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    #1

    Difference in nuance between starting with a gerund, infinitive and cleft subject

    Hi, I've read some similar threads about this topic in this forum, but I'd to ask a slightly different question concerning it.

    1) Reading books to children is good.
    2) It is good to read books to children.
    3) To read books to children is good.

    My understanding about these sentences is that 1) and 2) have basically the same meaning, but 1) is prefered in general. I also understand 3) to have a kind of philosophical, "words of wisdom" kind of tone. (Please correct me if I'm wrong about any of this.)

    So my question is, as a native speaker is there any difference in nuance between 1) and 2), and in what situations would one be prefered over the other?


    Thanks for your time!

  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Difference in nuance between starting with a gerund, infinitive and cleft subject

    I don't see any difference in meaning.

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    #3

    Re: Difference in nuance between starting with a gerund, infinitive and cleft subject

    Quote Originally Posted by Bontie View Post
    in what situations would one be prefered over the other?
    I think they can be used interchangeably.

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    #4

    Re: Difference in nuance between starting with a gerund, infinitive and cleft subject

    Thank you MikeNewYork and Tdol for the replies!

    I was kinda hoping there was a little more to it than that, but I guess not!

    Cheers again!

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    #5

    Re: Difference in nuance between starting with a gerund, infinitive and cleft subject

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Hello, Bontie:

    I have found some information that may interest you.

    *****

    One source gives these sentences:

    1. It's pleasant to lie in the sun. (TO LIE in the sun is pleasant.)
    2. It's pleasant lying in the sun. (LYING in the sun is pleasant.)

    He states: "We generally prefer it."

    That same source then gives these two sentences:

    3. It's difficult finding your way around in a strange city.
    4. It's difficult to find your way around in a strange city.

    "There is not much difference," he says. He adds that " -ing may refer to an action in progress, whereas the to- infinitive may imply 'in general.' "

    Source: L. G. Alexander, Longman English Grammar (1988 edition).

    *****

    I also found a website that gives these examples:

    5. Driving his car costs him a lot of money.
    6. To drive his own car is his dream.

    According to that source, #5 uses a gerund to indicate reality, fact, actual experience; #6, on the other hand, uses an infinitive to indicate a possibility, hope, dream.

    Source: "Tenth Week Verbals: Gerund or Infinitive."

    *****

    The following is only my OPINION:

    Based on the above information, I think that maybe:

    7. Reading books to children is very rewarding, so that is why I do it every weekend at the local library.
    8. To read books to children must be very rewarding, so I have decided to do that after I retire from my job in twenty years.




    James
    Last edited by TheParser; 10-Jul-2014 at 17:22. Reason: I used a period (full stop) instead of a comma.

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Difference in nuance between starting with a gerund, infinitive and cleft subject

    I agree with you that the infinitive form is often more theoretical than the gerund form. But without context, how substantive is the difference?

    If you change 7 to "To read books to children is..." and if you change 8 to "reading books to children must be...", what is the real difference?

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    #7

    Re: Difference in nuance between starting with a gerund, infinitive and cleft subject

    Thanks for the detailed post TheParser.

    I'm interested to know how you feel if your 7. & 8. were rewritten in the cleft form:

    9. It is very rewarding reading books to children, so that is why I do it every weekend at the local library.
    10. It must be very rewarding to read books to children, so I have decided to do that after I retire from my job in twenty years.



    Thanks MikeNewYork,

    I agree that without context the difference seems negligible (especially between gerund and cleft for me personally), but I'm hoping to find any context where starting with the gerund form may be more or less preferable than a cleft sentence.

    For example if you were in the act of doing said thing while speaking of it (similar to TheParser's 3. & 4. maybe).

    If you were at the mall shopping would either of these seem more natural?
    a. Shopping is so much fun.
    b. It is so much fun to shop.
    Last edited by Bontie; 12-Jul-2014 at 01:07. Reason: Changed "to read" to "reading" in 9.

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    #8

    Re: Difference in nuance between starting with a gerund, infinitive and cleft subject

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Hello, Bontie:

    I believe that Mr. Alexander feels that there is not much difference between the gerund and infinitive. But he feels that the gerund may indicate an action in progress; the infinitive, a general idea (or, as that website said, a goal).

    (1) In #9, did you accidentally write "to read" instead of "reading"?

    (2) I am certainly no expert, but I am concerned about your use of the term "cleft sentence" for something like: "It is fun to eat ice cream."

    To the best of my knowledge, that does not qualify as a cleft sentence.

    I could easily be wrong, but I think that a cleft sentence refers to something like this:

    "Mona eats ice cream on Fridays."

    It is MONA who / that eats ice cream on Fridays. (Not Tony)

    It is ICE CREAM that Mona eats on Fridays. (Not hot dogs)

    It is on Fridays that Mona eats ice cream. (Not on other days)



    James
    Last edited by TheParser; 11-Jul-2014 at 22:30. Reason: I forgot the "Not a teacher" disclaimer.

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    #9

    Re: Difference in nuance between starting with a gerund, infinitive and cleft subject

    Quote Originally Posted by Bontie View Post
    I was kinda hoping there was a little more to it than that, but I guess not!
    Please avoid textspeak/chatlish on the forum. "Kinda" is not an English word. Use "kind of".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #10

    Re: Difference in nuance between starting with a gerund, infinitive and cleft subject

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Please avoid textspeak/chatlish on the forum. "Kinda" is not an English word. Use "kind of".
    My apologies!

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