Infinitive and gerund


Could you please tell me if both "identifying" and “identify” are correct in the above sentence? And do they carry the same meaning?



Both correct, I think. Same meaning.

The difference is in how the meaning is structured. In the first sentence below, BE + NECESSARY is a modal phrase. It operates like will or must. It modifies everything that follows it.

It is necessary [to identify them from among the six names.]

What is necessary? ‘identifying them from the six names’ is necessary.

compare this with:

It is necessary to [identifying them from among the six names.]

What is necessary? ‘It’ is necessary.

What is ‘it’ necessary for? ‘identifying them from among the six names.’

In the second example, BE and NECESSARY are not acting as a unit. They are separate parts of the sentence. In this case necessary is an adjective describing the subject ‘it’, and everything after that is explaining why ‘it’ is necessary.

So while you can use both forms, the meanings are totally different.

Oxford, would you not rather use “for” in the latter case? You even introduced it yourself, if I may be so bold.

yeah I would rather use that, but to works also. It just seems a bit clunky to me.

OK, just checking.

I basically agree with what OxfordBlues has written, but also with MM. lol

Here are my thoughts:

If “to identify” had been used in the (partial) sentence Tom posted, that could also be interpreted to mean “in order to identify” – which would be basically the same meaning as “for/to identifying”. Granted, that would be a much less likely interpretation, and thus could also lead to confusion, but it is nevertheless possible.

I think it’s also important to note that Tom apparently quoted a partial sentence. (My assumption is based on the fact that MM doesn’t seem to be in the habit of neglecting to capitalize the first word in a sentence.) Therefore, there may well be some important context missing which could have an impact on interpretation.

If the word “it” is not used as an empty subject and is instead clearly a specific reference to something else previously mentioned (in the broader context), then “to identify” could indeed be used interchangeably with “to identifying” in such a situation. It would be similar to saying “Something is necessary (in order) to identify…” That’s why I agree with MM.

However, since the word “it” in the phrase “it is necessary to do” would normally be used as an empty subject (i.e. used basically as nothing more than a place-holder in the sentence), it would be best not to view the gerund and the infinitive as being interchangeable in this phrase. So, I also agree with OxfordBlues.

[size=75]“It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English – up to fifty words used in correct context – no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.” ~ Dr. Carl Sagan[/size]

Many thanks, EE! In fact, this thread has been split from this. Have a look.


So, in a nutshell, all these are OK and carry the same meaning?

It (this card) is necessarey (required) to meet him.
It (this card) is necessarey (required) to meeting him.
It (this card) is necessarey (required) for meeting him.

I am thankful to all of you for your time and effort!


Ah HA! It was that old let’s-split-the-post-from-its-original-context-and-see-what-happens trick.

Tom, I forgot to mention that I also agree with Cerberus. lol

Although I don’t mind the use of “to identifying them” in MM’s particular sentence and context, “to meeting him” strikes me as quite awkward in your second sentence. I’d recommend sticking with the third sentence (i.e. using “for” rather than “to”).

The first and third versions of the sentence sound just fine to me.

[size=75]“All meanings, we know, depend on the key of interpretation.” ~ George Eliot[/size]