Advanced Grammar for IELTS: Verb-ing forms and infinitives

Advanced Grammar for IELTS: Verb-ing forms and infinitives – Diagnose Test, Grammar Explanation & Practice Exercises


-ing forms and infinitives

Write suitable forms of the word(s) in brackets, putting verbs into an -ing form (e.g. returning) or infinitive form (e.g. to return). You may need to change or add words.

Example: I’m looking forward to ………her returning…….. with good news. (she/ return)

  1. I’m afraid you’ll have to move your car, sir. There is ______________ here, (not/park)
  2. For evil _______________it is only necessary that the good do nothing. (succeed)
  3. Sylvia rang her doctor _________________an appointment. (make)
  4. The thing I most enjoy about my job is ______________ people with problems. (help)
  5. Pressure from the board led to _______________the company. (he/leave)
  6. The colonel ordered a day’s leave in order ____________the morale of the troops. (boost)
  7. We got there only _____________ that the concert had been cancelled. (find)
  8. You’re welcome _______________yourself to anything from the fridge. (help)
  9. It’s strange that she didn’t mention ______________him at the party. (meet)
  10. I really can’t risk ______________these awful programmes. (the children/see)
  11. Don’t disturb me. I’ve got a report ______________by lunchtime. (write)
  12. I can’t stand ______________animals in pain. (see)
  13. I must remember ______________my alarm clock tonight. (set)
  14. Dean’s so sorry; he really didn’t mean ______________you. (hurt)
  15. You won’t find any spare parts; they stopped ______________ them ages ago. (make)
  16. We went on ______________even after the music had stopped. (dance)
  17. We regret ______________the cancellation of today’s service due to ill health. (announce)
  18. As the plane flew over we saw the workers ______________ the new opera house. (build)

Five of these sentences contain mistakes. Tick (✓) the correct sentences, then find and correct the mistakes.

Example: We agreed meeting outside the cinema at nine.

_________________to meet ______________________

  1. The dispensing medical aid is the main activity of the Red Cross.
  2. Everyone in the office was fed up with Brian’s moaning.
  3. The new manager is sure to looking into ways to cut costs.
  4. He got caught when the boss found making personal phone calls.
  5. The airline allowed us taking the wheelchair on board.
  6. We were furious when the judge ordered to pay compensation.
  7. Despite budget constraints the BBC continues to make innovative programmes.

B       GRAMMAR EXPLANATION : -ing forms and infinitives

The -ing and infinitive forms of verbs are very common in English and can act as subjects, objects and complements of verbs. When used like nouns, -ing forms are often referred to as ‘gerunds’. This unit looks at the use of -ing forms and infinitives after certain verbs, determiners, adjectives and nouns, and at the special use of infinitives to describe purpose and result. (For the use of -ing and infinitive forms in clauses and phrases and in the passive and perfect forms of participles and infinitives).

  1. -ing FORMS

1A. As subjects and objects

We can use -ing forms of verbs in the same way that we use nouns – as the subject, object or complement of a verb. We often refer to -ing forms used in this way as gerunds:

Swimming makes you fit.

The whole family has taken up cycling.

Her worst habit is lying.

Sometimes -ing forms can have their own subjects and objects:

I’m looking forward to my wife returning (subject + -ing form)

Meeting new people is one benefit of taking evening classes (-ing form + object)

We can make a negative with not + -ing:

Not getting a refund on faulty goods is what really annoys me.

Note:  But we use no + -ing to explain that something is impossible or not allowed:

X  There’s not smoking in this office/ There isn’t smoking in this office.

  Could you go outside? There’s no smoking in this office.

There’s no skiing here in the summer season. (= Skiing is impossible.)

No Parking (= Parking is not allowed here.)

1B. -ing form patterns

 We can use determiners, e g. the, this, possessives, e.g. Peter’s: possessive adjectives, e.g. his: or object pronouns, e.g. him, before -ing forms. Object pronouns are more common in informal English:

All this complaining won’t get you anywhere, you know.

Peter’s complaining didn’t do him any good.

Exorbitant tax rates led to his leaving the country.

Exorbitant tax rates led to him leaving the country. (informal)

We often use an object + -ing form after verbs of the senses :

I heard Alagna giving a marvellous rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’

Note: We always use the object pronoun after sense verbs:

X   Have you seen our performing yet?

