The way of starting a sentence with a verb?


New Member
Hi everyone, I got quite confused recently because of those two different expressions used when we start a sentence with a verb such as;

"To listen actively means you should think about what you are hearing"
"Listening actively means you should think about what you are hearing"

The first sentence is a quote from "KAPLAN TOEFL IBT 2008-2009" exam practicing book while the second was written by me for a comparison.

Every time I encounter this problem, I feel insecure to choose the correct one.So please let me know if there is any important differences between those two sentences above or if either of them is inappropriate for any specific case.

sincere thanks for all your answers
  • xqby

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    I'm not very fond of your second sentence. I think the tense of "think" now clashes with "listening."

    "Listening actively means thinking about what you are hearing."

    I don't see any major differences between that and your first sentence; which I used would depend on context.


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    There is no significant difference between them. It is common for these two constructions to mean the same thing. This is one such place.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello herkin - welcome to the forums!

    I agree with xqby and entangledbank that there is no real difference in meaning between the two options.

    I think, though, that we tend to use the infinitive for general philosophical statements and the ING-form for more concrete, down-to-earth statements. So:
    To err is human, to forgive divine
    Making money is hard work.

    I stress that this is a tendency, not a rule:)

    EDIT: I've just remembered this website, which is quite helpful on the choice between gerunds and infinitives:
    3. [...] as subjects or complements, gerunds usually sound more like normal, spoken English, whereas infinitives sound more abstract. In the following sentences, gerunds sound more natural and would be more common in everyday English. Infinitives emphasize the possibility or potential for something and sound more philosophical. If this sounds confusing, just remember that 90% of the time, you will use a gerund as the subject or complement of a sentence.
    • Learning is important. normal subject
    • To learn is important. abstract subject - less common
    • The most important thing is learning. normal complement
    • The most important thing is to learn. abstract complement - less common
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