Gerund and Infinitive – no difference in meaning

Gerund and the Infinitive after the verb – no difference in meaning

These verbs can be followed by a Gerund or an Infinitive without changing their meaning:

beginHe began working.
He began to work.
can’t standShe can’t stand being alone.
He can’t stand to be alone.
continueThey continued talking.
They continued to talk.
hateShe hates washing up.
She hates to wash up.
likeI like speaking Spanish.
I like to speak Spanish.
loveShe loves driving her car.
She loves to drive her car.
preferMike prefers eating at home.
Mike prefers to eat at home.
startThey started fighting.
They started to fight.

These verbs can also be followed by a Gerund or an Infinitive without changing their meaning. Mind the structure with the infinitive:

  • Gerund: Verb + ing
  • Infinitive: Verb + Person (as object) + infinitive with to
adviseThey advised driving it was a long way to town.
They advise us to drive it was a long way to town.
allowThey allow smoking here.
They allow us to smoke here.
encourageThey encourage doing your best.
They encourage you to do your best.
forbidThey have forbidden playing here.
They have forbidden children to play here.
permitThey do not permit smoking here.
They do not permit us to smoke here.

When recommend is followed by an infinitive, put that after recommend, then the object and then the infinitive without to.

recommendThey recommend walking.
They recommend that we walk.

Although gerunds and infinitives can often be used interchangeably there may still be a small difference in meaning. Using a gerund suggests that you are referring to real activities or experiences. Using an infinitive suggests that you are talking about potential or possible activities or experiences. Consider:

  • I like speaking Spanish because it’s a lovely language. I like the experience of speaking Spanish, and the way it makes me feel when I speak the language.
  • I like to speak Spanish when I’m in Spain. I prefer the option of speaking Spanish when I am in Spain.