Gerund & Infinitive

Understanding Noun Roles of Gerunds & Infinitives

GerundsOpens in new window and InfinitivesOpens in new window are verbOpens in new window formsOpens in new window that act as nounsOpens in new window, which mean they can do just about anything that a noun can do.

Although they name things, like other nouns, they usually name activities rather than people or objects.

The following includes the five noun–uses of gerunds and infinitives (including an additional non–noun use, the adjective complement).

The infinitive is often a complement used to help define an abstract nounOpens in new window.

Try following these nouns with an infinitive phrase:

Notice how the phrase modifies and focuses the noun. Below is a very partial list of abstract nouns, enough to suggest their nature.

adviceappealcommand
desirefactinstruction
opportunityorderpermission
possibilitypreparationproposal
refusalreminderrequest
suggestiontendencywish
decisionmotivationplan
recommendationrequirement

Here is a list of adjectives that you will often find in such constructions.

aheadamazedanxiousapt
ashamedboundcarefulcertain
contentdelighteddetermineddisappointed
eagereligiblefortunateglad
happyhesitantliablelikely
sadshockedsorrysurprised
luckypleasedproudready
reluctantupset

It is not uncommon to find gerunds taking on the role of object of prepositionOpens in new window, as 11) and 12) illustrate.


And, finally, both gerunds and infinitives can act as a direct objectOpens in new window: Here, however, all kinds of decisions have to be made, and some of these decisions will seem quite arbitrary.

The next study is about making the choice between gerund and infinitiveOpens in new window forms as direct object.