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I believe that to infinitive as a subject can be replaced by a gerund form, which is why

To get up early is good.

always has the same meaning as

Getting up early is good.

But a colleague of mine tells me this isn't always the case. I did not have a chance to have him elaborate on that. He cited the following sentence:

Neglecting others means ignoring

and only said that because of 'ignoring', you cannot use 'to neglect' instead of 'neglecting'.

Is he right? If so, why?

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, MετάEd, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, Kristina Lopez, Mitch Jun 23 '13 at 23:25

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Why do you keep using the tilde? – Kaiser Octavius Jun 20 '13 at 0:56
If "You are neglecting me" is changed to "You are to neglect me", it doesn't mean the same thing. And if "I don't mean to neglect you" is changed to "I don't mean neglecting you" it's no longer valid English at all. – FumbleFingers Jun 20 '13 at 1:05
@FumbleFingers: OP meant when the infinitive is the subject. – Kaiser Octavius Jun 20 '13 at 1:14
@Kaiser Octavius: I know, and I've already closevoted as a dup of one of the vast number of earlier questions regarding infinitive/gerund (not that one, as it happens). But although we both know that's what OP means, that's not what he's asked. – FumbleFingers Jun 20 '13 at 1:20
You do realise that your original question is many times broader than the refinement you go on to describe? – Edwin Ashworth Jun 22 '13 at 10:24

The point your colleague is making is that you shouldn't mix forms. This is perhaps best explained using examples:


Neglecting means ignoring.

To neglect means to ignore.


Neglecting means to ignore.

To neglect means ignoring.

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But is it ungrammatical to mix forms? – Kaiser Octavius Jun 20 '13 at 1:10
Mixing forms is to be avoided. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 20 '13 at 9:58
Isn't that a statement about style? – Kaiser Octavius Jun 20 '13 at 14:03
It was intended to be funny. However, I'd stick with terdon's recommendations myself, at least in those cases. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 20 '13 at 19:14

Neglecting others means ignoring [them].

I think you mean an object there, or the sentence would sound odd to my ear. In most cases where the gerund or infinite is the subject of object of a verb, you can replace one with the other (I can't think of an exception).

However, a gerund can be the object of a preposition, while an infinite normally cannot:

After conquering Athens, Augustus paused.

After *to conquer Athens...

There are also many verbs that only take one or the other. Lastly, there are cases where the two have different meanings:

Cleopatra stopped looking at Marc Athony. = "She had been looking at him but now began doing something else."

Cleopatra stopped to look at Marc Athony. = "She stopped doing whatever she was doing in order to look at him."

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In stop to look, to is not the infinitive-marker - it is the to that is the equivalent of the French 'pour', 'in order to'. Compare I have come to see your father and contrast I have come to see the complexities involved in these structures. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 20 '13 at 19:15
@EdwinAshworth: Yes, you could say that (although they have the same origin, and they cannot always be distinguished). – Cerberus Jun 20 '13 at 23:30
I came in order to see your father is not an example of catenation. I tried to see your father is. "It is most important to distinguish between a real catenative verb, such as decide I decided to work. and a normal verb followed by an infinitive of purpose (French: pour)" ( en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:English_catenative_verbs ) – Edwin Ashworth Jun 21 '13 at 19:29
@EdwinAshworth: So what are you arguing here? What do you want me to do or say? – Cerberus Jun 21 '13 at 19:45
Your statements 'There are also many verbs that only take one or the other. Lastly, there are cases where the two have different meanings:' grossly over-simplify the different catenative (see at wordwizard.com/phpbb3/… , for example) and non-catenative (as at the link above) verb + en-form and verb + ing-form structures. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 21 '13 at 21:49

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