✓  Have you seen us performing yet?

Note: When we use the + -ing form and we want to link it with an object, we use of:

X  The giving presents is a traditional part of the Christmas festivities.

✓  The giving of presents is a traditional part of the Christmas festivities.

We also use -ing forms as adjectives

The remaining items will be sold in our January sale.

Many adjectives and nouns are followed by a preposition + -ing form:

Lara isn’t capable of lying and she has no reason for not telling the truth.


2A. Form

Infinitives with to can be the subject, object or complement of a verb:

To give is better than to receive. Everyone loves to win.

We make a negative with not + infinitive:

I tried not to look at the accident.

An infinitive can have its own subject, introduced with for:

For evil to succeed it is only necessary for the good to do nothing.

Note: In informal English we sometimes put an adverb between to and the infinitive. This is known as a ‘split infinitive’ and we usually avoid it in formal English by putting the adverb in another position:

The doctor started to carefully remove the bandages.

The doctor started to remove the bandages carefully.

There are also perfect, continuous and passive forms of the infinitive. If, for example, the person who is doing the action described by the infinitive is not the subject of the sentence, we usually use the passive infinitive:

X The report is to hand in first thing tomorrow morning.

The report is to be handed in first thing tomorrow morning.

2B. lnfinitives of purpose and result

We can use an infinitive to describe the purpose or reason for an action:

Cover the turkey in silver foil to keep the meat moist.

To stop the train, pull the lever downwards.

We use for before the infinitive when the subject of the infinitive is different from the subject of the sentence:

She went to WalMart for to get some groceries.

She went to WalMart to get some groceries.

✓   We bought a cage for John to keep his hamster in.

In more formal English we can use in order or so as + infinitive of purpose:

Interest rates have been raised in order to reduce inflationary pressures.

We have removed the warning signs so as not to alarm members of the public.

The infinitive can also describe a result or something surprising, especially with only and verbs such as find, discover, realise, etc.:

They queued for hours at the box office only to discover that the show was sold out.

We also use infinitives after too and enough to talk about results:

That blue outfit was too informal to wear to the reception.

There isn’t enough (food) to go around, I’m afraid.

2C.  Infinitives after adjectives and nouns

Many adjectives, especially those describing feelings, can be followed by to + infinitive (some common examples are in the box below):

 We’re thrilled to welcome this year’s prizewinner onto the podium.

The Bensons are lucky to be having such good weather.

adjective + to + infinitive: able / unable, afraid, anxious, ashamed, bound, careful, certain, crazy, curious, due, eager, fit, happy, impossible, likely, lucky, pleased, right, shocked, stupid, sure, surprised, thrilled, welcome, wrong.

Many nouns can be followed by to + infinitive (some common examples are in the box below):

She’s finally made a decision to leave.

Clare would be a fool to marry him.

noun + to + infinitive:  attempt, bid, decision, desire, incentive, need, nuisance, opportunity, place, pleasure, reason, time, wish.

Note: We can use a noun + to + infinitive after there is / are and have (got) to express an obligation:

Don’t disturb me, I’ve got a report to write this evening.


3A. Verb + -ing form

Certain verbs (see box below) can be followed by an -ing form, but not by an infinitive:

X  I avoid to travel in the rush hour whenever possible.

✓I avoid travelling in the rush hour whenever possible.

With some of these verbs (marked * in the box below) we can also put an object before the -ing form. Compare:

Can you imagine wearing that dress! (verb + -ing form)

Can you imagine Jemima wearing that dress! (verb + object + -ing form)

verb + -ing form:  admit, appreciate*, avoid*, burst out, can’t help*, consider, contemplate, defer, delay, deny, detest*, dislike*, endure*, enjoy*, escape, excuse*, face*, fancy*, feel like, finish, give up, imagine*, involve*, justify*, keep (on), leave off, mention*, mind*, miss*, postpone, practise, prevent*, put off, put sb off, recall*, recommend, resent*, resist*, risk*, save, suggest, tolerate*, understand*.

Note: Certain verbs, particularly sense verbs (see box below), are only followed by an –ing form when they have an object:

X In Hamlet’ the prince discovers hiding behind the curtains.

