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  1. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #1

    to-infinitive/gerund

    I'm confused about the usage of "to~" and "~ing."

    Ronbee was kind enough to search Google for possible answers to my question.
    (Thank you, Ronbee!)


    I've been teaching English in Japan, actually. I teach my students(children) that "to~" and "~ing" are, in some cases, grammatically interchangeable, the reason being they both function as nouns. (This is, in fact, what I was taught when I was a junior high school student.)

    For example,

    a.My hobby is to play the guitar.
    =My hobby is playing the guitar.

    b.To play the guitar is a lot of fun.
    =Playing the guitar is a lot of fun.

    c.I like to play the guitar.
    =I like playing the guitar.

    I often find questions concerning this matter on English tests (for high school entrance exams in Japan). They are like as follows:

    Fill in the parentheses with suitable words, so that both sentences mean almost? the same.(literal translation)

    Q1. To study English is a lot of fun.
    =( Studying) English is a lot of fun.
    =( It ) is a lot of fun ( to )( study ) English.


    We give students these kinds of practices at cramming schools called "juku" in Japanese.

    I wouldn't like to give wrong information to my students, who have a bright future ahead of them.

    Please give me your reply (when you are free, of course) with your opinion on this matter.

    Thank you in advance.


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    #2

    Re: to-infinitive/gerund

    I agree these two verbals do overlap.
    When they function as subject, I guess, there is a tendency to use infinitives for a particular situation, esp. in a sentence with implied condition.

    e.g. To tell them the truth would be a mistake.

    and gerunds for a general statement.

    e.g. Telling the truth is the best policy.

  2. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: to-infinitive/gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post
    I agree these two verbals do overlap.
    When they function as subject, I guess, there is a tendency to use infinitives for a particular situation, esp. in a sentence with implied condition.

    e.g. To tell them the truth would be a mistake.

    and gerunds for a general statement.

    e.g. Telling the truth is the best policy.
    Thank you for your comments!
    I quite agree with you.


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    #4

    Re: to-infinitive/gerund

    Another thing occurred to me.
    With 'like' both a gerund and an infinitive mean 'to enjoy'.
    e.g. I like to play / playing the guitar.

    But if you want to say 'it's the right thing to do' you'll have to use an infinitive only.
    e.g. I like to come to work on time.

  3. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: to-infinitive/gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post
    Another thing occurred to me.
    With 'like' both a gerund and an infinitive mean 'to enjoy'.
    e.g. I like to play / playing the guitar.

    But if you want to say 'it's the right thing to do' you'll have to use an infinitive only.
    e.g. I like to come to work on time.
    Yes, I think there's a slight difference in meaning between British English and American English. I learned "like+~ing/to~" means almost the same in AE. However, in BE, "like+~ing" is used mostly to talk about enjoyment, whereas "like+to~" is used mostly to talk about choices and habits. So, in your example("I like to come to work on time."), I guess it means "I make a habit of coming to work on time, because I believe it's a good(right) thing to do."

    They're confusing, aren't they?
    Thank you for your comments again.

  4. Hitch's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: to-infinitive/gerund

    "To" and "ing" are actually verbals or verb forms. They are actually used as 2 of some of the ways for sentence varieties or sentence beginnings. Let us analyze the sentences in your examples:

    a. My hobby is to play the guitar. The complete subject here is "my hobby", which is also the noun; "is" is a helping verb to introduce the verb form "to play", which is the predicate in the verb form and the guitar is the direct object or the receiver of the action or the verb form.

    My hobby is playing the guitar. It's the same things here, my hobby is the noun that functions here as the subject, is introduces the gerund playing that functions in this sentence as a verb but not as a noun, and the guitar as the direct object that receives the action or the gerund as verb form.

    b. To play the guitar is a lot of fun. In this sentence, "To play" is an infinitive that functions as noun subject as part of the complete subject "To play the guitar".
    Playing the guitar is a lot of fun. Playing here, functions as a noun as the subject of the helping verb is. It also acts here like a verb because it governs the direct object guitar.

    c. I like to play the guitar. Here the infinitive to play, is used as noun object of the verb like in the active voice that expresses a desire or activity
    I like playing the guitar. Playing is present tense. Active voice. It is the gerund of the verb play. As a noun, it is used as the object of the verb,
    like. As a verb, it governs the object guitar.

    Actually, the use of verbals is not merely a matter of choice or variety, but also a matter of timing, context, and discretion. One should be able to analze a sentence in terms of parts, patterns, structure, etc. to be able to determine as to what function is performed by a verbal or verb form as used in the position of a particular sentence.

  5. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: to-infinitive/gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by Hitch View Post
    "To" and "ing" are actually verbals or verb forms. They are actually used as 2 of some of the ways for sentence varieties or sentence beginnings. Let us analyze the sentences in your examples:

    a. My hobby is to play the guitar. The complete subject here is "my hobby", which is also the noun; "is" is a helping verb to introduce the verb form "to play", which is the predicate in the verb form and the guitar is the direct object or the receiver of the action or the verb form.

    My hobby is playing the guitar. It's the same things here, my hobby is the noun that functions here as the subject, is introduces the gerund playing that functions in this sentence as a verb but not as a noun, and the guitar as the direct object that receives the action or the gerund as verb form.

    b. To play the guitar is a lot of fun. In this sentence, "To play" is an infinitive that functions as noun subject as part of the complete subject "To play the guitar".
    Playing the guitar is a lot of fun. Playing here, functions as a noun as the subject of the helping verb is. It also acts here like a verb because it governs the direct object guitar.

    c. I like to play the guitar. Here the infinitive to play, is used as noun object of the verb like in the active voice that expresses a desire or activity
    I like playing the guitar. Playing is present tense. Active voice. It is the gerund of the verb play. As a noun, it is used as the object of the verb,
    like. As a verb, it governs the object guitar.

    Actually, the use of verbals is not merely a matter of choice or variety, but also a matter of timing, context, and discretion. One should be able to analze a sentence in terms of parts, patterns, structure, etc. to be able to determine as to what function is performed by a verbal or verb form as used in the position of a particular sentence.
    Thank you for your comments, Hitch.
    I agree to your analyses of those sentences.

    I think it's not a matter of grammatical correctness or accuracy, but a matter of frequency, or acceptance in the English language(=whether or not they actually use the expression in their daily lives).

    For us(language learners, who are not in the environment where we can acquire the language, naturally, in our everyday lives), grammar is certainly one of the most important pillars to support our learning. The problem, then, is that those expressions we learn by way of grammar are sometimes unacceptable to native speakers.


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    #8

    Re: to-infinitive/gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post
    Yes, I think there's a slight difference in meaning between British English and American English. I learned "like+~ing/to~" means almost the same in AE. However, in BE, "like+~ing" is used mostly to talk about enjoyment, whereas "like+to~" is used mostly to talk about choices and habits. So, in your example("I like to come to work on time."), I guess it means "I make a habit of coming to work on time, because I believe it's a good(right) thing to do."

    They're confusing, aren't they?
    Thank you for your comments again.
    I never knew the structures meant almost the same in AE. So that's why so many people today say like to where I would have said like -ing!

    Your analysis of the BE opposition is perfectly correct tzfujimino!
    Last edited by naomimalan; 19-May-2008 at 15:01.

  6. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: to-infinitive/gerund

    Quote Originally Posted by naomimalan View Post
    I never know the structures meant almost the same in AE. So that's why so many people today say like to where I would have said like -ing!

    Your analysis of the BE opposition is perfectly correct tzfujimino!
    Thank you for your encouragement, naomimalan.
    Now I feel as if I were a Superman!

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