Verbs followed by '-ing' or infinitive to change meaning

Verbs followed by '-ing' or infinitive to change meaning

Do you know the difference between stop doing something and stop to do something? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how these verb patterns work.

The bus stopped picking up the children.
The bus stopped to pick up the children. 

I want to try studying with a friend to see if it helps us stay more motivated.
I'm trying to study but it's impossible with all this noise.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Verbs followed by '-ing' or by 'to' + infinitive 2: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Some verbs have a different meaning depending on whether they are followed by an -ing form or to + infinitive. 

stop

Stop + -ing means the action is not happening any more.

I've stopped buying the newspaper because now I read the news online.

Stopto + infinitive means that someone or something stops an activity so that they can do something else.

He stopped the video to ask the students some questions.

try

Try + -ing means that you are trying something as an experiment, especially as a possible solution to a problem, to see if it works or not.

Have you tried turning the computer off and on again?

Tryto + infinitive means that something is difficult but you are making an effort to do it. 

I'm trying to learn Japanese but it's very difficult.

remember/forget

Remember + -ing and forget + -ing refer to having (or not having) a memory of something in the past.

I remember watching this film before.
I'll never forget meeting you for the first time in this café.

Rememberto + infinitive and forgetto + infinitive refer to recalling (or not recalling) that there is something we need to do before we do it.

Please remember to buy some milk on the way home.
He forgot to lock the door when he went out.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Verbs followed by '-ing' or by 'to' + infinitive 2: Grammar test 2

Language level

Average: 4.2 (42 votes)

Submitted by sara123_123 on Thu, 09/12/2021 - 06:41

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Hello Sir,

Could you please explain which one of the following sentences is correct and also mention the reasoning behind it .
Try watching video with subtitles.
Try to watch video with subtitles.

Hello sara123_123,

We use [try + verb-ing] when we are experimenting to see if something is helpful or not.

We use [try + to verb] when we are not sure if the action will succeed or not.

For example:
1) It was very hot in the room. I tried opening the window but it didn't help.
> In this example, the goal is to cool the room; opening the window is a method we try to achieve this.

2) The house was very old. I tried to open the window but the lock was rusted and I couldn't.
> In this example opening the window is the goal.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 21/10/2021 - 20:10

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Hello. Could you please help me? Which sentence is correct or both? Why?
1- If you want to stay healthy, you should try to do more exercise.
2- If you want to stay healthy, you should try doing more exercise.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both sentences are correct.

The verb 'try' can be followed by either an <-ing form> or <to infinitive>. However, there is a difference in meaning.

Try + to verb means 'attempt':
~ I tried (attempted) to open the window.
In this sentence we don't know if the speaker succeeded in opening the window or not.

Try + -ing means 'experiment to see if something is a good idea':
~ I tried talking to her.
In this sentence we know that the speaker talked to her. The question is whether or not talking was a good idea or a mistake.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mehransam05 on Mon, 29/03/2021 - 17:53

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Dear team, Where "to" is used as a A)proposition B)sign of infinitive Thanks in advance.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 30/03/2021 - 04:07

In reply to by mehransam05

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Hi mehransam05,

When to is a preposition, it introduces a noun, pronoun or -ing form verb. For example:

  • Let's go to the supermarket. ('the supermarket' = noun)
  • He passed the ball to me. ('me' = pronoun)
  • I'm looking forward to seeing you. ('seeing' = -ing form verb)

When to is part of the infinitive, it introduces a verb in the infinitive. For example:

  • I went to the shop to buy bread.
  • To get a certificate, you need to attend all the lessons.
  • I'd like to speak to the manager.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your response, but I don't know which verbs are followed by "to" as a proposition, for example "accustomed to + ing form" To find these verbs and adjectives while speaking is sometimes difficult. We often prefer to use "to" as a part of infinitive without thinking about the conception of the whole sentence. I need a rule or a structure to rely on. Thanks

Hi mehransam05,

I see. Unfortunately, this is an area of grammar which doesn't really have clear and logical rules. Although all verbs and adjectives which require the preposition to do have something in common, which is the underlying meaning of the word to (i.e., movement in a certain direction), this doesn't really help us to predict which verbs/adjectives require to and which ones require a different preposition. There are some general patterns which you may find helpful - have a look at this Cambridge Dictionary page, for example. But apart from that, the best approach is to make a note of the preposition when you learn a verb/adjective.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Natasa Tanasa on Tue, 02/02/2021 - 16:56

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Hello everyone! I would like to know the difference between the next sentences: 1. It started to rain. / It started raining. 2. I regret buying.... / I regret to buy... Thank you in advance!! :) Best regard, Natasa

Hello Natasa Tanasa,

Some verbs can be followed with either an infinitive or a gerund without any change in meaning. Start is one of these, so the two sentences in your first point are interchangeable.

 

Other verbs change meaning depending on whether they are followed by an infinitive or a gerund. Regret is one of these.

regret + verb-ing describes a past action which you feel bad about:

I regret buying it = I bought it and it was a bad idea

regret + to verb is used in formal expressions to apologise for an unfortunate situation:

We regret to tell you that your ticket is no longer valid = unfortunately, you can't use the ticket

I can't think of a context in which you might use regret to buy, however. This is really about the meaning of 'buy' rather than the grammar, of course.

 

Some other common verbs which change their meaning with infinitives and gerunds are remember, forget, go on, advise, allow, permit, forbid, see, watch, hear, try, like, love, hate, mean, learn, teach and stop.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team