In ‘Hamlet’ the prince discovers Polonius hiding behind the curtains.

Verb + object + -ing form: catch, discover, feel, find, hear, leave, notice, observe, see, spot, wtach.

Note: The verbs advise, allow, forbid and permit are followed by an -ing form when they have no object, but an infinitive when they have an object.

The doctor advised taking a course of antibiotics.

X  The doctor advised him taking a course of antibiotics.

The doctor advised him to take a course of antibiotics.

3B. Verbs + infinite

Certain verbs can be followed by an infinitive, but not by an -ing form (see box below):

X  She’s decided applying for the job.

She’s decided to apply for the job.

Some of these verbs can also have an object before the infinitive (marked * below):

He doesn’t really expect her to pass the exam.

verb + infinitive: afford, agree, aim, appear, arrange 1, ask*, attempt, beg*, campaign , care, choose*, consent, dare*, decide, demand, deserve 2, expect*, fail, fight, forget, guarantee, happen, help*, hesitate, hope, intend*, long 1, manage, need*, neglect, offer, pause, plan 1, prepare, pretend, promise, propose, prove, refuse, seem, swear, tend, threaten, trouble*, try, undertake, vow, wait 1 , want*, wish*, yearn.

1: With these verbs we use for before the object + infinitive:

X  We spent ages waiting them to arrive.

We spent ages waiting for them to arrive.

2:  In British English, we can use deserve + -ing when it has a passive meaning:

That naughty child deserves smacking. (= deserves to be smacked)

Some verbs are followed by an infinitive only when they have an object (see box below):

They forced to open our suitcases.

They forced us to open our suitcases.

verb + object + to + infinitive: advise, allow, cause, command, compel, encourage, forbid, force, get, instruct, invite, leave, oblige, order, permit, persuade, recommend, remind, request, teach, tell, tempt, urge, warn.

Note the special rules about infinitives after let, make, see, hear, know and help.

Many of the verbs followed by infinitives are used in reported speech.

3C. Verb + -ing form/ infinitive

Some verbs can be followed by an -ing form or an infinitive, with no difference in meaning:

I can’t stand to see/ seeing animals in pain.

verb + -ing form or infinitive: attempt, begin, bother, can’t bear, can’t stand, cease, continue, deserve, fear, hate, intend, like (= enjoy), love, prefer, start.

Note: We usually avoid putting two infinitives or two -ing forms together:

He wanted to start to take lessons.

He wanted to start taking lessons.

We use to + infinitive after would like, would love and would hate:

X  When we get there I would like taking a nap.

When we get there I would like to take a nap.

When like means ‘think something is a good idea’, we only use the infinitive. Compare:

I like going/ to go to the gym. It’s so relaxing. (= I enjoy visiting it.)

Because of my weight problem I like to go to the gym at least twice a week. (= I think this is a good idea.)

3D. Verb + -ing form or infinitive

Some verbs can be followed by an -ing form or by to + infinitive, but there is a difference in meaning:

verb                + -ing form+ to + infinitive
forget/ remember= forget/remember an earlier action:

Do you remember going to school for the first time?

I’ll never forget meeting him.

= forget/remember to do a future action:

I must remember to set mg alarm clock tonight.

Don’t forget to lock the back door.

go on= continue:

They went on playing despite the bad weather.    

= change to another action:

After opening the hospital the Prince went on to meet the staff.

mean= involves or will result in:

This new job means living abroad.

= intend to do something:

The builders mean to finish by Friday

regret= feel sorrow about the past:

I really regret getting that tattoo when I was eighteen.

= announce bad news:

We regret to inform you of delays in

today’s service.

stop= finish an action:

They stopped making fax machines about ten years ago.   

= finish one action in order to do another one:

We stopped to get petrol.

try= do something to see what will happen:

Try using a screwdriver to get the lid off.           

= make an effort to do something difficult:

We tried to get tickets but the show was sold out.

3E. Sense Verbs

Sense verbs can be followed by an object + -ing form when we are describing an action in progress or an action that is repeated:

As I walked past the church I heard someone playing Handel’s ‘Messiah’ on the organ. (The person was in the middle of playing when I walked past.)

