I understood Lav's question to be whether there are rules about infinitives vs. gerunds that would cover these errors.
There isn't an easy rule related to meaning, but there are groups of words you can learn. (Just as we have to learn groups of German words that take accusative, dative, or genitive. Sorry. (-; )
Many ESL/EFL students start with lists for gerund vs. infinitive after verbs, and 'refuse to' is in the infinitive group:Siehe auch: Das leidige Gerundium
There are also common adjectives and nouns that may be followed by an infinitive or a gerund. One comprehensive reference designed for ESL/EFL students is Michael Swan, Practical English Usage
(3rd ed.). No one can give complete lists, but he includes several useful examples:
§285 [p. 260]: infinitives (7): after nouns and pronouns
1: nouns related to verbs: No wish to change
We can use infinitives after some nouns which are related to verbs that can be followed by infinitives (e.g. wish, decide, need
).I have no wish to change.
(= I do not wish to change.)I told her about my decision to leave.
(= I told her that I had decided to leave.)Is there any need to ask Joyce?
(= Do we need to ask Joyce?)
Not all nouns can be followed by infinitives in this way.I hate the thought of getting old.
(NOT ...*the thought to get old.)
And note that not all related verbs and nouns are followed by the same structures. Compare:I hope to arrive.
There's no hope of arriving.
I do not intend to return.
I have no intention of returning.
She prefers to live alone.
I understand her preference for living alone.
Unfortunately there is no easy way to decide which structures are possible after a particular noun. It is best to check in a good dictionary.
. . .
§297 [p. 273]: -ing forms (5): after nouns and adjectives
1: the idea of getting old; tired of listening
Some nouns and adjectives can be followed by -ing
forms ('gerunds'). ...I hate the idea of getting old. ...
The thought of failing never entered his head. ...
I'm tired of listening to this. ...
She's very good at solving problems. ...
Unfortunately there is no easy way to decide which nouns and adjectives can be followed by -ing
forms. It is best to check in a good dictionary.
. . .
form or infinitive
After a few nouns and adjectives, we can use either an -ing
form or an infinitive. Normally there is little or no difference in meaning (see §299.13-16 for some exceptions).We have a good chance of making / to make a profit.
I'm proud of having won / to have won.
Swan doesn't specifically mention 'attempt' or 'plea,' but they seem to be in his category §285.1, nouns associated with a verb:It was an attempt to give him a motive.
(= It attempted to give him a motive.)He made a plea to refrain from such an action.
(= He pleaded with them to refrain from such an action.)
If you need to write papers in English, you should own a copy of Swan or a similar advanced grammar reference, and you probably also need at least one large bilingual dictionary. Pons (aka Collins, HarperCollins), Oxford-Duden, Muret-Sanders, Langenscheidt, etc. all usually include prepositions with nouns and verbs.
LEO sometimes includes a preposition or an example, but it's much less systematic, so you often have to click through to the monolingual dictionaries linked to it (Merriam-Webster for English, DWDS for German). I personally find it easier just to use published bilingual dictionaries, which are written with this need in mind.