I am having trouble using gerund/infinitive phrases. In this sentence, which is correct the infinitive or the gerund:

Clearly, more attention – and investment – is needed on leveraging/to leverage the role of intermediate small- and medium-sized towns.

Similarly "assist" requires a gerund and not the infinitive: assist in formulating and not assist to formulate. What is the reasoning. And where can I find more information on this. Many thanks!

  • 1
    There is not a whole lot of reasoning; details such as complement type are determined by each predicate, individually. It's mostly arbitrary, though there are some generalizations, all with exceptions. When you look at the details, infinitives are significantly more complex than gerunds (Equi applies to both, but Raising applies only to infinitives, for instance), gerunds are more common as subjects, and infinitives are more common as extraposed subjects. Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 2:13
  • It all depends on the intended meaning, and only you know that. If we are to understand that more attention and investment is required in order to leverage the role of ..., (i.e. the non-finite clause is a purpose adjunct) then the infinitival would be right. But if the assertion is that it's the leveraging that requires more attention and detail, then the gerund-participial would be right. It all boils down to either "why" or "on what".
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 12:00
  • 1
    @John Lawler excellent pdf, thank you. The subtleties are beyond my grasp at this point, but I will read it again in time.
    – SteveRacer
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 21:34
  • See also McCawley's rough categorization of gerund and infinitive. Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 21:46

1 Answer 1


I don't see that either are incorrect. (And I also do not see why "assist" requires a gerund, albeit the infinitive example seeming [to be] a bit clunky.)

There's warped humor in there; I promise.

The gerund implies, at least to me, that a leveraging or formulating process is underway, but requires more []. The infinitive examples define what is needed to reach an eventual endstate of leveraged or formulated.

On the other hand, more implies that there already was some, so perhaps the gerund phrasing is more appropriate in the context of a continuing process: leveraging, formulating...

  • Thank you! This analysis was really useful; as I said, I sometimes mix up the usage of the infinitive/gerund.
    – user182449
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 15:12
  • @Mary351 YW, although I have to agree with the downvote after [attempting] to digest the Equi vs Raising pdf referenced in comment by John Lawler. Those details seem to me excruciating, such that I now sincerely doubt my own proficiency in determining best usage of gerund vs. infinitive.
    – SteveRacer
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 21:30
  • 'Raising' has nothing whatsoever to do with establishing the answer to the OP's question. It's much simpler than that - it's all about identifying the possible the meaning(s) of the sentence dependent on the two forms, infinitival or gerund-participial. Incidentally, explanations of grammar are only good and useful if they can be understood by most people. Theoretical stuff is of no use here.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 19:41

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