top of page

Grammar Time: What's in a Sentence, and Starting to Understand Gerunds and Infinitives

I like to start from the basics.

Today, let's think about an English sentence. What do I need in order to make a sentence?

It's very simple: I need a Subject and a Verb, and maybe an Object after the Verb.

An English sentence doesn't always need an Object, though. Some Verbs are Intransitive and don't need Objects (like in two of my examples below: died and happened).


  • a Subject is a Noun [a person, place or thing];

  • and the Object is also a Noun [a person, place or thing].

That means an English sentence usually looks like this:

  • I love horror movies.

  • We ate pizza for dinner.

  • The old man died. ("Die" is Intransitive; it doesn't need an Object.)

  • Something strange happened yesterday. ("Happened" is also Intransitive; it doesn't need an Object.)

*They are all: Noun-Verb-(Noun).

It's easy, right?

Well, if you understand that, you can also understand this idea, which is a bit more difficult: Sometimes, the Subject or Object that you want to use in a sentence is a Verb. What should you do then?

You need to change the Verb so that it's "like" a Noun. There are two ways to make a Verb "like" a Noun:

(1) Use Infinitive [to + Base Form Verb]


(2) Gerund [Verb-ing]

Take a look. If I want to say:

  • I love watch horror movies...

Wait, wait! That's not correct!

I need to change my Object, "watch," into a kind of Noun. When I use "love" as the main Verb, I actually have two choices.

Don't say this:

  • I love watch horror movies. (wrong!)

Say one of these:

  • I love watching horror movies. (correct!)

  • I love to watch horror movies. (also correct!)

In fact, you could even say this:

  • I love horror movies. (also correct! I really don't even need to say "watching/to watch" because it's already clear.)

*Horror movies are scary movies with lots of ghosts and killing. I like them a lot.

See, you can use both Gerund [Verb-ing] and Infinitive [to + Base Form Verb] after the main Verb "love."

They both make the Verb "watch" act like a that we can use it as the Object of the sentence.

Which one should you choose? Which one would I (and other native English speakers) choose?

  • I usually go with Gerund: I love watching horror movies.

  • Gerund feels more natural, but Infinitive: I love to watch horror also fine!

In fact, you could even use the Verb "watch" as the Subject of your sentence, as a Gerund Phrase [a Gerund with some other words] if you want to make a more sophisticated sentence:

  • Watching horror movies is my hobby.

  • Watching horror movies is something I love.

  • Watching horror movies is fun.

In this case, using the Verb as the Subject of the sentence, it's better to use Gerund [Verb-ing] than Infinitive [to + Base Form Verb].

Notice how, when I use the Gerund as the Subject of my sentence, the main verb used is: is (BE Verb in Singular form.)

If I use two Gerunds as the Subjects, look what happens:

  • Watching horror movies and hanging out with my friends are two of my hobbies.

  • Watching horror movies and listening to music are two things I love.

*Now I'm using the BE Verb in Plural form: are.

Let's review.

  • An English sentence is: Subject - Verb - Object (or: Noun - Verb - Noun).

  • If I want to use a Verb as the Object of the sentence, I have to change that it's "like" a Noun. That's simple, right?

The big problem is: How do you know if you should use a Gerund [Verb-ing] or an Infinitive [to + Base Form Verb]?

That's the part your English teacher usually can't explain! Well, I can explain it to you very simply!

We know that there are some Verbs, like "love," which can be followed by both Gerund [G] and Infinitive [I].

These Verbs can also be followed by both G and I: hate, like, dislike, don't like.

This means I can say:

  • My brother really hates window shopping. (correct!)

  • My brother really hates to window shop. (also correct!)

  • When I was young, I didn't like studying English. (correct!)

  • When I was young, I didn't like to study English. (also correct!)

*I would use Gerund if I had the choice, but they're all OK. By the way, window shopping means "going out to the mall or the stores just to look but not to buy."

There is one Verb which seems to fit into this group but doesn't: enjoy.

When you use "enjoy" as the main Verb in a sentence, you must use Gerund [Verb-ing]:

  • My parents really enjoy spending time with each other. It's so cute to see them together!

  • Do you enjoy working early in the morning

That's enough about English sentences for today.

I know you probably want to learn more, but it's better for you to think about what you've just learned. I want you to try to make some sentences using the Verbs we talked about today: love, hate, like, don't like, and enjoy.

Write them down and say them out loud to practice...I don't care if it makes you look crazy; you need to say them out loud!

You can use Past Simple, Present Simple, or Future Simple; it really doesn't matter. You will need to follow the same rules for any Verb Tense.

Try answering my questions:

1) What do you hate doing?

(My answers: I hate washing the dishes!/ I hate to wash the dishes)

2) What did you hate doing when you were younger?

(I hated washing the dishes when I was a kid, just like I hate washing them now! / I hated to wash the dishes when I was a kid...)

3) What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

(I enjoy watching horror movies and hanging out with my friends. I also really enjoy trying new kinds of food.)

4) What do you not like doing?

(I don't like being at a party where I don't know anyone. I don't like standing in a room full of strangers!)

Just remember that Gerunds and Infinitives act "like" Nouns, and you'll always have an easier time making English sentences.

Thanks for reading.



bottom of page