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).