Verbals in Idioms: Infinitives and Gerunds

How to use infinitives and gerunds in idioms correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

A common source of confusion for English speakers is the idiomatic distinction between infinitives (verb forms with to) and gerunds (“-ing verbs” acting as nouns). Some expressions arbitrarily require an infinitive; other expressions arbitrarily require a gerund. In the latter case, gerunds often follow the preposition of.

able of solving the problem
able to solve the problem

capable to solve the problem
capable of solving the problem

Some expressions can be used with either form:

continue going to that store
continue to go to that store

Some of the entries on this Common Errors in Usage list have to do with idiomatic verbals, such as “be sure + [infinitive]” and “can’t help + [gerund].” Unfortunately, these expressions generally must be memorized individually. But recognizing this pattern, this feature of English, will help you notice and pay closer attention to all of those individual cases.

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

© 2006, 2008, and 2019 C. Brantley Collins, Jr.