1

I know that, prescriptively speaking, that the verb "refuse" is supposed to be followed by an infinitive. For example:

The parents refused to buy the dangerous toy for their kid.

Since language usage isn't clear cut, I was wondering whether using a gerund instead of infinitive would be acceptable at all as in the following sentence:

The parents refused buying the dangerous toy for their kid. *

2

You can refuse a noun ("She refused the medicine they offered."), and a gerund is technically a noun ("Reading is fundamental") but I cannot think of a single example of refusing a gerund that does not sound awkward or just plain wrong.

Your example, "The parents refused buying the dangerous toy for their kid", would be in the latter category. "Buying a toy" as an action is not being offered to the parents. They are being asked to do it and they demur. That takes the infinitive.

  • I agree - to refuse + gerund sounds inherently "awkward" to me too. But although some of the written instances of refused giving it either do or should have a comma before a supplementary clause starting with giving , a lot of them are for the usage in question. I also have the feeling it was more common a century or two ago, despite the fact that I think in general gerunds were less common then. – FumbleFingers Apr 15 '15 at 1:57
  • @FumbleFingers -- but 140 years later, doesn't it sound like the Nonconformists were somehow offered "bowing" as a service? "Oh, would you like us to bow for you?" "No, thanks, we're Nonconformists." – Malvolio Apr 15 '15 at 3:19
  • If the question had been asked on ELL I'd simply have advised OP to avoid the usage. But ELU isn't here to teach non-native speakers how to use English "naturally" - it's for those of us who already know what constitutes a "happy" usage to discuss the finer points (in the context of this type of question, at least). Personally, I don't have a problem even today with Although in principle I reject spoiling my ballot paper, with such a poor list of candidates I may have no choice. Using refuse there sounds "dated" to me, rather than "ungrammatical". – FumbleFingers Apr 15 '15 at 12:01
  • @FumbleFingers -- yes, that was my point. Sorry if I did not make that clear. It is grammatically correct: you can refuse a noun just like you can reject a noun, it just sounds funny because semantically, we don't tend to "refuse" gerunds. Refusing a noun means you decline to accept it and there aren't many situations where you are offered gerunds. More abstract verbs like reject, enjoy, and practice work on a wider scope. – Malvolio Apr 15 '15 at 17:40
0

http://www.really-learn-english.com/verbs-followed-only-by-infinitives.html -- Here is a list of verbs that can only be followed by infinitives (and not gerunds.) Refuse is on the list.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.