Gerunds are a type of noun. Don’t confuse gerunds with the present participle, which we often use in continuous tense forms, for example.
Gerunds can be the subject of a sentence: “Swimming is good for you”; or the object of a sentence, “I don’t like swimming“.
Here are the other situations when we use gerunds:
After some verbs
You use the ing form after some verbs such as enjoy, admit, appreciate, can’t stand / help / bear, deny, avoid, mind, understand, consider, finish, imagine and resent.
For example, “I can’t stand doing nothing”, or “She denied breaking the copier”.
With other verbs, use the gerund after a preposition.
admit to (doing)
approve of (doing)
argue about (doing)
concentrate on (doing)
feel like (doing)
forget about (doing)
insist on (doing)
plan on (doing)
talk about (doing)
think about (doing)
(See our page on infinitives for verbs that are followed by the infinitive.)
With ‘from’ and ‘to’ with some verbs
Prevent / stop someone from doing: “He prevented her from leaving.”
Look forward to doing: “We look forward to hearing from you soon.”
Object to doing: “Does anyone object to me smoking?”
Get used to doing: “It took him a long time to get used to living in a city.”
Prefer something to doing something else: “I prefer cooking to doing the dishes.”
“Before going out he turned off the heating.”
“I’m tired of arguing.”
“These are used for cracking walnuts.”
“I passed the exam by remembering the equations.”
In some fixed expressions
“As well as doing…”
“It’s no good doing…”
“It’s no use doing…”
Some verbs can use either the ‘to do’ or the ‘ing’ form
See / hear / watch someone do / doing
With the verb form do, you see or hear the whole action. For example,”I heard him tell you about the letter.”
With the verb form ing you only see or hear part of the action. For example, “I saw her drinking a coffee in the bar.”
Remember / regret
If you use ing after these verbs, you are talking about something that happened before. “I remember coming here as a child” – I’m not a child any more, but I remember the times when I came here before.
“I regret not studying.” (I didn’t study in the past and I regret it now.)
If you use the to do form after these verbs, then you are referring to something in the future.
“Please remember to turn off the lights.” (Please don’t forget to do it later.)
“I regret to inform you that…” (I’m just about to tell you some bad news.)
“I want to stop smoking.” (I want to break my habit.)
“She stopped to sit down.” (She stopped walking so that she could sit down.)
Try + ing = try out this experiment.
Try reading something in English every day.” (You may be surprised at the results!)
Try to do = try hard to do something.
“Please try to be quiet when you come in.” (Please make an effort.)
Level: Intermediate + (FCE)
Oh no! I forgot!
- Remember + infinitive = to not forget something you had (or have) to do.
- Forget + infinitive = when you don't / didn't remember to do something.
- Stop + ing = give up an activity.
- Remember + ing = when you have the memory of an action / situation (when it is still in your head!)
- Stop + infinitive = when you stop one activity in order to do another activity.
Try __ a knife.
- Try + ing = try to do something as an experiment. Perhaps it will work, perhaps it won't.
- Try + infinitive = make an effort to do something (but without success).
- Regret + ing = you did something which you now think was a bad idea (and so you regret it).
- Regret + infinitive = I am sorry to (tell / inform) you about something. (We say ''I regret to tell you'' just before we give bad news.)
- See / watch / hear + bare infinitive = you see / watch / hear the entire thing, from beginning to end.