Frequently Asked Questions


1. When do I have to use Gerund?  
2. How do I report requests, orders or suggestions?  



This looks exactly the same as a present participle, and for this reason it is now common to call both forms 'the -ing form'. However it is useful to understand the difference between the two. The gerund always has the same function as a noun (although it looks like a verb), so it can be used:

a. as the subject of the sentence:

  • Eating people is wrong.
  • Hunting elephants is dangerous.
  • Flying makes me nervous.

b. as the complement of the verb 'to be':

  • One of his duties is attending meetings.
  • The hardest thing about learning English is understanding the gerund.
  • One of life's pleasures is having breakfast in bed.

c. after prepositions. The gerund must be used when a verb comes after a preposition:

  • Can you sneeze without opening your mouth?
  • She is good at painting.
  • They're keen on windsurfing.
  • She avoided him by walking on the opposite side of the road.
  • We arrived in Madrid after driving all night.
  • My father decided against postponing his trip to Hungary.

This is also true of certain expressions ending in a preposition, e.g. in spite of, there's no point in..:

  • There's no point in waiting.
  • In spite of missing the train, we arrived on time.

d. after a number of 'phrasal verbs' which are composed of a verb + preposition/adverb

to look forward to, to give up, to be for/against, to take to, to put off, to keep on:

  • I look forward to hearing from you soon. (at the end of a letter)
  • When are you going to give up smoking?
  • She always puts off going to the dentist.
  • He kept on asking for money.

NOTE: There are some phrasal verbs and other expressions that include the word 'to' as a preposition, not as part of a to-infinitive: - to look forward to, to take to, to be accustomed to, to be used to. It is important to recognise that 'to' is a preposition in these cases, as it must be followed by a gerund:

  • We are looking forward to seeing you.
  • I am used to waiting for buses.
  • She didn't really take to studying English.

It is possible to check whether 'to’ is a preposition or part of a to-infinitive: if you can put a noun or the pronoun 'it' after it, then it is a preposition and must be followed by a gerund:

  • I am accustomed to it (the cold).
  • I am accustomed to being cold.

e. in compound nouns


  • a driving lesson, a swimming pool, bird-watching, train-spotting

It is clear that the meaning is that of a noun, not of a continuous verb.


  • the pool is not swimming, it is a pool for swimming in.

f. after the expressions:

can't help, can't stand, it's no use/good, and the adjective worth:

  • The elephant couldn't help falling in love with the mouse.
  • I can't stand being stuck in traffic jams.
  • It's no use/good trying to escape.
  • It might be worth phoning the station to check the time of the train.


1. When we want to report an order or request, we can use a verb like 'tell' with a to-clause.


He told me to go away.
The pattern is verb + indirect object + to-clause.
(The indirect object is the person spoken to.)

Other verbs used to report orders and requests in this way are: command, order, warn, ask, advise, invite, beg, teach, forbid.


a. The doctor said to me, "Stop smoking!". The doctor told me to stop smoking.

b. "Get out of the car!" said the policeman. The policeman ordered him to get out of the car.

c. "Could you please be quiet," she said. She asked me to be quiet.

d. The man with the gun said to us, "Don't move!" The man with the gun warned us not to move.

2. Requests for objects are reported using the pattern
ask + for + object: Examples:

a. "Can I have an apple?", she asked. She asked for an apple.
b. "Can I have the newspaper, please?" He asked for the newspaper.
c. "May I have a glass of water?" he said. He asked for a glass of water.
d. "Sugar, please." She asked for the sugar.
e. "Could I have three kilos of onions?" He asked for three kilos of onions.

3. Suggestions are usually reported with a that-clause. 'That' and 'should' are optional in these clauses:

She said: "Why don't you get a mechanic to look at the car?" She suggested that I should get a mechanic to look at the car. OR She suggested I get a mechanic to look at the car.

Other reporting verbs used in this way are: insist, recommend, demand, request, propose.


a. "It would be a good idea to see the dentist", said my mother. My mother suggested I see the dentist.

b. The dentist said, "I think you should use a different toothbrush". The dentist recommended that I should use a different toothbrush.

c. My manager said, "I think we should examine the budget carefully at this meeting." My manager proposed that we examine the budget carefully at the meeting.

d. "Why don't you sleep overnight at my house?" she said. She suggested that I sleep overnight at her house.


Suggest can also be followed by a gerund: I suggested postponing the visit to the dentist.





This website has been designed and is maintained by Alfonso Hinojosa, teacher of English at E.O.I. Santander