I saw a young mother slapping her child. (She slapped him several times.)

These verbs can be followed by an object + infinitive (without to) when we are describing a single action or the action is complete:

We saw a young mother slap her child in the supermarket. (She slapped once.)

Last week I heard them play the fifth symphony. (I heard the complete symphony.)

Note: We use to + infinitive after a passive sense verb:

The young mother was seen to slap her child.


Q1: Underline the mistakes in these sentences and correct them.

0.  A great advantage of credit cards is no  having to carry cash around all the time. ==> not

1          Have you ever heard my singing O Sole Mio?

2          We had to come in early for the opening the new extension.

3          Constant criticisms led to she resigning from that stressful job.

4          You’ll have to put that out, sir, this is a not smoking carriage.

5          Passengers can find a heated wait room adjacent to platform ten.

6          The making a successful soufflé requires expert timing.

7          There’s not swimming from this beach, the current’s too treacherous.

8          The argument ended up with we demanding a refund and compensation.

9          They stopped to make vinyl records ages ago.

10        The crane isn’t capable lifting it – it’s too heavy.

Q2: Finish each of the following sentences in such a way it is as similar as possible in meaning to the sentence before it.

o. I really don’t want to see him again.

I have no……..desire to see him again………….

  1. I want you to hand the report in tomorrow.

The report is ………………………………………………………

  1. You can’t join the army because you aren’t sufficiently fit.

You aren’t fit………………………………………………………

  1. He was very worried that he would arrive late.

He was anxious not………………………………………………………

  1. Right now I’m afraid I can’t give you an answer.

I am not………………………………………………………

  1. The government closed the borders with the aim of catching the criminals.

In order………………………………………………………

  1. Closing the office was something the manager decided this morning.

The manager made………………………………………………………

  1. I learnt that Amanda was going to marry Ronald, which was surprising.

I was………………………………………………………

  1. They didn’t publish the news because they didn’t want to frighten the public.

They didn’t publish the news so………………………………………………………

  1. Checking the balance on my current account was my main reason for visiting the bank this morning.

I went………………………………………………………

  1. When we got there they had already closed the store for stocktaking!

We got there only………………………………………………………

Q3: Complete the sentences with the correct form of the verbs in brackets.

1        I’m not disappointed, I never really expected ________ (pass) the test.

2        Please don’t hesitate________ (call) if you have any problems.

3        The doctor recommended ________ (avoid) strenuous activity for the first few weeks.

4        The sales team aims _________ (exceed) its target by at least five per cent this year.

5        I don’t suppose you happened  _________ (notice) whether there was a cash machine there?

6        How on earth do they justify    ________ (keep) three dogs in such a small flat?

7        We’d better hurry up; I’d hate ___________ (arrive) late.

8        Despite all the rejections, Dave’s continuing    _________(apply) for every vacancy he sees.

9        We discovered an old document ________ (lie) under the floorboards.

10      I’ll put off_________ (call) them until after I’ve spoken to the personnel officer.

11      You can watch the film if you promise _________ (go) to bed straight afterwards.

12      Being a diabetic, I like _________ (avoid) anything containing sugar.

13      Thanks very much. Yes, we’d love _________ (join) you for dinner on Friday.

14      You really can’t help _________ (feel) sorry for the poor guy.

15      Passengers are permitted _________ (carry) only one piece of hand luggage onto the plane.

16      Jonathan’s the one who taught Rachel _________(swim) last summer.

17      Sometimes you have to pretend ________­­__   (like) people that you detest.

18      That’s strange, I don’t recall_________ (meet) him at all.

19      The judge will defer _________ (pass) sentence until the psychiatric reports have been submitted.

20      Whenever possible, the personnel department likes _________ (settle) salary reviews prior to the quarterly board meetings.

Q4: Underline the correct form in bold.

1          Darling, did you remember packing/ to pack some spare cassettes for the video camera yesterday?

2          I really regret leaving/ to leave school so young, it’s ruined my career prospects.

3          We tried pressing/ to press the ‘escape’ key but the program just wouldn’t respond.

4          A suspicious young man was seen enter/ to enter the building shortly before the incident.

5          As we drove over the river we noticed local women washing / wash their clothes in the water.

6          I once heard Karajan conducting/ conduct the entire Ring cycle – it was wonderful.

7          I stopped eating/ to eat sugar years ago.

8          Nothing will stop their enquiries, they mean getting/to get to the bottom of this strange business.

9          Don’t forget recording/ to record ‘EastEnders’ tomorrow evening.

10        The woman woke up in the middle of the night, looked out of her window and saw something strange hovering / hover over the trees in the park.

