The infinitive, the –ing form
In many cases we are required to use two verbs in succession. It is very easy to do it in Romanian because all you need is more or less a conjunction. For example:
Vreau să plec la şcoală.
Nu cred că voi întârzia.
Ştiu să scriu un eseu.
Ştiu că trebuie să scriu un eseu.
However, in English things are a lot more complicated, as the specific form of the second verb is required by the first and must observe some rules. We can’t always link them with a conjunction or a relative: I don’t think that I will be late. I know how to write an essay.
Some verbs must be followed by the infinitive, other by the –ing form, while a few go with both, but may change meaning.
1 The infinitive without to (short infinitive) is used:
> after modals:
I can’t talk to you right now.
I shall go to Spain.
> after had better / would rather (these structures have a sort of modal value as well):
I’d better take a taxi.
> after the verbs make / let / see / hear / feel when they are in the active voice:
She didn’t let me go out.
My friend made me feel good.
If these verbs are in the passive voice, they require the long infinitive:
I was let to go out.
She was made to work overtime.
2 The -ing form is used:
> after advise, allow, encourage, permit, require when they give general information / advice:
Doctors advise leading a healthy life.
Going to school also requires doing homework.
If these verbs give a specific/particular piece of information, then they require the long infinitive:
My doctor advised me to lead a healthy life.
Your mother allowed you to stay up late this time.
> after spend / waste (time or money):
I waste too much time watching TV.
I usually spend a lot of money shopping.
> after certain verbs: admit, appreciate, avoid, consider, deny, excuse, fancy, like, love, mind, miss, object to, prevent, resist, risk, suggest etc.
I appreciate you keeping your word.
I avoid going out late at night.
I like listening to music.
I suggested spending some time together.
> after certain expressions: I’m busy, I look forward to, it’s (not) worth, can’t help, there’s no point (in), have difficulty (in) etc.
I’m busy writing my essay.
I look forward to hearing from you.
It’s really not worth talking to him about that matter.
I can’t help admiring your new dress.
3 Verbs that can be followed by both forms, with a slight change of meaning:
(in Romanian, this change of meaning can often be easily spotted when we use different conjunctions)
> to forget:
+ long infinitive = I did not make a specific action, forget to do something
I forgot to lock the door, so she was right to do it for me.
(explanation: I didn’t lock the door so somebody else had to.)
(translation: Am uitat să încui uşa.)
+ –ing form = I did a specific action but I forgot that I had done it; forget a past event
I only forgot locking the door, she checked it for me.
(explanation: I locked the door but I forgot that I did this action)
(translation: Am uitat că am încuiat uşa.)
> to remember: (very similar to forget)
+ long infinitive = I need to do a certain action; remember to do something
Please remember to turn the lights off.
(explanation: You need to remember to do this action, to turn off the lights.)
(translation: Aminteşte-ţi te rog să stingi lumina.)
+ –ing form = I did a specific action and I remember it too; recall a past event
I remember meeting him in the park.
(explanation: I already met him in the park and I remember it too.)
(translation: Mi-am amintit că l-am întâlnit în parc.)
> to regret:
+ long infinitive = a form of politely being sorry when passing on bad news
I regret to inform you that you failed the test.
(explanation: I’m sorry for you because you didn’t pass the test. But I am not guilty of that.)
(translation: Îmi pare rău să-ţi spun că ai căzut testul.)
+ –ing form = you have second thoughts about something you might be guilty of
I regret yelling at my mother.
(explanation: I am guilty of yelling at my mother and I am sorry because I did that.)
(translation: Îmi pare rău că am strigat la mama mea.)
> to try:
+ long infinitive = attempt to do something, but it may not succeed
I try to be here on time.
(explanation: I always attempt being on time, but sometimes I can fail.)
(translation: Încerc să fiu aici la timp.)
+ –ing form = experiment something, actually do that action
Try adding some salt to the soup.
(explanation: Succeed to add the salt and see how the soup tastes afterwards.)
(translation: Încearcă să adaugi supei nişte sare.)
Or, a more effective example for the same verb:
I tried to push the car to get it out of the street, but I did not succeed.
– I failed to push the car in the first place. I did not have the strength to push it.
I tried pushing the car to get it out of the street, but I did not succeed.
– I succeeded in pushing the car (actually moving it by pushing), but despite all that, I could not get it out of the street.
by Anca-Raluca Sandu