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Infinitives (To clauses)
In conversation, the “to” is reduced to “ta” or “a”. You will find infinitives with some verbs,
opinion adjectives, and also some goal nouns.
Infinitive clauses can be used at the beginnings of sentences (To be or not to be!), but this is
usually a feature of academic writing. Also, some verbs put an object before the infinitive clause
(e.g., I want you to try this great chocolate).
1. Verbs:
I like to learn about grammar. I have to study more! I’m gonna do it!
Common verbs in conversation that can take infinitives:
 Want (wanna)
 Try
 Seem
 Like
 Have (hafta)
 Go (gonna, ‘a)
o In conversation you may hear: I’m going to eat breakfast, I’m gonna eat
breakfast, I’m ‘a eat breakfast
o Never “gonna to,” “wanna to”
2. Opinion and emotion Adjectives
I was sad to hear that you were sick.
It was stupid to cross the street when the sign said “don’t walk.”
Meaning groups with some common examples:
 Feelings and emotions: sad, happy, sorry, afraid, determined
 Ease or difficulty: easy, hard, impossible
 Evaluation: good, bad, stupid
 Habitual behavior: used, accustomed
 Necessity or importance: important, essential, necessary
 Certainty: sure, certain, likely
3. Nouns
I had the chance to be on TV but no desire to do it.
I made a commitment to learn about these darn infinitives and gerunds!
The nouns used before to clauses often show “human goals, opportunities, and actions” (p. 653).
Some common nouns:
 Chance, attempt, effort, ability, opportunity, desire, decision, plan, power, right,
tendency, failure, capacity, permission, commitment, determination
Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman grammar of
spoken and written English. Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.
Gerunds (-ing form)
A. Gerunds can be the subject of a sentence:
Example: Swimming is something I really enjoy!
B. Gerunds can be the objects of prepositions. This means any verb after a preposition
will be in the –ing form:
Example: After going on a date with him, she called me on her cell and told me all about seeing
the movie.
C. Some verbs can have –ing clauses after them.
Example: The Energizer bunny keeps going and going!
In conversation, the most common verbs that use gerunds are:
Keep, start, go, stop, begin, spend (time), come, go, sit, stand, remember, try
D. Some adjectives can take –ing clauses.
I feel comfortable speaking to him.
The town is busy preparing for Christmas festivities.
E. Some verbs can take either infinitives or gerunds:
I like ____-ing.
I like to ___.
1. Good grief, this is a lot of information. What should I do with it? What’s the best way to
learn this?
2. How common are gerunds and infinitives? Are they important?