Some verb patterns with the verb "to be"+ to inf/ing /inf

mact

New Member
Spanish - Chile
Hi, I am wondering about the following issue:

I'm not native speaker of English and I would like some help on the following thing.

I have found these three statements containing the verb to be followed by three different patterns. My question is how to really understand this.

1) What he did then was spend the next few years hiding inside the house and rarely leaving. (be + verb infinitive)
2) The main plan was to go to Ireland for a couple of years. (be + to infinitive)
3) One thing I tried was hiding inside the house. (be+ ing)

Question:
Is there a grammar rule to discriminate which verb pattern is to be used?

Thanks!
 
  • dzina-lappo

    New Member
    NYC
    English - USA
    Hi!
    The grammar rule would be Gerund vs Infinitive. This page explains it pretty well: grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/gerunds.htm
    Hope this helps!
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Welcome to the forum Mact, and Dzina-lappo too.

    This is a complex issue. In general, what comes before was helps to determine what comes after it, and the intended meaning is also important.

    In English, the usual noun form of a verb is the gerund, such as hiding in statement 3. "I tried English", "I tried books", "I tried hiding inside the house." (The English gerund is very different from the Spanish gerund.)

    The infinitive with to is another verb form that can sometimes be used in place of a noun. It is less common than the gerund because it usually suggests futurity in some sense. To go is appropriate in statement 2 because it is called a "plan" and a plan is made before the action that is planned.

    However, to hide would not be wrong for statement 3 and going would not be wrong for statement 2.

    The difference between a gerund and an infinitive with to is sometimes minor, but it is sometimes important.

    Statement 1 uses the special verb do, which is the only verb that allows that pattern. Whereas the underlying idea in statement 2 is that I planned to go to Ireland, and the underlying idea in statement 3 is that I tried hiding, the underlying idea in statement 1 is not "He did spend a few years hiding" but "He spent a few years hiding."

    There are lots of threads about this special verb do, but unfortunately lots of native speakers of English are very good at forming statements like 1 but not very good at explaining their structure.

    Note that we have an even greater preference for the gerund if we make it the subject:

    1') Spending the next few years hiding inside the house and rarely leaving was what he did then.
    2') Going to Ireland for a couple of years was the main plan.
    3') Hiding inside the house was one thing I tried.

    Also, statement 2 still works with the original infinitive with to:

    2'') To go to Ireland for a couple of years was the main plan.

    But statement 1, with a bare infinitive and the special verb do, does not really work when turned around:

    1'') Spend the next few years hiding inside the house and rarely leaving was what he did then.:cross:

    Notice that "I tried hiding" makes sense but "I did spending" does not (remember the underlying idea in statement 1 is "I spent", not "I did spend...").
     

    mact

    New Member
    Spanish - Chile
    Welcome to the forum Mact, and Dzina-lappo too.

    This is a complex issue. In general, what comes before was helps to determine what comes after it, and the intended meaning is also important.

    In English, the usual noun form of a verb is the gerund, such as hiding in statement 3. "I tried English", "I tried books", "I tried hiding inside the house." (The English gerund is very different from the Spanish gerund.)

    The infinitive with to is another verb form that can sometimes be used in place of a noun. It is less common than the gerund because it usually suggests futurity in some sense. To go is appropriate in statement 2 because it is called a "plan" and a plan is made before the action that is planned.

    However, to hide would not be wrong for statement 3 and going would not be wrong for statement 2.

    The difference between a gerund and an infinitive with to is sometimes minor, but it is sometimes important.

    Statement 1 uses the special verb do, which is the only verb that allows that pattern. Whereas the underlying idea in statement 2 is that I planned to go to Ireland, and the underlying idea in statement 3 is that I tried hiding, the underlying idea in statement 1 is not "He did spend a few years hiding" but "He spent a few years hiding."

    There are lots of threads about this special verb do, but unfortunately lots of native speakers of English are very good at forming statements like 1 but not very good at explaining their structure.

    Note that we have an even greater preference for the gerund if we make it the subject:

    1') Spending the next few years hiding inside the house and rarely leaving was what he did then.
    2') Going to Ireland for a couple of years was the main plan.
    3') Hiding inside the house was one thing I tried.

    Also, statement 2 still works with the original infinitive with to:

    2'') To go to Ireland for a couple of years was the main plan.

    But statement 1, with a bare infinitive and the special verb do, does not really work when turned around:

    1'') Spend the next few years hiding inside the house and rarely leaving was what he did then.:cross:

    Notice that "I tried hiding" makes sense but "I did spending" does not (remember the underlying idea in statement 1 is "I spent", not "I did spend...").
    Thanks for such a comprehensive answer. I am going to revisit it a few more times before I start using the appropriate "patterns" correctly.

    Cheers! :)
     
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