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  1. #1
    keannu's Avatar
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    Default ~ing vs to infinitive

    My grammar books says "to infinitive" usually refers to future actions, while gerund refers to past actions. But I think it's not always true, but it depends. Like in ex1 and ex2, does ex1 mean "someone who will deliver in the future" while ex2 means general concept? Maybe ex2 doesn't make sense by its structure, I just made it up.

    I remember seeing her <=> I remember to see her.
    ex1)We need a person to deliver our foods to customers
    ex2)We need a person delivering our foods to customers

  2. #2
    paul.moss is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: ~ing vs to infinitive

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    My grammar books says "to infinitive" usually refers to future actions, while gerund refers to past actions. But I think it's not always true, but it depends. Like in ex1 and ex2, does ex1 mean "someone who will deliver in the future" while ex2 means general concept? Maybe ex2 doesn't make sense by its structure, I just made it up.

    I remember seeing her <=> I remember to see her.
    ex1)We need a person to deliver our foods to customers
    ex2)We need a person delivering our foods to customers
    It's not so easy to generalise about these forms . the second example does make sense:it is a kind of reduced relative clause and it means "....a person who is delivering/who delivers....., which is differnent fom the first. Basically, what you need to do is learn which form goes with what verb or adjective and what it means in that particular context;to start with, look up these patterns in your learner's dictionary and focus on the differences:
    try doing something v try to do something
    stop doing something v stop to do something
    propose to do something v propose doing something

  3. #3
    keannu's Avatar
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    Default Re: ~ing vs to infinitive

    Quote Originally Posted by paul.moss View Post
    It's not so easy to generalise about these forms . the second example does make sense:it is a kind of reduced relative clause and it means "....a person who is delivering/who delivers....., which is differnent fom the first. Basically, what you need to do is learn which form goes with what verb or adjective and what it means in that particular context;to start with, look up these patterns in your learner's dictionary and focus on the differences:
    try doing something v try to do something
    stop doing something v stop to do something
    propose to do something v propose doing something
    Okay, it depends, then what about this one? Does it mean "who will deliver" or "who delivers", future or general?
    ex1)We need a person to deliver our foods to customers

  4. #4
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    Default Re: ~ing vs to infinitive

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    Okay, it depends, then what about this one? Does it mean "who will deliver" or "who delivers", future or general?
    ex1)We need a person to deliver our foods to customers
    It could be either.

    Let's say that a pizza delivery company has just realised that the regular driver has not arrived for work. The first pizzas are cooked and are ready to go out to the customers. The manager might shout urgently to everyone there "Quick! We need someone to deliver the pizzas to the customers!" In that context, he needs someone right now, to do it immediately.

    The same pizza company might know that the regular driver is leaving the company in two weeks. The manager places an advert in the local paper to find a replacement driver. The advert might say "We need someone to deliver our pizzas to our customers. The job starts in two weeks". In this context, it refers to the future.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: ~ing vs to infinitive

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    My grammar books says "to infinitive" usually refers to future actions, while gerund refers to past actions.
    Isn't that just with certain verbs like regret/remember?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: ~ing vs to infinitive

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    My grammar books says "to infinitive" usually refers to future actions, while gerund refers to past actions.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Isn't that just with certain verbs like regret/remember?
    I did a crude check a few years ago. I can't remember the percentages now, but it was true that the majority of 'verb + to-infinitive' constructions referred to a future situation, and that the majority of 'verb + -ing form' constructions referred to present-, general- or past-time situations, for example:

    I hoped to see Mary. (the going, if it happened, was after the hoping)
    I enjoyed seeing Mary (the seeing and the enjoying happened at the same time).

    However, enough verbs did not fit this idea (e.g. I suggested seeing Mary, I liked to see Mary) that I concluded that the 'rule' was not very helpful.

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: ~ing vs to infinitive

    But even that check is a variation - including present/general time - and it breaks down. It's not a rule that stands much examination, though it works well with some verbs.

  8. #8
    paul.moss is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: ~ing vs to infinitive

    Strictly speaking, the ing- form and to-infinitive are non-finite verb forms, which means they are tenseless and the time they refer to dpends on the tense and the time of the main verb. Compare:
    I saw a man running down the road.v I can see a man running down the road.
    She usually forgets to lock the door V She forgot to lock the door.
    I will remember to call you.( calling will be done in the future) V I will remember calling you(Calling was probably done in the past or is being done now, which will be rememberd in the future)
    As you can see it's not just the form; common sense and knowlege of the world also play a role. What it comes down to is :
    Decide on a case by case basis.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: ~ing vs to infinitive

    I see the point you are making, but there is still a (limited) degree of accuracy in what keannu's books said.
    Quote Originally Posted by paul.moss View Post
    I saw a man running down the road The seeing and the running happen at the same time.
    I can see a man running down the road. The seeing and the running happen at the same time.
    She usually forgets to lock the door She forgets that she must/should/etc (in the future) lock the door.
    She forgot to lock the door. She forgot that she must/should/etc (in the future) lock the door
    I will remember to call you.( calling will be done in the future) V I will remember calling you(Calling was probably done in the past or is being done now, which will be remembered in the future)

  10. #10
    paul.moss is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: ~ing vs to infinitive

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I see the point you are making, but there is still a (limited) degree of accuracy in what keannu's books said.
    Yes. That's the point : you can't generalise. As you point out, in my first example. seeing was done in the past so was the running; in the second, seeing ia being done now so is the running, When you say I forgot to lock the door you mean you didn't lock it; in the same vein, she usually forgets to lock the door means she usually doesn't do it. Therefore, grammar, vocab, and knowledge of the world(the context) must work together to get us to the right interpretation. Trouble is grammar books sometimes seem to have this knack for making things look much easier than they really are.

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