11        After a career in the secret service, Ian Fleming went on achieving/to achieve fame as an author.

12        Transglobe Airlines regrets announcing/to announce the cancellation of today’s service to Istanbul due to air traffic restrictions.

13        Do you remember seeing/to see that film last summer?

14        If you can’t find the information in the manual, try looking/to look at our website.

15        We were all exhausted so we stopped getting/to get some rest at a motel.

Q5: Read the article below and then decide which word or phrase (A-C) best fits each space. The exercise begins with an example (0).

Death in the Air

The death of Emma Christofferson from deep-vein thrombosis allegedly caused by a twenty-hour plane journey has led to calls for an enquiry into so-called ‘economy class syndrome’. The cabin crew were shocked (0)…B….the previously healthy 28-year-old in a state of collapse at the end of a long-haul flight from Australia to London. A blood clot had spread from her legs to her lungs with fatal results. Experts believe her death is just the latest example of the growing danger posed by (1)…. for extended periods of time in cramped aircraft seats.

Farol Khan, director of the Aviation Health Institute, (2) …….. to have evidence that more than 6.000 passengers a year die of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) as a result of long-haul flights. Unfortunately, as symptoms often take some time (3)…….the link between the condition and flying is not always apparent. But there seems (4)…… a clear relationship between the occurrence of DVT and the steady reduction in the amount of legroom between seats in economy class cabins. In a bid (5) ……… the number of passengers carried and their consequent profitability, many airlines have squeezed more and more seats into their planes, at the cost of comfort and

legroom. And our (6) ………. these uncomfortable conditions is simply based on the fact that we know more seats means lower prices. But with limited opportunities (7) ……. or move around, the blood circulation in passengers’ legs (8) …….to slow down, and blood clots can easily develop. Most at risk are elderly people, sufferers from heart conditions and smokers. But as Emma Christofferson’s case shows, even the young and healthy can do little to prevent blood clots (9)…..under these circumstances.

(10)….. a ‘caring, sharing’ image is something many airlines are keen on, and some of these have finally (11) …… to take the problem more seriously by issuing health advice to passengers ‘trapped’ on their long- haul flights. They usually recommend (12) …….. the legs and feet regularly, and advise (13)………walks up and down the aisle at least once an hour. But as any experienced traveller knows, the aisles on most planes are only just w ide enough for the trolleys (14)………… through. It is often impossible (15) ……….down the aisle (16) ……….to the toilets, let alone (17) ………. exercise.

The truth is that until we are all prepared to (18)……. paying rock-bottom prices for long distance travel, the airlines will have no incentive (19) ……….       conditions. And a return to exclusive and expensive air travel is something nobody would (20) ……….advocating.

o          A finding                                B to find                                 C to be found

1          A sitting                                  B to sit                                    C sit

2          A suggests                               B admits                               C claims

3          A appearing                            B to appear                          C having appeared

4          A being                                     B to be                                 C be

5          A increasing                            B of increasing                    C to increase

6          A putting up with                   B put up with                     C to put up with

7          A stretching                             B to stretch                         C stretch

8          A begins                                  B risks                                  C can’t  help

9          A occurring                             B to occur                             C occur

10        A promoting                            B to promote                      C to be promoted

11        A suggested                            B considered                        C started

12        A moving                                B to move                             C move

13        A taking                                  B to get                                 C take

14        A getting                                 B to get                                C get

15        A walking                               B to walk                              C walk

16        A getting                                 B to get                                C get

17        A taking                                  B to take                              C take

18        A give up                                B fail                                    C refuse

19        A improving                            B to improve                    C improve

20        A undertake                            B choose                            C contemplate

Q6: Complete the letter with suitable forms of words from the box below. The first one has been done as an example (0).

ask         attend        be           bring          buy           cash            cook            fill in          find

join          know     learn         live         let            make               open            say

see           take          wonder        write

Dear Mum and Dad,

So my first week at university is over! No lectures this morning so I thought I’d drop you a line (0) …… to let…….you know ‘now things are going.

