+0
One grammar book says that when you make a general statement, be sure to use a gerund form as its subject, not an infinitive form. Let me cite the example sentences from the book.

Playing games is a fun way of improving your memory skills. (right)
To play games is a fun way of improving your memory skills. (wrong)

The other book, however, says differently. It says both are correct.

To work provides people with personal satisfaction as well as money. (right)
Working provides people with personal satisfaction as well as money. (right)

To sneeze spread germs. (right)
Sneezing spread germs. (right)

To shoplift is considered a serious crime. (right)
Shoplifting is considered a serious crime. (right)

So, naturally I am in a fog. Please help me dissipate it.
1 2
Comments  
I think that the infinitive form is not so much incorrect as 'stuffy' in these situations. Not a natural way of speaking.

It may have a place in very formal circumstances. 'To err is human; to forgive divine' being the classic example. I can't see the bible being re-written to 'erring is human; forgiving divine'.
Propriety also depends on the situation, Koyama. If we are referring to the action or process, then the infinitive does not work, as in:

X 'To sneeze spreads germs.' (wrong)-- This one is extremely awkward, because it is not the concept but the process that does the spreading.
'Sneezing spreads germs.' (right)-- Therefore, only this version makes good sense.

'Playing games is a fun way of improving your memory skills.' (right)
'To play games is a fun way of improving your memory skills.' (wrong)-- Here, the second one is 'wrong' and sounds so, because of the lack of parallelism, which the first sentence exhibits: 'playing' - 'improving'.

'To shoplift is considered a serious crime.' (right)
'Shoplifting is considered a serious crime.' (right)-- Here, either seems equally satisfactory, primarily because there is not the legislation against the infinitive form that we saw in the previous examples.

As Nona has shown with her Biblical quote, usage can also favour the infinitive.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
So shall we say it is a correct usage when there is a parallelism within the action performed and the verbal given;

'Playing games is a fun way of improving your memory skills.' (right)
'To play games is a fun way to improve your memory skills.' (right)

Regarding the parallelism necessary can we say that when we put a verb after a preposition, we normally use an -ing form not an infinitive;

"You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs".(NOT .....without to break eggs)

"Always check the oil before starting the car".(NOT......... before to start the car)

"Being objected to working on Sundays is a tyranny"(NOT.........to work on Sundays BUT ........ to Sunday work)
I've always thought of the gerund as the concept of an action, rather than the process or actual occurrence of an action. If what you want in the sentence is a noun, contemporary English speakers prefer gerunds. That's why they tend to be preferred for subjects. Because a preposition takes a noun object, gerunds should likewise be used, as per your examples.

An infinitive, on the other hand, is actually an unconjugated verb, (though it occasionally goes in a noun slot.) The "to" in infinitives is not a preposition, technically it's a "particle". (I think; I hope I'm not losing anyone) The only reason it's there is because the verb is separated from the subject by the first verb (the conjugated, "finite" one). The infinitive is almost invariably the second action, chronologically speaking. (there is yet a a category of verbs, such as 'like' and 'start', which may be followed by either)

Example: I stopped to smoke. Obviously, first I stopped, then I smoked. Contrast that with "I stopped smoking." Now we're not talking about two actions in sequence, but someone quitting a habit. The same for "Smoking is bad for you." Who is smoking? No one; we're talking about the habit, the thing in abstract.

So, is it as clear as day or as clear as mud? Reading over my response, I'm not sure I didn't muddy the issue . . . ;-)

take care!

Rhea.
Regarding the parallelism necessary can we say that when we put a verb after a preposition, we normally use an -ing form not an infinitive;
After a preposition only the gerund form is used. That's true. You are quite right about that. But it has nothing to do with parallelism. It's just a rule that applies regardless of whether the context has parallelism or not.
The original question in this thread was about infinitives and/or gerunds in the subject position, where they would not be preceded by a preposition. And the choice of form in the subject position does not depend on the use of the same form elsewhere in the sentence. For example, the use of an infinitive later in the sentence does not mean that the subject should also be an infinitive. That said, parallelism is probably better in sentences which are equative -- for example, where you say that one thing is another: To X is to Y or Xing is Ying.

CJ
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
FYI: this quote is actually from Alexander Pope in "An Essay on Criticism." I forgive you.
Mister MicawberPropriety also depends on the situation, Koyama. If we are referring to the action or process, then the infinitive does not work, as in:

X 'To sneeze spreads germs.' (wrong)-- This one is extremely awkward, because it is not the concept but the process that does the spreading.
'Sneezing spreads germs.' (right)-- Therefore, only this version makes good sense.

'Playing games is a fun way of improving your memory skills.' (right)
'To play games is a fun way of improving your memory skills.' (wrong)-- Here, the second one is 'wrong' and sounds so, because of the lack of parallelism, which the first sentence exhibits: 'playing' - 'improving'.

'To shoplift is considered a serious crime.' (right)
'Shoplifting is considered a serious crime.' (right)-- Here, either seems equally satisfactory, primarily because there is not the legislation against the infinitive form that we saw in the previous examples.

As Nona has shown with her Biblical quote, usage can also favour the infinitive.

I agree with everything Mister Micrawber said. There are situations and contexts where infinitive and gerunds can both work, but some just sound awful with infinitive.

To get / getting into a fight with someone over a parking space is stupid in my opinion.- both are ok

To deposit/ depositing half a million dollars into the wrong account is an unforgivable mistake in my opinion. – both are fine.

Dancing and singing are my favorite pastimes.- ok

To dance and to sing are my favorite pastimes, -Absolutely not!
CalifJimAfter a preposition only the gerund form is used. That's true. You are quite right about that.
Hi CJ

Just out of curiosity: could you please tell me what your opinion on "Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home" is.

Cheers
CB
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Show more