bed early", used to is an adjective + preposition combination. It is not a verb + infinitive combination. Of course, you'll never need to make the distinction for your students, because they'll never ever study them together! Teach the adjective + preposition combination with other adjective + preposition combinations (fed up with, angry about and so forth). Teach the verb as a verb. That adjective should not be in the list of other verbs in the execrise.

Stop doing / stop to do:

  • It's better not to teach this distinction. It has nothing to do with the verb stop. The first is a normal use of the verb stop with another verb as complement. The second is just a use of the verb stop with no complement at all. It is just followed by an infinitive of purpose. See here for more information

There are some generalisations that can be made about infinitive and -ing forms, but they are difficult to understand conceptually, and are not accurate enough to be very helpful. The best way to go about dealing with the problem is to remember that is that it generally depends on the preceding verb. It is better to learn and record this vocabulary in complete phrases or sentences ( - catchy ones). So students should record remember to do in an interesting sentence, not just the word remember. This goes for all new vocabulary, really.


The class of verbal concepts involved is called nonfinite clause, where the clause is originated from a verb operating in a nonfinite mode.

The basis of a nonfinite is that its origin-verb is not anchored to any point in time, or in number of perpetrators.

  • He came here to die.
  • They came here to die.
  • They are coming here to die.
  • I will be coming here to die.

First, let me establish some premises, which you would probably already know, because it helps to understand the categorization. These are not the only nonfinites in English, but are the ones in question.

1. Infinitive

The infinitive is still operating as a verb.

  • I love to paint doors.

2. To-less infinitive

Same premise of to-infinitive, without being fixated in tense or in number

  • I propose that he paint doors.
    (note: "I propose that he paints doors" is bad grammar)
  • I advise that he apply for the loan.
  • I advise that they apply for the loan.

However, the following is not nonfinite, since we already know for a fact that it has already happened or is happening. Or, that our belief is grounded in time.

  • I know that he paints doors. He paints doors.
  • I believe that she saves money. She saves money and has two jobs.

3. Present participle

They are adjectives or adverbs.

Adjectival present participle: used to describe a noun.
  • Look at the flying fish.
  • We are on a winning streak.
Adverbial present participle: used to describe the state of another action.
  • He came home running. (Describes the action came)
Adverbial to the auxiliary verb
  • He is painting the house.
  • I am eating durian.
  • He is going to go to school.
    (I'm poking fun at people's penchant for using going to)

4. Gerunds

Gerunds are nouns. They are names of actions. They are neither adjectives nor adverbs.

Names of non-transitive actions.
  • I enjoy painting and walking.
Names of transitive actions.
  • I enjoy painting doors and walking my dog.
Name of a possessable action.
  • I wish to thank you for your painting my doors and your walking my dog.
  • I am furious at her arriving at work late everyday.
  • My grandma appreciates my holding her hand every time I visit her.
Adverbial gerund

Where the gerund is not an adverb, but is described by an adverb.

  • Eating sloppily is bad manners.
Adjectival gerunds.

Where the gerund is described by an adjective.

  • Your sloppy eating reflects your bad manners.

5. Verbal nouns

They are no longer actions. They are names of concrete products of actions.

Products of non-transitive actions.
  • I wish to buy your painting.
  • Bernie Maddoff has cheated me of my life's savings.
  • I have to clean up his shavings from the sink everyday.
  • "Friending" is the name of my favourite horse that will win the race.
Products of non-transitive prepositional actions. Has a preposition between the verbal noun and the subject of the verbal noun
  • This is the painting of my grandma.
  • They live in government housing by the river.
Concrete product of an action being an adjective
  • The painting exhibition.
  • I have a savings account with the savings bank.
  • The coupling factory makes couplings for transmission cables.
  • Similar to using a usual noun as adjective, e.g., water bottle.


The best way is for your student to read, and read, and read. But if I were teaching a machine software some rules ....

Scoring ranks:
Au Gold = is grammatically acceptable
Ag Silver = is not logically awkward or out of alignment
Cu Copper = least number of words

  1. I remember {} the Queen in the palace.

    • Obviously, using {to meeting} is not grammatically acceptable.
      Au = 0;
    • I remember {to meet with} the Queen in the palace.
      Au = 1;
      Ag = 0: because this is logically out of alignment. Being nonfinite the infinitive has no grounding in time, a sentence needs to provide the finite grounding in time of when the action is to take place.
      These do not need to be grounded in time, because it is your intention to let them continue ungrounded:
      I remember running. I take a painting. I like drapings. To meet the Queen is my fantasy.

