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Three Ways to Start a Clause with a Verb

Changing the type of verb can change the meaning completely.

1. Starting with a Present Base Form Verb

When you start a sentence with a present base form verb, it means you are giving instructions to someone to tell them what to do. In this case, the pronoun “you” is removed to communicate the imperative form, but the person receiving the information knows that this is an instruction for them.

For example, if you want your friend to call you, you can give them instructions by starting with the present base form verb “call” and just say: “call me”. Your friend will understand that this is an instruction for them to do.

We don’t use “you” in this case because if you use “you”, it creates a present simple statement, which has a different meaning. Present simple tense means that something is always true or repeatedly happens.

  • “You wait for me” – this is a present simple clause and means that you always wait for me

  • “Wait for me” – this is an instruction to the other person to wait right now for you

You can also use the adverb “please” before the present base form verb to make these instructions sound more polite: “please wait for me”, and “please call me.”

In the examples below, the sentence starts with a present base form verb, which means it is a statement of instructions to the receiver:

  • Park your car in the garage.

  • Put that box on the table.

  • Write your name on the first page.

In each case above, the person writing or saying this sentence is giving instructions to the person receiving this message, and the subject is actually “you”.

You can also give instructions to someone to not do something by using the negative form “don’t”:

  • Don’t park your car in the garage.

  • Don’t put that box on the table.

  • Don’t write your name on the first page.

2. Starting with a Gerund

A gerund is when you take a verb word and change it to “-ing form” so it becomes a noun. For example, if you take the word “eat” and change it to “eating”, now it is a noun. The subject of a clause is always a noun, so if you want to make a verb word become the subject of a clause, it needs to be in gerund form.

For example, if I want to use the verb “eat” as my subject (not as the main verb in the clause), then I need to change it to “eating”:

  • Eating is my hobby.

In the example above, the noun “eating” is the subject and the verb is the present base form “is”. You can see that “eating” is a noun because it can be replaced by the pronoun “it”: “it is my hobby.”

In the examples below, the subject is a gerund:

  • Living in a foreign country changed my life.

  • Saving money is difficult.

  • Telling them a lie was a big mistake.

The first example above is about “living in a foreign country”, the second example is about “saving money”, and the third example is about “telling them a lie” – these are the noun phrases (subjects) of the clauses, and the verbs are the base forms “changed”, “is”, and “was”.

3. Starting with an Infinitive

When you start a clause with an infinitive form verb, it is usually describing the purpose or goal of the main clause. The infinitive verb in this case is not the subject (the subject is introduced later in the clause).

For example, if you start with “to learn English”, this means “in order to learn English” and it is the purpose or goal of the clause which comes next in the sentence:

  • To learn English, I lived in Ireland for a year.

In the example above the clause is “I lived in Ireland for a year” and the goal/purpose is “to learn English”. You can also write this sentence in a different order:

  • I lived in Ireland for a year to learn English.

It is more common to put the infinitive verb at the end of the clause. However, putting it at the beginning of the sentence emphasizes it, so if you say: “to learn English, I lived…” it adds more strength to the goal of “to learn”. The main point is that if you see a clause start with an infinitive form verb (ex. “to do”) it is usually describing the goal of the main clause which will come later in the sentence.

In the examples below, the infinitive verb describes the goal related to the underlined main clause:

  • To lose weight, I walked to work every day for six months.

  • To earn some extra money, she got a part-time job as a bartender.

  • To meet people, he started attending free classes at school.

In each example above, the infinitive verb describes a goal of the underlined clause. In the first example the goal is for me “to lose weight”, in the second example, the goal is for her “to earn some extra money” and in the third example, the goal is for him “to meet people”. Note that the subject in each sentence “I”, “she”, and “he” is the person who also performs the infinitive verb action.


Choose the correct verb form to start each sentence:

  1. (Having/To have/Have) a pet is a big responsibility for a child.

  2. (Showing/To show/Show) me your wedding pictures. I want to see them!

  3. (Motivating/To motivate/Motivate) employees, the company offers performance bonuses.

  4. (Avoiding/To avoid/Avoid) traffic, we took the backroads instead of the highway.

  5. (Moving/To Move/Move) to the countryside was a big change for me.

  6. (Not forgetting/To not forget/Don’t forget) about our meeting tomorrow.

  7. (Improving/To improve/Improve) their relationship, they started attending marriage counselling.

  8. (Being/To be/Be) careful when you are walking alone at night.

  9. (Learning/To learn/Learn) more about marketing, he attended a business course at college.

  10. (Not asking/To not ask/Don’t ask) people how old they are. (Asking/To ask/Ask) about age is rude in this culture.


  1. Having

  2. Show

  3. To motivate

  4. To avoid

  5. Moving

  6. Don't forget

  7. To improve

  8. Be

  9. To learn

  10. Don't ask, Asking


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