Gerund or infinitive following a verb

Gerund or Infinitive Following a Verb?

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A reader asks if one should use a gerund or infinitive following a verb:

In the following sentence, which is correct, reading or to read and why? A good study habit is to read/reading English books.

What about the following, to travel or traveling, and why: My goal is to travel/traveling around the world.

In the first sentence, “a good study habit” requires a noun for completion; therefore, the gerund is correct: reading.

In the second sentence “my goal” could be either a noun or a verb; therefore either one would be correct.

Gerund: a verb in the -ing form used as a noun

First, let’s recall the meaning of these grammatical terms. A verb is an action word. A noun is a thing. But sometimes the thing can be the name of an activity. For example, fishing, running, writing, seeing and reading are all the names of activities. These are gerunds.

Infinitive: the “to” form of a verb

In English, the “normal” form of a verb is written with “to” before it: to fish, to run, to write, to see, or to read.

Gerund or Infinitive Following a Verb

Whether a verb is followed by a gerund or infinitive can vary depending on the verb or the meaning.

  • I forgot returning the book (I returned the book, but forgot that I returned it)
  • I forgot to return the book (I didn’t return the book, because I forgot to return it.)

Some verbs can only take a gerund; others can only take an infinitive.

  • I came to see the error of my ways (infinitive: correct).
  • I came seeing the error of my ways (gerund: not correct).
  • I came to seeing stars (gerund is correct following the phrasal verb “came to” meaning regaining consciousness).
  • I prefer to play the piano on Tuesdays. / I prefer playing the piano on Tuesdays. (both correct)
  • I see playing the flute as a good career option. (gerund: correct)
  • I see to play the flute… (infinitive: not correct).

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