    To fulfill your intentions to ground an infinitive in time, you would supply a finite verb
    I will remember {to meet} the Queen.
    I did remember {to meet} the Queen.
    I remembered {to meet} the Queen.
    I struggled to remember {to meet} the Queen.

    • I remember {meeting with} the Queen in the palace.
      Au = 1; Ag = 1; Cu = 0;
    • I remember {meeting} the Queen in the palace.
      Best score: Au = 1; Ag = 1; Cu = 1;
  2. Did you remember {} the letter?

    • {post}
      Au = 0: not a nonfinite.
    • {to posting}
      Au = 0: not a nonfinite
    • {posting} Au = 1;
      Ag = 0;
      Did you remember {} the letter?
      is totally acceptable. It asks if you had any memory having posted a letter say while sitting in your car yesterday. But that is not what you intend to ask.
    • {to post}
      Highest possible score: Au = 1; Ag = 1; Cu = 0;
  3. I am not used {} up early.
    Read about preposition-verb couplings: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/202863/preposition-for-tie/202942#202942.

    We need a preposition {to} after used:
    I am not used {to {nonfinite} }.
    I am not familiar/familiarized {with {eating}} with chopsticks.
    I am not bothered {about {approving}} the XL pipeline.

    Without need of scoring:
    I am not used {to {getting}} up early.

  4. Not the preposition-verb coupling as previous question.
    Plain to-infinitive:

    I used {to-infinitive} to the cinema.
    I trained {to get} up early.
    I remembered {to get} up early.

    • I used {get} up early.
      I used {go} to the cinema.
      Au = 0;
    • I used {getting} up early.
      I used {going} to the cinema.
      Au = 1;
      Ag = 0: not logical or not the intended message: I used getting up early as an excuse to avoid late nite parties.
      I used going to the cinema as excuse to see her.
    • I used {to go} to the cinema. Best score: Au = 1; Ag = 1; Cu = 1;
  5. I regret {} Mary about the wedding of her ex-boyfriend.

    • I regret {tell} Mary about the wedding of her ex-boyfriend.
      Au = 0;
    • I regret {to telling} Mary about the wedding of her ex-boyfriend.
      Au = 0;
    • I regret {to tell} Mary about the wedding of her ex-boyfriend.
      Au = 1;
      Ag = 0: not the intended message, out of alignment in time/tense with the intended message
    • I regret {telling} Mary about the wedding of her ex-boyfriend.
      Best score: Au = 1; Ag = 1; Cu = 1;
  6. I regret {} you that your loan application has been rejected.

      1. I regret {tell} you that your loan application has been rejected.
        Au = 0;
      1. I regret {to telling} you that your loan application has been rejected.
        Au = 0;
      1. I regret {to tell} you that your loan application has been rejected.
        Au = 1;
        Ag = 0: not the intended message, out of alignment in time/tense with the intended message
      1. I regret {telling} you that your loan application has been rejected.
        Best score: Au = 1; Ag = 1; Cu = 1;

  • 1
    Your To-less infinitives are in fact present subjunctive forms. Your adverbial to the auxiliary verb present participle forms are generally treated as present continuous/progressive aspects of the verb.
    – tunny
    Nov 17, 2014 at 19:38
  • Coincidence of infinitive with the subjunctive: To be or not to be, which is the mystery of existence. Nov 17, 2014 at 20:55
  • Coincidence of the form of the infinitive with that of the subjunctive.
    – tunny
    Nov 17, 2014 at 20:59
  • The subjunctive documents imaginary action, whatever forms it takes. Like real and imaginary numbers. Calling the subjunctive a mood is inadequate semantics. To be precise in semantics, the subjunctive operates in imaginary mode, rather than mood. Nov 17, 2014 at 21:05
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    @Blesses Geek. Whether you call it a mode or a mood, it's not an infinitive.
    – tunny
    Nov 17, 2014 at 21:14

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