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Verbs with infinitives, gerunds (verb-ing), and that-clauses
Meaning and use
With some verbs, especially those that explain, report or warn, after the main verb, you can sometimes use that, sometimes a gerund (verb-ing form), other times an infinitive (with to), and other times, either a gerund or an infinitive. Sentences that make promises, warnings, offers, suggestions or recommendations use these verb structures.
My teacher advised us to study two hours a day. (advise + infinitive)
The bookstore recommended buying an English-English dictionary. (recommend + verb-ing)
Judith promises to attend the school concert. (promise + infinitive)
Toby told me that he was going to France on holiday. (tell + that + independent clause)
In addition, some of these verbs need an object, usually a person or people.
The police warned us not to enter the building.
The speaker invited the audience to ask questions.
The best way to learn which of these verbs take ‘that’, infinitives, gerunds, or both, is to notice them when you read, or to use grammar references. Here is a list of some of the most common patterns. Remember that an independent clause has a subject and a verb.
discuss + gerund
The band discussed playing at the new pub.
explain + that + independent clause
The reporter explained that the storm may cause flooding.
invite + someone + to-infinitive
My cousin invited me to go to a movie.
offer + to-infinitive
The bank offered to give the clerk his own desk.
1) suggest + gerund
Jason suggested seeing Romeo and Juliet this weekend.
2) suggest + that + independent clause
May I suggest that you not buy a new car this year?
1) recommend + gerund
My doctor recommends eating fresh fruit every day.
2) recommend + that + independent clause
We recommend that you buy your tickets early.
1) ask + to-infinitive
I asked to attend the meeting.
2) ask + someone + to-infinitive
Sharon asked her manager to change her hours.
3) ask + that + independent clause
Annie asked that we phone her after nine in the morning.
1) propose + to-infinitive
The president proposed to study the idea.
2) propose + that + independent clause
Do you propose that we end this program?
1) tell + someone + to-infinitive
My grandfather told us not to argue.
2) tell + that + independent clause
My friends told me that I could join them at the pub.
1) warn + someone + to-infinitive
The firefighter warned the man not to go near the fire.
2) warn + that + independent clause
We are often warned that cigarettes are bad for our health.
1) promise + someone + to-infinitive
I promised my father to do my best always.
2) promise + infinitive
Mark has promised to take his grandson to a football game.
3) promise + that
We promise that we will finish in time.
1) advise + someone + to-infinitive
Mr Brown advised her to take the geometry course.
2) advise + gerund
The scientist advised performing another experiment.
3) advise + that + independent clause
The doctor advised that we get a flu shot every year.
You can notice from the table that discuss, explain, invite and offer each can be combined with only one verb form, either an infinitive, gerund, or that + independent clause. Advise, ask, and promise can be combined with three options. The rest of these verbs can be combined with two different choices. Here is a chart showing these choices.
When using negative forms with the infinitive, not goes before the to part of the verb.
We were warned not to miss the last train of the evening.
For negatives with gerunds or that + independent clauses, the not goes before the gerund or infinitive part of the phrase.
My coach recommends not eating before practice.
The taxi driver asked that we not smoke in the taxi.
Did the manager suggest selling the new product at the market?
When did Maurice promise to telephone in the morning?
Take note: prepositionsBe careful not to confuse the to used in an infinitive with the preposition to.
We propose to finish by December. (propose to = intend to)
Stephen proposed to Nora over dinner. (propose to = ask to marry)
Dr Jacobson invited his students to hear a special lecture. (invite someone to hear = ask someone to listen)
We would like to invite you to a party on Saturday. (invite someone to = ask someone to come)
The pronunciation of to with infinitives is often unstressed, sounding like /tƏ/ (Ə = ‘uh’).
The final g sound of the -ing of a gerund is sometimes not pronounced, or pronounced very quietly.