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The green, the result of men’s toil to conquer nature, is wheat fields blown by the breeze into green waves.

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    Not really. (It's possible, but a little awkward: it reads like their toil-conquering nature.) However, you could replace to conquer with in conquering … – Jason Bassford Aug 20 '20 at 5:18
  • @KikiMomo What are you trying to express that you think the infinitive form doesn’t convey? – Lawrence Aug 20 '20 at 5:48
  • I was just wondering if it is right grammarly. Many thanks!! – Kiki Momo Aug 20 '20 at 5:52
  • Where is this sentence from, please? I'm having trouble trying to decide whether I'd dock a mark for non-idiomaticity if marking an essay. // Certainly, Their toil conquering nature sounds unnatural, whether or not it's grammatical (it probably is, comparing with ' his work [in] combatting phobias'). – Edwin Ashworth Aug 22 '20 at 11:35
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According to this source:

Gerunds are often used when actions are real, fixed, or completed. "I enjoy cooking." (emphasis added)

Infinitives are often used when actions are unreal, abstract, or future: "He wants to swim." (emphasis added)

I would say the notion of conquering is an abstract action, so the infinitive would be the correct choice.

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The gerund and the infinite equate to the continuous and simple forms of the verb.

All simple forms of the verb indicate an action as a whole - from start to finish.

The simple form of the verb can indicate a habitual or regular action that

(i) is/was/will be complete/completed each time it is undertaken.

A: What do you do to keep fit?

B: I ride a bike. -> “ride” includes everything from getting on the bike at the start of the journey to getting off the bike at the end.

Or

(ii) a single, complete or completed present, future, or past action:

"He told me that I had to visit the Eiffel Tower, so I go/went/will go to Paris on Wednesday” -> “go/went/will go” includes everything from the decision being made, bags being packed, going to the airport, etc., to the arrival in Paris.

(iii) a habitual, recurring, regular or frequent action (that is completed each time)

On Saturdays, I go to the gym.

He ate toast for breakfast every day of his life.

The continuous form of the verb indicates

(i) an action that is/was/will be (a) incomplete and (b) in progress and (c) at the time that is being referred to (it has started but it has not yet finished) ->

I will be/am/was/have been/had been riding a bike = I will be/am/was/have been/had been in the process of riding a bike but have not yet finished riding the bike at the time I am referring to.

The continuous form used to be known as “the imperfect”: It was called “imperfect” because the action had not been “perfected” i.e. it had not finished.

OED

Imperfect: 5. Grammar. Applied to a tense which denotes action going on but not completed; usually [edit Q- but not always] to the past tense of incomplete or progressive action.

1871 H. J. Roby Gram. Latin Lang. §549 Three [tenses] denoting incomplete action; the Present, Future, and Imperfect (sometimes called respectively, present imperfect, future imperfect, past imperfect).

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  • As usual, distict classification is impossible. I advised seeing a doctor. = I advised them to see a doctor. // I can’t bear hearing him cry. = I can’t bear to hear him cry. // It began raining. = It began to rain. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 22 '20 at 11:50

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