Verbs followed by '-ing' or infinitive

Verbs followed by '-ing' or infinitive

Do you know when to use -ing and when to use to + infinitive after a verb? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how the verb forms are used.

I enjoy learning languages.
I want to learn a new language.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

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

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

A verb can be followed by another verb. The second one usually needs to change into the -ing form or the to + infinitive form. Which form you need depends on what the first verb is.

Verbs followed by the -ing form

When enjoy, admit and mind are followed by another verb, it must be in the -ing form.

I enjoy travelling.
He admitted stealing the necklace.
I don't mind waiting if you're busy.

Other verbs in this group include avoid, can't help, consider, dislike, feel like, finish, give up, miss, practise and suggest.

Like and love can be followed by the -ing form and the to + infinitive form. They are both correct.

Verbs followed by to + infinitive form

When want, learn and offer are followed by another verb, it must be in the to + infinitive form.

I want to speak to the manager.
She's learning to play the piano.
He offered to help us wash up.

Other verbs in this group include afford, agree, ask, choose, decide, expect, hope, plan, prepare, promise, refuse and would like.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

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

Average: 3.9 (164 votes)

Submitted by nadyanightingale on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 18:48


I enjoy doing such exercises but I have to watch out because sometimes I confuse the forms.

Submitted by HieuNT on Tue, 18/01/2022 - 19:51


HellHello, British Council Team,

We all know that "imagine" is always followed by an "-ing" verb or "object + -ing" or "that-clause" or "as".

However, in some dictionaries like the online Oxford dictionary or Macmillan, I see "imagine" can also be used with "object + to be/do".

E.g.: "I had imagined her to be older than that." or "they imagine the company to be bigger than it is."

Could you please explain to me how/when "imagine" is used in this way? Is this use common or considered "standard English"? Should we use "imagine" this way or stick to its normal use?

Thank you, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Hieu Nguyen

Thank you, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Hieu Nguyen

Hello Hieu Nguyen,

The construction 'imagine SB/STH to verb' is standard English and expresses a belief which is held (present) or was held and is no longer (past):

> Having heard his voice, I imagine him to be a large man in his fifties.

> I imagined him to be a large man in his fifties, so imagine my surprise when I found out he was a schoolboy only 17 years old!

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Mr. Peter,

Thank you for your answer!

I'm still a bit confused about the use of "Imagine + (obj) + V-ing" and "Imagine sb/sth to V", as in:

> I couldn't imagine (her) living in that condition, and:

> I imagined to be a large man in his fifties,...

One more thing, is the structure "imagine sb/sth to verb" widely used or do native speakers have a more common way to express the idea (like using the verbs "believe", "think", "in my opinion", etc)?

Hieu Nguyen

Hello again Hieu Nguyen,

Let's look at them in turn,

1) imagine + SB + verbing
"I imagine him working late in the evening."
> This describes the image I have in my head. It's similar to 'I picture him...' or 'I visualise him...'

2) imagine + SB + to verb
"I imagine him to work late in the evening."
> This describes a supposition or a belief. It's similar to 'I think he's the kind of person who...'

As to whether (2) is a common structure, I think it's quite hard to say. Perhaps in everyday speech phrases like 'He's probably the kind of person who...'. 'I bet he usually...', 'I think he probably...' and so on will be more common but it really depends on a lot of variables such as who is speaking, to whom, in what context etc.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Thu, 22/07/2021 - 14:51

Could you please explain to me why we use gerund after some verbs and to + infinitive after some verbs? What is the reason for that, why do not we use these structures interchangeably? And finally, what is the difference between the following two sentences? Please explain them in detail. 1.I love to watch movies. 2.I love watching movies.

Hello Mussorie,

I'm afraid there is no easily explained reason for this, nor is there an easy rule to learn that will apply to multiple verbs. I think the best thing you can do is learn such reporting verbs in groups according to their patterns. You can find more detailed lists in the Verb patterns pages in our English Grammar section.

'love', for example, is one of a group of words that can be followed by both 'to + infinitive' or '-ing'. Generally, the '-ing' form puts more emphasis on the experience and the 'to + infinitive' more on the results of an action. You can see some examples in the Cambridge Dictionary grammar.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by Mussorie on Fri, 16/07/2021 - 12:51

Ok, I got your answer, sir. But act and behave are similar in their meaning. How for one verb is this structure possible, not for another? Sometimes it is confusing to identify such verbs. How can we overcome this problem with other kinds of verbs and how can we identify whether a verb follows an adjective or an adverb. Could you please give some information or technique to identify those?