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: 3.8 (135 votes)

Submitted by Miss B on Tue, 16/01/2024 - 20:18

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Hello Peter,
Thank you for these explanations. I would like to know a bit more as to why certains verbs work with ing and others with the infinitive form.
For example, you could say 'he admitted to killing the dog' but you cannot say 'he admitted to kill the dog'.
Could you please explain why this is?

Thanks a lot!
Best regards,
B.

Hello Miss B,

In this particular case, it's because the word 'to' in 'he admitted to' is a preposition (not an infinitive); when a verb is the complement of a preposition, it always goes in an '-ing' form. Note that we can say 'he admitted to the crime' -- 'the crime' is a noun phrase, which couldn't be correctly used if 'to' was an infinitive. There are many other verb forms similar to 'admit' in this way; one very common is 'look forward to'. We say 'I look forward to seeing you', not *'I look forward to meet you'.

But to respond to your question about why sometimes an infinitive is used and other times an '-ing' form, I'm afraid there's no simple answer. Basically, it's because these are the forms that people have come to use over time as English has been spoken. In other words, there's normally no discernible logical reason -- it's just how we use these verbs!

I wish I could give you a more satisfying answer!

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by jafarghaffari on Fri, 07/07/2023 - 17:00

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Dear kind teacher
Many thanks for your detailed explanation. I have a question: if LOVE is the first verb and it is followed by an object, what form of the verb (gerund or infinitive) is used for the second verb which goes after that object? I need examples. Many Thanks in advance.

Hello jafarghaffari,

With verbs expressing emotions such as love, like, don't mind, dislike and hate it is possible to use an -ing form or a to-infinitive. However, there is a difference in meaning.

 

> like + -ing has a similar meaning to enjoy. It describes the feeling of pleasure you have when you are actually doing something. For example:

I like running in the morning. [running in the morning gives me pleasure; when I run in the morning I am happy]

 

> like + to-infinitive describes a preference in terms of how (when, where etc) you do something. For example:

I like to run in the morning. [the morning is my preferred time for running]

 

Of course, these are degrees of meaning rather than a black and white distinction, so you may well come across people using them in ways which do not always follow this pattern. However, this is the normal use of the two forms.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter
How wonderful you are! Great prompt explanation. Many many thanks.
I guess I haven't ben able to make myself understood. I know that with the verb “like” the following sentences may be correct and sound natural: “I like you to do your homework now.” - “I like you doing your homework carefully”. Now, I’d like to know, if I substitute the verb like with LOVE, will the following sentences sound correct and natural?
"I LOVE you to do your homework now.”
“I LOVE you doing your homework carefully”

I do appreciate your kindness and attention.

Hello again jafarghaffari,

Those examples are not correct. The form is different when we are talking about our preferences regarding another person. In addition, we use different forms when we are requesting something specific and when we are expressing a more general preference:

 

> I would like you to do your homework now. [a request for a specific action]

> I like it when you do your homework carefully. [a preference about someone's more general behaviour]

You can use 'love' here (or hate, not like, not mind) in place of 'like' here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Hassan on Fri, 17/06/2022 - 22:20

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Hello, teachers.
I have seen sentences such as :
1- "Have your brother open the door" and "I hope you feel better", there is no "to" before "open" or "feel", why?
2- "I can't afford buying a new car", is it grammatically correct?
3- "I like to go fishing every Friday " and "I want to go see a movie",
is go followed by a gerund or infinitive?

Hello 

The first option is correct. After help you can use the infinitive with or without 'to':

...may help the police identify

...may help the police to identify

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team