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Thread: Ing/To

  1. #1
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    Exclamation Ing/To

    I was reading the following explanation but I can't figure it out. Help me please.

    1. * To make mistakes is easy. (older English)
    * It's easy to make mistakes. (more natural)
    **Why can't I say: "Making mistakes is easy???

    The book gave another example: "Selling insurance is a pretty boring job." Then I don't understand if I can use either.

    2. "My ambition was to retire at thirty."
    Can I say: My ambition was retiring at thirty???

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Ing/To

    In the first example, you can say 'making mistakes is easy':

    Making mistakes iseasy- screwing-up takes talent.

    In #2, I'd use the infinitive because the act of retiring was in the future at the time of your ambition.

  3. #3
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    Re: Ing/To

    In addition, infinitives and participles differ in the way in which they express the reality of an event. For example, "to. . ." tells us the event hasn't yet happened; it's unrealized, whereas ". . .-ing" tells us the event has happened or has been experienced before; it's realized. So, "Making mistakes is easy" means the speaker has made mistakes before, or knows about making mistakes, so the event has happened, has been experienced. In contrast, "To make mistakes is easy" sounds odd. It expresses that the speaker has not experienced the event before (How does s/he know it's easy? ) That's the awkward bit.

    1. "Selling insurance is a pretty boring job."
    => The speaker has experience selling insurance or hasn't but has knowledge of it (i.e., someone else does it and told the speaker about it).

    2. "My ambition was to retire at thirty."
    => The speaker intended to retire at 30, but s/he never did. The event is unrealized. It didn't happened when s/he was 30.

    *My ambition was retiring at thirty? (ungrammatical)
    => It means, my ambition was in the act of retiring when you were 30.

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