I’m glad (1)……….that everything has worked out fine in the hall of residence. I remembered (2) ………. for a room as far away from the lifts as possible (they really are noisy) and they found me a nee comfortable one on the second floor. The room’s not very large and I was a bit shocked (3)…………that ten people have to share one bathroom! And it’s a good thing you recommended (4)……… own portable TV set from home as the one in the IV lounge is permanently tuned to the sports channel, there’s also a little kitchenette on cur corridor, so if I feel like (5) ………..something for myself rather than eating in the canteen then that s no problem.

I think (6) ……….. in a place like this is going to be a lot of fun. There are two other girls from my course here and I  plan (7)………… friends with them so that we can help each other with the course work. Everyone else seems very nice.

As Monday was the first day it was devoted to administration, which involved (8)………… lots of forms. I got my student I.D. card and the timetable for this term. I’ve got a personal tutor and he’s arranged (9)………..  me next week. The course coordinator persuaded me (10)………….. some extra courses which should be interesting. On Tuesday I managed (11)…………… a bank account and I deposited my student loan cheque. I tried (12)    …………the cheque but the bank said I will have to wait for it to clear. So I have to delay (13)………….books and things until next week.

My first few lectures proved (14)…………..really fascinating, the lecturers really seem (15)………. what they are talking about. Still, there’s a lot of work to do and I can’t help (16)…………… if I’ll be able to keep up with it all, especially with all the detractions here. There are so many clubs and societies, it’s incredible. I’m hoping (17)……….. the parachuting club, I’ve always fancied (18)…………… how to do that!

Well, I’d better stop now, I’m going (19)…………. my first seminar this afternoon, so I’ve got some preparation to do.

Anyway, I promise (20)…………….again soon,

Love to everyone,



1          no parking

2          to succeed

3          to make

4          helping

5          his leaving (him leaving is acceptable in informal English)

6          to boost

7          to find

8          to help

9          meeting

10        the children seeing

11        to write

12        seeing/to see

13        to set

14        to hurt

15        making

16        dancing

17        to announce

18        building

19       The dispensing medical  ==> The dispensing of medical

20        ✓

21        is sure to looking ==>  is sure to look/be looking

22        found making ==> found him making

23        taking ==> to take

24       the judge ordered to pay ==> the judge ordered us/you/him/her/them to pay

25         ✓



  1. my ==> me
  2. opening the ==> opening of the
  3. she ==> her
  4. not ==> no
  5. wait ==> waiting
  6. making a ==> making of a
  7. not ==> no
  8. we ==> us/our
  9. to make ==> making
  10. capable lifting ==> capable of lifting


  1. to be handed in tomorrow.
  2. enough to join the army.
  3. to arrive late.
  4. able to/allowed to/permitted to/free to give you an answer right now.
  1. to catch the criminals the government closed the borders.
  2. a decision to close the office this morning.
  3. surprised to learn that Amanda was going to marry Ronald.
  4. as not to frighten the public.
  5. to the bank this morning to check the balance on my current account.
  1. to find/discover they had already closed the store for stocktaking!


1 to pass

2 to call

3 avoiding

4 to exceed

5 to notice

6 keeping

7 to arrive

8 to apply

9 lying

10 calling

11 to go

12 to avoid

13 to join

14 feeling

15 to carry

16 to swim

17 to like

18 meeting

19 passing

20 to settle


1 to pack

2 leaving

3 pressing

4 to enter

5 washing

6 conduct

7 eating

8 to get

9 to record

10 hovering

11 to achieve

12 to announce

13 seeing

14 looking

15 to get


1 A

2 C

3 B

4 B

5 C

6 A

7 B

8 A

9 A

10 A

11 C

12 A

13 A

14 B

15 B

16 B

17 B

18 A

19 B

20 C


1 to say

2 to ask

3 to find

4 bringing

5 cooking 

6 living

7 to make

8 filling in

9 to see

10 to take 

11 to open

12 to cash

13 buying

14 to be

15 to know

16 wondering

17 to join

18 learning

19 to attend

20 to write


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