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Hello.
I know there is a difference (maybe not so evident) when one uses the to-infinitive or the gerund when they act as subject of the sentence. Some sources just say that the gerund is much more common in this function without mentioning the reason. With so little information I don't know how to make my choice before making the phrase. So, my question is: how do you know when to use the gerund or the to-infinitive before saying the utterance? Does it depend on the verb itself or the sentence that accompany the verb?
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Hello Latin

It seems to me that with the to-infinitive, you focus on the action as a completed whole, and so seem to stand outside it; whereas with the gerund, you focus on the action as a process, and so seem to stand inside it. Thus here, #2 has a "friendlier" air, to my ears:

1. To err is human; to forgive, divine.

2. Erring is human; forgiving is divine.

In some contexts, a to-infinitive has an odd or chilly effect:

3. Swimming in the sea is very enjoyable. (normal)

4. To swim in the sea is very enjoyable. (seems very distant)

5. Eating apples is good for you. (normal)

6. To eat apples is good for you. (odd)

Others may interpret the two forms quite differently, though!

MrP
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LatinHello.
I know there is a difference (maybe not so evident) when one uses the to-infinitive or the gerund when they act as subject of the sentence. Some sources just say that the gerund is much more common in this function without mentioning the reason. With so little information I don't know how to make my choice before making the phrase. So, my question is: how do you know when to use the gerund or the to-infinitive before saying the utterance? Does it depend on the verb itself or the sentence that accompany the verb?
Hi Latin,

There are times either infinitive or gerund will work in certain context.

Ex: She loves to eat

She loves eating, both

To John, the best thing to do during the summer is to go to the beach

To John, the best thing to do during the summer is going to the beach

She picked up a book and started to read

She picked up a book and started reading

They are all interchangeable

However, there are exceptions that only accept either infinitive or gerunds

He enjoys cooking - infinitive doesn’t work.

She raised her hand to ask a question – gerund does not work

He was at the bus stop waiting for the school bus – not to wait

She hopes to graduate this summer –not graduating

So you see, the rules are not perfect. The only way to get better at using them is to read and use English more.
MrPedanticIt seems to me that with the to-infinitive, you focus on the action as a completed whole, and so seem to stand outside it; whereas with the gerund, you focus on the action as a process, and so seem to stand inside it.
So, would the to-infinitive convey a more 'abstract' meaning (of actions not so common) and the gerund one that you feel more close (of actions more common)?
According to this interpretation and your explanation, (and taking the swim example) if an alien comes to the earth, they would say something like this and it would sound natural. Am I right?:
To swim is a fool thing that humans do.

Now, could you tell me if these sentences sound natural or odd?
To shoplift is considered a seroious crime.
To dream is a very human thing.
To believe in God is easier for some than for others.
To love you is my greatest joy.
To conquer the world was Alexander's ambition.
To be able to read is important.
To forgive is often difficult.
To help others is rewarding.
To hesitate would have been fatal.

Travelling in winter is not easy.
Being punished for bad behaviour is normal at school.
Studying English is a lot of work.
Flying makes me nervous.
Driving in the snow can be dangerous.
Knowing how to write well is important.
Speaking to an audience is stressful.
Goodman
LatinHello.
I know there is a difference (maybe not so evident) when one uses the to-infinitive or the gerund when they act as subject of the sentence. Some sources just say that the gerund is much more common in this function without mentioning the reason. With so little information I don't know how to make my choice before making the phrase. So, my question is: how do you know when to use the gerund or the to-infinitive before saying the utterance? Does it depend on the verb itself or the sentence that accompany the verb?
Hi Latin,

There are times either infinitive or gerund will work in certain context.

Ex: She loves to eat

She loves eating, both

To John, the best thing to do during the summer is to go to the beach

To John, the best thing to do during the summer is going to the beach

She picked up a book and started to read

She picked up a book and started reading

They are all interchangeable

However, there are exceptions that only accept either infinitive or gerunds

He enjoys cooking - infinitive doesn’t work.

She raised her hand to ask a question – gerund does not work

He was at the bus stop waiting for the school bus – not to wait

She hopes to graduate this summer –not graduating

So you see, the rules are not perfect. The only way to get better at using them is to read and use English more.

Hello Goodman, None of your examples includes a gerund or infinitive verbal subject. Almost all of them object,they are used as nouns, but acting as the object of the sentence not subject.

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Hello Latin
So, would the to-infinitive convey a more 'abstract' meaning (of actions not so common) and the gerund one that you feel more close (of actions more common)?
Yes, I think the to-infinitive does (on the whole) have a more abstract air than the gerund. (There are doubtless exceptions: maybe certain set phrases, for instance. But I can't think of any at the moment.)

To swim is a foolish thing that humans do.] "To swim is foolish" sounds remote, and natural; but with the sentence as a whole, "swimming" sounds better, even for an alien – perhaps because "thing that humans do" independently imports the idea of a process into the sentence.

To shoplift is considered a serious crime.] "Shoplifting" seems more natural: perhaps because we want to focus on the act itself.

To dream is a very human thing.] Yes, this sounds fine. With "dreaming", it sounds more "sympathetic".

To believe in God is easier for some than for others.] Fine.
To love you is my greatest joy.] Fine. "My greatest joy" suggests something complete.

To conquer the world was Alexander's ambition.] Fine.
To be able to read is important.] Fine.
To forgive is often difficult. ] Fine.
To help others is rewarding.] Fine.
To hesitate would have been fatal.] Fine.

Travelling in winter is not easy. ] Fine.
Being punished for bad behaviour is normal at school.] Ok; but the to-inf. version might be better.
Studying English is a lot of work.] Fine.
Flying makes me nervous.] Fine.
Driving in the snow can be dangerous.]Fine.
Knowing how to write well is important.] Fine.
Speaking to an audience is stressful.] Fine.

See you,

MrP