5 Verbs with Meaning Changes: Gerunds and Infinitives – Advanced

HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO STUDY (BUT COULDN’T) OR TRIED STUDYING (STARTED, THEN STOPPED) THESE TRICKY VERBS?

In the last blog post, we saw a method for teaching gerunds and infinitives to students in a clear, organized way. We learned that, following a main verb, there is a lot of memorization and practice required on the students’ part in order to keep which verbs take gerunds and which take infinitives straight. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, there are certain verbs in English that change their meaning according to the gerund or infinitive that follows! These verbs are best left for high-intermediate or advanced learners to muddle through, but when they’re ready, here is a handy list of some of the most common verbs of this type.

1. TRY

Try + Gerund means that you started doing something, then stopped for some reason (usually because it was too difficult).

  • She tried learning French, but she gave up after a few months. (She found French too difficult.)

Try + Infinitive means that you attempted something but couldn’t do it for some reason.

  • She tried to get into the club, but she got ID’d. (She attempted to enter the club even though she was underage, but she didn’t get in.)

Be careful! Sometimes you can hear “try” with both a gerund and an infinitive where the meaning is essentially the same. The reason this is possible is because the focus is slightly different. For example:

  • tried calling you last night. (I attempted to call you once [or many times], but I eventually gave up.)
  • I tried to call you last night. (You never picked up the phone, so I couldn’t talk to you.)

2. STOP

Stop + Gerund means you quit doing something.

  • He stopped smoking last week. (He quit smoking.)

Stop + Infinitive means you were doing something and then took a break, or stopped on your way somewhere.

  • Even though he was behind in his work, he stopped to smoke a cigarette. (He stopped working to have a smoke break.)
  • stopped to buy milk on my way home. (I went to the store before going home.)

3. FORGET

Forget + Gerund means that you have already done something, but can’t remember doing it.

  • She didn’t recognize him at all. She forgot meeting him last summer. (She forgot that she had met him before.)

Forget + Infinitive means that you had the intention of doing something, but didn’t remember to do it.

  • She forgot to meet her client for lunch, so she got an angry phone call from him later. (She had plans to meet her client, but she didn’t remember to do it.)

4. REMEMBER

Remember + Gerund means that you did something in the past, and you can remember doing it. (This is usually used when you’re surprised that you that recall that far back. It’s also used when you’re reminiscing with friends.)

  • remember falling down the stairs when I was four years old.

Remember + Infinitive means that you had the intention of doing something, and you remembered to do it.

  • My husband was happy that I remembered to pay the bills on time last month.

5. REGRET

Regret + Gerund means that you did something that you wish you hadn’t.

  • regretted telling him my secret because he told everyone at my school. (I wish I hadn’t told him my secret.)

Regret + Infinitive means that you’re sorry (usually used in formal cases only).

  • We regret to tell you that your application was not accepted. (We’re sorry to have to tell you this.)

 

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