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 KaikaiSG on Wed, 20/04/2022 - 14:29


Hello, may I clarify if the following are the same?
1) Mother said I can choose to go anywhere this summer.
2) Mother said I can choose anywhere to go this summer.

I would think 1 is correct from the rule verb + to + infinitive. But I've heard 2 being used before. I would like to clarify if 1 is more grammatically correct. Thank you!

Hello KaikaiSG,

I'm not sure what rule you mean here. Some verbs are followed by to + infinitive but that does not mean other words (adverbs, for example) cannot appear in the phrase.

As far as your examples go, both sentences are fine but I think there is a slight difference in meaning:

  • In the first sentence the implication is that you can choose to go anywhere or not to go anywhere; in other words, the choice is about going or not.
  • In the second sentence the implication is that you are going somewhere and can choose the destination; in other words, the choice is about where, not whether you will go.

The difference is really one of emphasis and will depend upon the context, of course.



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter,

Apologies for the confusion!

The rule I mentioned was in the section "Verbs followed by to + infinitive form" of the article. In it, it was written that after certain verbs like choose, the to + infinitive must be used, for e.g. "choose to go".

I wasn't certain at that time if this structure (verb + to + infinitive) is "fixed" and if indefinite pronouns like "anywhere" can be placed in between the verb and the to + infinitive.

From your explanation, I understand that both sentences are grammatical correct, just that the emphasis is different. Thank you for your clear explanation!


Submitted by tomeo on Sat, 02/04/2022 - 18:23


Hi, I have a question regarding this sentence: "Everything I did to not hurt you failed"
Is it correct to use "to not" in this example and if so can you help explaining it?
It's feel weird to replace "to not" with "not to" in this example.

Hello tomeo,

The sentence is correct.

Here, 'to not hurt you' means 'in order not to hurt you' or 'to avoid hurting you'. It's an uncommon construction but perfectly grammatical.



The LearnEnglish Team

I have a follow up question. Is it grammatically correct and retain the same meaning if I write:
"Everything I did not to hurt you failed"?
Thank you for your patience.

Hello tomeo,

I wouldn't say it's incorrect but certainly the normal word order is 'to not + verb'.

Generally, we use 'not to + verb' when we are going to follow up with the real motivation: I did it not to annoy you but to help you.



The LearnEnglish Team