Using a verb as subject of a sentence


In Italian, when I write a sentence about an action (e.g. eating fish, playing), I would use the infinitive, such as mangiare pesce fa bene alla salute (which literally is "to eat fish is healthy"), or giocare aiuta ad imparare (which literally is "to play helps to learn").

I would use the gerund in giocando si impara, but that would roughly mean "When playing, you learn." and in this case the infinitive would not be correct. (Giocare si impara is not what you would say in Italian.)

Should I use the infinitive, or the gerund, in sentences similar to the following ones?

  • To play with fire is dangerous.
  • To win the lottery is just a matter of luck.
  • To escape from Alcatraz is impossible.
  • To practice makes you perfect.

Is the infinitive always wrong, when the verb is the subject of a sentence?


Posted 2013-01-26T16:39:13.353

Reputation: 20 456

Note that the last example sounds better as the popular idiomatic expression "Practice makes perfect." – Xantix – 2013-05-26T07:08:49.177

I have edited subject and a body; pls review if I haven't ruined your question from the point of being asked by an Italian speaker. – bytebuster – 2013-01-26T19:01:24.057

It seems fine, except that the verb is the subject of the sentence, not the object. – kiamlaluno – 2013-01-26T21:43:39.477



In terms of grammar, either form is perfectly acceptable. The preferred usage will certainly vary by region, but in my personal experience, the gerund is definitely the more common form, whereas the infinitive can often sound dated and awkward. However, I have certainly heard the infinitive used well, especially in more formal contexts.

Ken Bellows

Posted 2013-01-26T16:39:13.353

Reputation: 4 151