Gerund vs infinitive

Dole

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A sentence from a test:
'It's important not to feel guilty about spending time RELAXING'.
I can't fit a rule for a word relaxing. Sounds better doesn't work for my students.
 

emsr2d2

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The following is a sentence from a test:

'It's important not to feel guilty about spending time [STRIKE]RELAXING[/STRIKE] relaxing.'

I can't fit a rule [STRIKE]for[/STRIKE] to ​(or "find a rule for") [STRIKE]a[/STRIKE] the word "relaxing". "It sounds better" doesn't work for my students.

What do you/your students think should be used instead of "relaxing"? The simple answer is that we "spend time doing something". It's a set construction. After "spend time", we use the -ing form.
 

Tdol

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Some things are followed by infinitives (with or without to) and others by a gerund. Spend time takes a gerund. That is the rule. It might not explain why, but it is what we do.
 

Matthew Wai

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1. Spend time doing something.
2. Make time to do something.

It might not explain why
I think it depends on which is natural, and that's why.
 

emsr2d2

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I think it depends on which is natural, and that's why.

That's a fair point but learners frequently don't know what is natural and what isn't.
 

probus

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Some things are followed by infinitives (with or without to) and others by a gerund. Spend time takes a gerund. That is the rule. It might not explain why, but it is what we do.

I ask myself whether it's okay to say spend time to relax, and agree that's not what we say. But take time to relax is perfect and take time relaxing is not. I know of no rule we can teach to resolve this. Does anyone?
 

Phaedrus

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I believe I've seen "spend time V-ing" analyzed as having an omitted "in" before "V-ing."

Thus, "spend time relaxing" may be analyzed as short for "spend time in relaxing."

The gerund, in this analysis, is the object of an optional but regularly omitted preposition.
 

Tdol

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I ask myself whether it's okay to say spend time to relax, and agree that's not what we say. But take time to relax is perfect and take time relaxing is not. I know of no rule we can teach to resolve this. Does anyone?

I use analogy- when people walk through a forest, paths form, then other people follow the paths. We choose the paths rather than hacking our way through dense vegetation. Languages build paths that generations follow. We walk on the path because it's there. There's no rule, but it makes sense to use the path.
 

Phaedrus

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I've located some documentation that lends support to the point I made above. I found it in the second volume of H. Poutsma's grammar (1929).

[from Section 33.] to spend: The first half-hour was spent in piling up the fire, lest she should suffer from the change of room. Jane Austen, Pride & Prej., Ch. XI, 57.
Many of them spend their lives first in eating and then in trying to work off the effects of overfeeding. Dor. Gerard, The Eternal Woman, Ch. IX.
Note: Besides the above, the usual construction, there are some others, as is shown by the following examples (see also 35): i. Katharine spent more time than necessary over dressing for dinner. Mar. Crawf., Kath. Laud., II, Ch. XIV, 267.
ii. He spends all he has on dressing well. Grant Allen, That Friend of Sylvia's. (appears to be especially common when the spending of money is in question.) [. . .]

[From Section 35:] After to employ, to spend, to waste, and verbs of a similar import, and also after the adjective busy and its synonyms, the preposition in is sometimes dispensed with. This changes the status of the ing-form, converting it into a present participle in the grammatical function of predicative adnominal adjunct . . . . After to spend and to waste, the omission of in is met with only when these words are accompanied by an adjunct denoting a length of time.

i. * Sybil employed herself arranging some papers. Mrs. Alex, For his sake, II, Ch. VII, 124.
** You can't laugh at a man who spends his whole life preaching and singing hymns among the Whitechapel roughs. Besant, All Sorts, Ch. V, 48.
There he would spend long hours sketching. Galsw., Man. of Prop., III, Ch. III, 298.
Amansai spent all the morning washing the buggy. Jean Webst., Daddy-Long-Legs, 88.
He spent every spare moment until the summer holidays making pictures. Temple Thurston, Antagonists, Ch. IX, 74.
I could spend hours standing there, and watching the gulls, and never think of feeling dull. Dor. Gerard, The Eternal Woman, Ch. XV.
I have spent many hours in the last few weeks reading the Treaty. Westm. Gaz, No. 8121, 4 b.

-- Poutsma, H. A Grammar of Late Modern English, Volume II, pp. 897-8 and 903-4. Groningen: P. Noordhoff, 1929.
 
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emsr2d2

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So we've been dispensing with it since 1929! No wonder it's now more natural to omit it than to include it. I'll bet there are some cracking examples of "late modern English" in a grammar book that old!
 

Phaedrus

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The thread-starter wondered why we can't use an infinitive.
Do we ever use an infinitive as the object of a preposition?
------------------------------------------------------------------
May not the inadmissibility of the infinitive be
a vestige of the prepositional construction?
 
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Phaedrus

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Coincidentally, I came upon the following sentence [excerpt] today in a TESOL study I was reading (not for fun):

". . . L2 learners devote considerable amounts of time devising keywords."
(Sagarra, N., and Alba, M. The key is in the keyword. The Modern Language Journal, 90 (2006).)

I don't know about my fellow native speakers here, but I feel that a preposition ("to") is missing before "devising keywords": "L2 learners devote considerable amounts of time to devising keywords." It seems to me that "devote" hasn't yet gone the way of "spend" and "waste" with expressions of time.
 

Tdol

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May not the inadmissibility of the infinitive be
a vestige of the prepositional construction?

In all cases?

BTW, I too would say to devising in your next post.
 
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