"Be/Being on a diet is hard"

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Be on a diet is hard.
Being on a diet is hard.

I want to say that usually, for most people, doing a thing is very difficult. I want to say this is always true, a fact.

Which form do I have to use, be or being? And why?

chiaraluna

Posted 2013-05-23T21:32:19.533

Reputation: 91

Answers

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The gerund is fine, but I cannot think of a case in which a 'bare infinitive' may be used as a nominal. As a rule you must use the 'marked infinitive': the infinitive preceded by to. So these are OK:

 To be on a diet is hard.
 Being on a diet is hard. ... and as Matt says, this is more common than the infinitive

But this is not:

Be on a diet is hard.


marks an utterance as unacceptable

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2013-05-23T21:32:19.533

Reputation: 176 469

+1, although I think you should also point out that "Being on a diet is hard" is much more idiomatic than the marked infinitive form. I would be surprised to hear "to be on a diet is hard" in ordinary non-academic conversation. – Matt – 2013-05-23T22:38:27.753

Stoney, can we say "The being on a diet is hard"? After all the gerund is a noun in English, so I'm actually wondering why we cannot place the determinative article before "being". Italian has both: "L'essere a dieta ..." and "Essere a dieta ...". – None – 2013-05-23T22:40:00.167

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@Carlo_R. Under normal circumstances any determiner would be unidiomatic in that sentence. As I said earlier today, the is used with a gerund to indicate a particular instance of the action, not all instances, as here. If you had been talking about many difficulties you might say "Of all these, it was the being on a diet which was hardest"; but even there the use of the article would 'mark' this instance of being on a diet as somehow different.

– StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-05-23T22:55:39.953

@Matt Quite right. I've incorporated that valuable observation. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-05-23T22:56:31.267

Tank you! Let me check whether I have understood it properly or not: the sentence "Driving is dangerous" is ok, as well as "To drive is dangerous" (but it is more academic/formal). Instead "Drive is dangerous" is wrong. Am I right, @StoneyB? – chiaraluna – 2013-08-30T20:13:21.430

@chiaraluna 98%. "To drive" is not more academic/formal, it's just uncommon at the head of a sentence as subject. I suspect this is because in this position it leads the hearer/reader to expect an infinitive of purpose: "To drive to Chicago you should take I-55." – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-08-30T21:42:46.637