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Hi,
inf-form or to-infinitive-form? Some examples:

The problem is to keep the price down. The problem is keeping the price down.
The solution is to sell everything at half the original price. The solution is selling everything at half the price.
The weirdest thing was to touch that big gravestone... The weirdest thing was touching that big gravestone...


I would choose the second in each pair, so ing-form. What do you say? Which are good? But I was wondering if context could make an option better than the other. For example, in each of the following sentences, in the second clause the pattern is the same as in the first (so you don't mix ing-forms and to-forms):

The problem is not to build it, the problem is to spend as little as possible.
The problem is not building it, the problem is spending as little as possible.


I need advice... Thank you in advance Emotion: smile
Comments  
Hi Kooyeen,

One way of explaining differences between to-infinitive and -ing is:

verb + ing = for actions already regularly experienced (or being experienced in an ongoing way) and/or familiar

to + infinitive = less familiar/regular or hypothetical

So for your first pair of sentences, the first one sounds like a problem that is hypothetical, in the future or part of a plan, while the second one sounds like this has been a problem already experienced or ongoing at the time of speaking. The theory generally works for your second set as well. For the first set, I don't think I would ever say "was to touch" - but I might use it in a future sense (it will be weird to touch that big gravestone).

That's my take on it, anyway. Maybe there will be other examples that challenge it!

Best,

Jason
For some reason, the -ing form sounds better to me with "in" in front of it. The problem is in spending.....

Does anyone else have this feeling?
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My take:

"Solution" infers a method which requires action. i.e. "The solution to counter the increasing cost of gasoline is to combine errands and (to) reduce driving unnecessarily". With this logic, infinitive should prevail.

A "problem" is the effect caused or created by something else. i.e. John's main health problem was (his) smoking.

Therefore, my choice:

The problem is keeping the price down.
The solution is to sell everything at half the original price.


For the rest, I find the context a little odd. So I don't feel comfortable commenting on it.
Hi Phillip,

My instinct tells me the "in" sounds natural there because of the word "problem" - a common collocation perhaps, rather than with the -ing form. Applying your model to the other example sentences resulted in less 'ring', I think.

Or am I off?

Best,

Jason
EnglishRavenSo for your first pair of sentences, the first one sounds like a problem that is hypothetical, in the future or part of a plan, while the second one sounds like this has been a problem already experienced or ongoing at the time of speaking. The theory generally works for your second set as well. For the first set, I don't think I would ever say "was to touch" - but I might use it in a future sense (it will be weird to touch that big gravestone).
That makes sense. I think I get more or less the same feeling. Yeah, looks like there isn't a simple rule of thumb for that, I'll have to trust my (still bad) instinct. And thank you.

By the way Jason, I checked out some of your stuff... and I read what you think about "teaching rules" or "teaching methods" in another thread. You must be skilled as a teacher, I can tell by the way you answered in this thread. Well, welcome to EnglishForward, hope you have fun. Emotion: smile
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