Verbs followed by '-ing' or by 'to' + infinitive 1

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

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Average: 3.4 (18 votes)

Submitted by Zub0v on Tue, 25/05/2021 - 07:51

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Hello, One question about sentences with the verb "help". The example states: "He offered to help us wash up" Would it be also correct: "He offered to help us TO wash up" and "He offered to help us "washing" up? Many thanks
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Wed, 26/05/2021 - 07:02

In reply to by Zub0v

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Hello Zub0v,

Both a bare infinitive ('wash up') and a full infinitive ('to wash up') are correct after the verb 'help'. The bare infinitive is the correct form in American English and both forms are commonly used in British English.

You could say 'to help us washing up' because 'washing up' is sometimes used as a noun phrase, but this is not true of most other verbs. For example, it would be incorrect to say 'He offered to help us taking the children to school' or anything similar with most verbs.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please explain my questions regarding the usage of the following? In this context can we use? 1.He offered to help our washing up the clothes. In this example, 2.To help us washing up, is the washing up here not acting as gerund (object complement) to "us". If "washing up" is used in this context, then why not is it possible to use with other verbs? 3.He offered to help us taking the children to school.

Hello Mussorie,

Although ultimately one could say that it's a gerund derived from the verb 'wash up', 'washing-up' is listed as noun in the dictionary. There are other words like this (e.g. 'swimming', obviously derived from 'swim' -- which interestingly, is also a noun as well as a verb). These words ending in '-ing' are so common that they have the 'feel' of regular nouns rather than gerunds.

I realise that's not a very precise explanation, but as far as I know, this is the reason it can be used differently than gerunds.

It's great that you want to understand English in analytical terms, and without a doubt that will help you make sense of many forms, but with forms like this you run up against the fact that language is also shaped by how people use it. Although these uses can be broken down in analysis, it's often better to just accept them, observe how they are used and imitate them.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Kirk, thanks for your information, 1. Is the usage of my first sentence correct? 2. This is about the third question, why is the third statement incorrect as you said? In the third statement, " talking" is acting as a object complement to "us". I think it might be correct like the following statement. I saw him watching the game. As you said it is incorrect, could you please explain the reason why it is incorrect?

Hello Mussorie,

The first sentence ('He offered to help our washing up the clothes') is unnatural, though I don't think anyone would have trouble understanding it. First of all, 'washing-up' refers to dirty dishes, not dirty clothes. Also, instead of saying 'help our washing-up', people typically say 'help us with the washing-up' -- it's not really a task we use a possessive adjective with.

In the third sentence, instead of 'help someone with something', there's the pattern 'help someone do something'. In other words, 'we help someone do something' or 'we help someone to do something' are the typical patterns, not 'we help someone doing something'. You can find this in the example sentences in any decent dictionary.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Samin on Sun, 18/04/2021 - 08:47

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Hi there please clarify the tense of them When will you be going to Dhaka again? (Future continuous/simple future) We are going to postpone it, till he arrives. - simple future or present continuous

Hello Samin,

'will be going' is a future continuous form. 'are going' is a present continuous form.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by G.Martina on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 18:34

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Hello Team! According to the explanation, if the verb "to like" is followed by another verb, it must be in the -ing form. But I found this sentence in one of the Online Courses : " If I have a job to do, I like to finish it. " Why there is the to+infinitive form in this case? Thank you Martina

Hello Martina,

I can confirm for you that 'like' can be followed by both the '-ing' form and also an infinitive. I'm sorry that our explanation here is confusing and we'll fix that very soon. In any case, I'd recommend you have a look at our Verbs followed by the '-ing' form and Verbs followed by the infinitive pages, where you can fuller explanations of this topic.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team