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Completing your verbs—infinitive and gerunds

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Most of us have been told at some point that a sentence has a subject and predicate and that the predicate consists of a verb and an object—the girl kicked the ball. We may have been introduced to distinctions such as transitive, intransitive, and linking verbs (like carry, snore, and become, respectively). But there is much more to the intricacies of what must follow a verb. Linguists sometimes talk about the valency of a verb, meaning its ability to combine with other sorts of grammatical and semantic elements in a predicate. We find, for example, bitransitive verbs (like the teacher baked the children some cookies), object complement verbs (like the employees called the boss Mr. Burns), and reflexive verbs (like the witness perjured herself). Some verbs (like explain) allow their direct objects to be noun clauses but not infinitives, other verbs (like try) allow infinitives but not noun clauses. We explained that we would be right on time. We tried to use a new recipe. And some verbs (like promise) allow both noun clauses and infinitives. We promised that we would buy eggs. We promised to buy eggs. General dictionaries offer clues to valency by giving example sentences.  More specialized reference works, like A. S. Hornby’s 1975 Guide to Patterns and Usage in English, delineate pretty much the full range of verbs. Hornby distinguishes more than twenty-five different ways that verbs can be completed. To me, one of the most intriguing patterns involves the distinction between gerunds and infinitives as direct objects. Some verbs, like want, agree, arrange, claim, decide, and refuse, allow infinitives to follow but not gerunds. We wanted to spend more time at the coast. He agreed to visit every week. Other verbs, like enjoy, acknowledge, admit, anticipate, and avoid, take gerunds but not infinitives. We enjoyed visiting the museums. She acknowledged receiving the letter. Different verbs, different patterns. But why do certain verbs prefer gerunds but others. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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