§ 237.As an object of a verb, the infinitive and the ing -form
are lexically dependent.
According to a well-established tradition, a number of verbs
are followed by the infinitive (for the list see "Verbs', § 186),
while certain other verbs require the use of the ing-form (for the
list see "Verbs", § 214). Yet after a few verbs it is possible to use
either of the two verbals.
The overlap in the use of the infinitive and the ing form is,
however, caused by several reasons:
1) The head-verb is sometimes polysemantic and requires the
use of the infinitive in one of its meanings while in another it
must be followed by an ing-iorm. Here belong the verbs to try, to
propose and to go on.
To try in the meaning of 'to make an effort or attempt1 is
used with an infinitive (a), while in the meaning of 'to test', 'to
make an experiment' it is followed by an ing-form (b).
e.g. a) I'll try todo what I can.
Someone said, "We mustn't try to runbefore we can walk."
b) The young writer, dissatisfied with the result of his work,
tried alteringwords or the order in which they were set.
As we couldn't understand his English he tried speaking
French to us.
It should be noted, however, that to try is much more common
in the meaning of 'to make an effort' and hence it is usually fol-
lowed by the infinitive.
To propose in the meaning of 'to intend' is used with the infin-
itive (a), while in the meaning of 'to put forward for consider-
ation' it is followed by the ing-form (b),
e.g. a) Tell me more about how you propose to startyour business.
He did not propose toforgive them this time,
b) What do you propose doing?
To go on in the meaning of 'to do next or afterwards' requires
an infinitive (a), whereas in the meaning of 'to continue' it is fol-
lowed by an ing-form (b).
e.g. a) She went on tosay that he was a man one could trust com-
The shopkeeper went on to explainthat these little wood-
en figures were by no means comparable to the mass-
b) Tom went on talking.
But you can't go on livingin this way any longer.
Note. The verb to mean in the meaning of 'to intend' is followed by an infini-
tive (a). But when to mean is followed by an ing-form, it is a link-verb denoting 'to
signify', 'to have as a consequence'. The ing-form is not an object in this case; it is
used in the function of a predicative (b).
e.g. a) Do you mean to say he actually approves of it?
b) "To love a woman means giving up everything else," he said.
2) With certain other verbs the overlap in the use of the infin-
itive and the ing-form is accounted for by their tense and aspect
characteristics. This is found after the verbs to remember, to for-
get and to regret. The infinitive expresses an action following that
of the predicate verb (a), while the ing-form denotes a preceding
e.g. a) Bart remembered to countfive before answering his father,
b) I remember saying to him: "Look here, if anyone acted like
you, the world couldn't go on."
a) I forgot to tellJohn about the party.
b) I shall never forget testifying in that trial twelve years
a) I regret to say it but you shouldn't believe everything he
b) He regretted hurting her feelings.
It should be noted that owing to their lexical meaning the
verbs to remember and to regret are in most cases followed by an
ing-form. Conversely, with the verb to forget the situation gener-
ally calls for an infinitive.
3) With some other verbs the infinitive and the ing-form seem
to be interchangeable. These verbs are to begin, to cease, to con
tinue, to dread, to hate, to intend, to like, to love, to neglect, to
prefer and to start.
However, after to begin, to cease and to continue the infinitive
is commonly found, while to start, to like and to hate are more of
ten followed by an ing-form.
Note 1. Care should be taken to remember that there are other verbs in English
denoting the beginning, the continuation or the end of an action which are associat-
ed with only one of the two verbals. Thus, to commence and to set out are used with
an infinitive. Yet to finish, to keep, to keep on, to leave off, and to set about take
Note 2. After the verb to stop the object is always expressed by an ing-form,
e.g. She stopped speaking, as though waiting for him to speak.
The infinitive after to stop can serve only as an adverbial modifier of purpose.
It is usually separated from the verb to stop by an object or an adverbial modifier.
e.g. As I stopped at the bar to have a drink I saw them talking it over.
If the infinitive happens to follow the head-verb immediately it is to be regard-
ed as accidental. Examples of this kind are of rare occurrence.
e.g. I stopped to ask if you were better. They told me you were on duty.
Note 3. The infinitive and the ing-form may serve as object to verbs generally
requiring a prepositional object. Normally the ing-form is used in this case. (For the
list of verbs see "Verbs", §216.) However, after some verbs the ing-form is inter-
changeable with the infinitive. These verbs are: to agree, to aim, to care, to hesi
tate, to long, to plan and to threaten.
e.g. "I may as well plan on living in London for the rest of my life," said George.
Everything you've planned to do is sensible.
He was still hesitating about joining the expedition.
They didn't hesitate to make free use of his purse.
Note 4. There have been a great many attempts to explain the difference in the
use of the infinitive and the ing-form after the verbs given in this section. The in-
finitive has been described as referring to special, particular and concrete occasions
or circumstances, as being more definite and lively in character and perfective in
aspect. Conversely, the ing-form has been described as stating a general fact, repre-
senting an action as permanent or more abstract, expressing a deliberate act and
being imperfective in its aspect. However, none of the above explanations are borne
out by living English usage. Moreover, some of the authors believe that it is unnec-
essary to make formal distinctions between the two constructions.
