First Advisor

Jeanette DeCarrico

Term of Graduation

Spring 1998

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




English language -- Gerund -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers, English language -- Infinitive -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, vi, 173 pages)


As teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, few would dispute the importance of teaching a subject such as English complementation by using a semantic rule. The difference in semantic meaning between the -ing and to-infinitive forms has been the object of many studies which have focused on specific groups of verbs (verbs of effort/ perception, emotive verbs, factive verbs, and implicative verbs). However, not many studies were found that covered, systematically, those verbs that are more often part of a native speakers's vocabulary and that might be found in form of lists in ESL/ENNL (English as a Second Language/ English as a Non-Native Language) textbooks.

The purpose of this experiment was to determine ENNL students' acquisition of gerunds and infinitives by teaching the use of the two complement forms with the Bolinger Principle. This method was previously used in an experiment by Vawser (1988). Using Vawser's quasi-experiment, data were collected via three pre and posttests from 78 ENNL students enrolled in ESL academic programs. The seventy-eight students, assigned to Control and Experimental Groups, were administered two Discrete Point and Sentence Combining pre and posttests and Writing pre and posttests in order to check for any significant difference between them in the acquisition of the correct usage of gerunds and infinitives.

Although the Control Group showed a significant improvement in the Sentence Combining Posttest, the data generated reveal that there was a significant improvement in the Experimental Group in both the Discrete Point and Sentence Combining posttests. Also, the writing samples reveal an increase in the overall use of gerunds and infinitives in the Experimental Group. However, while the Control Group reveals an increase in the use of gerunds and infinitives, the Experimental Group shows a significant increase in their correct use of gerunds and a decrease in their use of infinitives. Overall, the Experimental Group did better, even though the Control Group did improve on one test. These results led to the conclusion that teaching the use of gerunds and infinitives with the Bolinger principle may represent a useful instructional strategy.


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