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How does one know when to use a gerund or a infinitive?

Which of the following is the correct form?

  • To know you're interested in my book is all I need to go on with my work!
  • Knowing you're interested in my book is all I need to go on with my work!
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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, jwpat7, MετάEd, kiamlaluno, Mahnax Aug 22 '12 at 5:27

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The second has a stronger suggestion that the person addressed is already interested in your book.

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So, are these interchangeable? – MatterGoal Apr 24 '12 at 21:46
@MatterGoal: Only if you think subtleties of expression don't matter. – Barrie England Apr 25 '12 at 6:34

Both infinitive and gerund clauses can serve as Subject Complement clauses for appropriate predicates, but as a general rule, gerunds are more common and normally to be preferred over infinitives in subject position.

My guess is this is probably because initial infinitives require a To as a parser detour marker -- i.e,

  • To redo the kitchen was my idea.
  • *Redo the kitchen was my idea.

but gerunds are morphologically marked and don't require a particle to keep track of.

  • Doing the kitchen was my idea.

By the same token, there are rules like Extraposition that move subject infinitives from the beginning of the sentence, where they sound stuffy and uncomfortable, to their preferred end position in the sentence

  • ?To redo the kitchen is a terrific idea. [==>
  • It's a terrific idea to redo the kitchen.]

but don't work so well for gerunds, who are doing just fine in subject position

  • Redoing the kitchen is a terrific idea. [==>
  • ?It's a terrific idea redoing the kitchen.]
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