§ 238. As an object of an adjective, the infinitive and the ing-
iorm are lexically dependent. (For the lists see "Verbs", §§ 187
and 217.) Both verbals may be found after the following adjec-
tives and adjectivized participles: afraid, amazed, annoyed,
ashamed, astonished, careful, certain, content, fortunate, fright-
ened, furious, happy, keen, proud, right, scared, set, slow, sorry,
sure, surprised, touched and wrong. The ing form is always used as
a prepositional object after them.
On the whole the choice between the infinitive and the ing-
iorm after the above adjectives appears to be free.
Cf. I was touched to find my own name on the invitation list.
She couldn't allow herself to tell him how touched she was at
finding him there.
Her coat was pulled tightly round her as if she were afraid
to take it off.
Are you wanted by the police? You needn't be afraid of tell-
She is certain to get the names wrong. She is so careless.
"You look for trouble, don't you?" "Only because I'm certain
of finding it."
I was just scared to leave it there.
I was scared to death at going there to speak.
She told me sternly how fortunate I was to be there in time.
I am very fortunate in having a wife who likes being a woman.
I was content to let things drift along just as they were.
I was fairly content with letting things go as they were.
She looked wonderfully and vividly alive, and I was proud to
be with her.
But when I went to Germany I discovered that the Germans
were just as proud of being Germans as I was proud of be-
The men were careful not to slip on the ice.
We were never very careful about taking precautions.
After certain of the above adjectives, however, the infinitive
tends to express a single action following that of the predicate
verb (a), while the ing-form is preferred when simultaneous or
preceding actions are expressed (b).
e.g. a) In fact, I haven't the faintest idea what's been going on,
and I'm afraid to ask.
b) I'm always afraid of getting caught.
a) I walked up and down the hall. I was afraid to go in.
b) Were you ever afraid of losing your mind?
a) Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I won't be able to
use my car.
b) I'm sorry for coming like this, without being invited.
a) I thought that perhaps I should be wiser not to go.
b) I thought she wasn't very wise in telling us that.
Yet it should be pointed out that on the whole the infinitive is
more common after all the above listed adjectives; the ing-form is
somewhat literary in style.
The use of the infinitive and the ing-form with certain other
adjectives is associated with a change of meaning of the adjec-
tive. Here belong, for example, grateful, good, interested and
e.g. a) The apples are good to eat (=the apples are good for eating),
b) I'm not very good at driving (=I don't very well know how
a) At first he was grateful to have the play to read (=he was
pleased / happy to have...).
b) No one is grateful for being looked after (=no one feels
gratitude for being looked after).
a) I was interested to learn that it was the same cafe where
they had met (=it was interesting for me to learn...)
b) Somehow I was interested in getting back into that work
(=I was anxious to get...).
The Infinitive and the ing-form as Object
in a Sentence Pattern with it as a Formal Subject
§ 239. We usually find the infinitive as an object of a verb or
adjective in a sentence pattern with it as a formal subject.
e.g. It annoyed me to hear him tell a lie.
It's not easy to live with someone you've injured.
It wouldn't be tactful to bring up the subject in his presence.
The ing-form can also be found as an object of an adjective in
a sentence pattern with it as a formal subject in spoken English
where it adds emotional colouring to the sentence.
e.g. Well, it isn't easy telling you all this.
It will be great having them at the party.
However, only the ing-form is used after the expressions to be
worth and to come to.
e.g. If it came to losing him, would she suffer?
It wasn't worth talking to him about it.
The Infinitive and the ing-form as Subjective Predicative
§ 240. As subjective predicative, the infinitive and the ing-form
are lexically dependent (for the lists see "Verbs", §§ 192 and 221).
Both verbals are found after the following verbs in the passive: to
find, to hear, to leave, to report, to see, to show and to watch.
After to hear, to see and to watch the differentiation between
the two verbals is based on their lexical character. Both verbals
serve to express simultaneous actions. But with terminative
verbs, the infinitive shows that the action is accomplished (a),
whereas the ing-form denotes an unaccomplished action in its
e.g. a) The front door downstairs was heard to slam.
He was seen to take the money.
b) The door was heard shutting.
He was last seen turning round the corner.
With durative verbs, the difference between the two verbals
disappears and the choice of the form is free.
e.g. He had been heard to discussthe possibility.
He went out and was heard laughingin the hall.
Afterthe verbs to find, to report and to show the difference be-
tween the two verbals is of a peculiar character — with the verb to
be the subjective predicative is always expressed by a simple infini-
tive (a); with all other verbs, it is expressed by an ing-form (b).
e.g. a) A week later he was found to beout of danger.
The Senator was reported to bebadly injured in the accident,
b) The man was found crawlingabout.
About that time a hurricane was reported movingout of
the Caribbean in our direction.
However, analytical forms of the infinitive may also be found
with verbs other than to be.
e.g. She was found to have stolenthe ring.
The building is reported to have been damagedin the air raid.
He was reported to be preparingan account of the incident.
After the verb to leave the infinitive shows that the action
follows that of the predicate verb (a) while the ing-form expresses
a simultaneous action (b).
e.g. a) The matter will be left to lie.
If things are left to runtheir usual course, everything
will shape out by itself,
b) Cliff and Helena were left lookingat each other.
Some writers claim that in life stories are not finished, situa-
tions are not rounded off, and loose ends are left hanging.