This activity looks at the problem of whether verbs are followed by the gerund or infinitive. At Upper Intermediate level (B2 on the CEF level and FCE Cambridge exams) students are confronted with this problem and it is often useful to practise more thoroughly to help the difference in meaning of the verbs become part of the learners’ active knowledge.

After the straightforward rules for verbs like manage (infinitive) and enjoy (gerund) it can be quite difficult for students to grasp the difference in meaning between a verb like try which can be followed by both, but with different meanings.

Activity components

Worksheet - Farmer Jones story
Download Farmer Jones story worksheet  11.35 kb

Preparation

Give out a copy of the Farmer Jones story.

Procedure

  • Ask the students to read the story and then attempt the exercise in pairs.
  • Get them to compare answers in pairs, then give feedback to the activity as a whole class
  • Encourage students to justify their opinion as to why the gerund or infinitive should be used. For example, we can say continue to get or continue getting with no difference in meaning, and both are equally correct. However, when we look at tried, we need to look more closely at the context.
    Did they increase their profits by buying chickens? If so, we could use the gerund. But the rest of the story makes it clear that the scheme didn’t work so it has to be the infinitive.
    Similarly, does he try buying a gun or does he try to buy a gun? Both are correct, grammatically, so the answer depends on the context.
    He tries buying would indicate that he encountered no problems in the purchase of the gun, but again the context makes clear that he wasn’t able to complete the transaction because he had no identification, so we must use the infinitive.
    You could discuss with the students other reasons why someone might try to buy a gun but fail to succeed (underage, need to wait a month to purchase, criminal record etc), and then reasons why someone would try buying a gun to solve the problem (burglars, graffiti problems, marital problems! etc).
  • Discuss the choices with the students and ask them what happens next. Does Jane ask for a divorce because of the smell? Does it scare the chicken? Do they buy more chickens? Can they think of a better ending to the story?


Answers:

1. falling - always gerund with can't help

2. getting - the result would be this

3. having - again result

4. either gerund or infinitive - both are possible here with no change in meaning

5. to increase - at this stage we don't know if it will succeed or not

6. to build - at this stage we think he will be able to build a fence

7. to use (because he can’t use it) or using (he succeeds in attempting but fails in the action)

8. to buy - he tries buying would indicate that he encountered no problems in the purchase of the gun, but the context makes clear that he wasn’t able to complete the transaction because he had no identification, so we must use the infinitive.

9. to borrow - he tries borrowing would indicate that he encountered no problems with his neighbours, but the context makes clear that he wasn’t able to complete the transaction successfully, so we must use the infinitive.

10. buying (or not having bought) but not infinitive as he could have bought one if he'd wanted to(back then)

11. to stop (tries but fails)

12. to scare (tries but fails again)

13. to hit (tries but fails again)

14. to catch (tries but fails again)

15. shouting (easy to do but ineffective)

16. throwing (easy to do but ineffective)

17. leaving (easy to do but ineffective)

18. asking (easy to do and this time effective)

19. putting (easy to do and this time effective)

20. to buy (easy to do - at this stage we don't know if it will work)

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Author: 
Stuart Wiffin
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Comments

This is really a difficult area even for advanced efl students. From my experience as a Moroccan teacher of English, the only way around this difficulty is via contextualised language.This is what the writer of the present article has successfully achieved. The effort is worth thanking.