I'm currently studying for my CELTA and have a TP with a group of upper-int students.
From what I've read it does seem there's no easy way to avoid the students having to remember long lists of words that are followed by a gerund or infinitive, and some that can be followed by both.
I've come up with the below list of basic rules. If anyone could add to it, or feels I could explain it better I would greatly appreciate it
* Gerunds are generally used when actions are real or complete
* Infinitives are generally used when actions are unreal, abstract/theoretical (you cannot see or touch), or occur in the future
* Infinitives are used to show the intention or purpose
* Both gerunds and infinitives can be the subject of a sentence
* Both gerunds and infinitives can be the object of a verb
* Only gerunds can be the object of a preposition
* Only infinitives can follow a modal verb