Consider the following sentences:
The man started running.
The man started to run.
Is either one more correct, and why? Does it make a difference if
you add a modifier, such as "quickly," to the end.
Comments from Editors:
The first is the gerund form, the second is the infinitive. There
really isn't any difference in the sentences you've used, and a
modifier doesn't make any difference. Choosing between the two is
a matter of taste. Though the infinitive has many other uses.
Without checking the grammatical basis for it, my instinct
would be to use the infinitive form of the verb.
Both are in use. The second form (with the infinitive) is considered
by some to be "more formal" by which they seem to mean "old-fashioned".
Personally, it's the form I'd use if I was writing carefully. I think
it's also the form I'd use in casual conversation. I think that in both
cases it's clear that "quickly" indicates the style of running, rather
than of starting to run.
Grammatically they are surely identical - two ways of generating a
verb-noun, i.e. a gerund and an infinitive. The difference is in flavour
With some verbs one or the other is not available. For example, you
can say 'The man stopped running' but not 'the man stopped to run.'
Why not? The answer might give us a clue to some subtle difference, but
I am not aware of a satisfactory one. It doesn't seem to relate to
sense, as "cease' is a near synonym of 'stop', and you can say both
'The man ceased running' and 'The man ceased to run.'
An added modifier obviously adds yet more to the flavour and rhythm,
but for my money it doesn't affect the infinitive v. gerund issue.
At least, 'quickly' goes with both equally well. However, for a further
puzzle, try the same exercise using the modifier "almost" in the way it
is used in the lines:
Though very fat, he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
"He started to almost run". "He started almost running." Both are
ungainly, but the latter seems to lose the sense. If so, the first,
though ungainly (a split infinitive) is clearly preferable.
"The man stopped to run" means, if it means anything, that the
man stopped doing something else, e.g. eating, so that he could run.
Similarly, "The man stopped thinking" and "The man stopped to think"
mean different things.
It probably has more to do with convention. Technically there's
nothing wrong "The man stopped to run" but, it implies that the man
stopped doing something IN ORDER TO RUN. So probably over the years
we have just stopped using (or to use) that sort of phrase because
it's ambiguous; sometimes the infinitive form means 'doing x', sometimes
'about to do x', other times 'in order to do x', and probably some
others that I can't think of.
Neither is more-correct, but one might be preferred, especially in
fiction. 'Running' has more feeling for the reader. 'To run' is just
reportage. Adding 'quickly' would introduce an ambiguity to both.
from EDline, UK, 2003