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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?

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

Language level

Beginner: A1
Pre-intermediate: A2

Comments

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

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?

Hello Mussorie,

I can't think of any rule for this, I'm afraid. Act is a verb with two different (if related) meanings: pretend and perform. Behave has only one meaning. I think act is an unusual word in this regard; the majoriry of similar words act like behave.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please explain to me the following?
Sometimes it is confusing with the linking verbs, in general how to identify them properly?
1. He acts nicely or nice?
2. He behaves nicely or nice?

Hello Mussorie,

In the first sentence both forms are possible but there is a change in meaning:

He acts nice [he is pretending to be a nice person]

He acts nicely [he is an actor and is performing well on stage/on the screen]

 

In the second sentence nicely is the correct form. We would not use the adjective here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please the difference between the following structures?
1. Keep + gerund ( verb+ing)
Eg: keep moving
2. Keep + preposition +gerund (been+ing)
Eg: keep on moving
Are their meanings the same? Can the above structures be used interchangeably?

Hi Mussorie,

Yes! Both mean the same thing - to continue doing something, or to do it repeatedly. Generally, yes, you can use them interchangeably, except for a small number of fixed, idiomatic phrases (e.g. keep on trucking; keep on keeping on).

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please explain the difference and meaning between the following two sentences?
1.Sharing new ideas with them makes me so happy ------ (sharing (gerund) followed by direct object).
2.Sharing of new ideas with them makes me so happy ------- (sharing (verbal noun) followed by preposition).
What is the difference in the meaning between them?
1.Sharing new ideas.
2.Sharing of new ideas.

Hi Mussorie,

It's a good question! Basically, the meaning is very similar in 1 and 2, but we understand Sharing as a different word type (verb or noun) in them.

 

An -ing form is somewhere between a verb and a noun. It may have more characteristics of a verb (e.g. can take a direct object; can take an adverb) or more characteristics of a noun (e.g. needs a preposition; takes an article; takes an adjective rather than an adverb).

 

In sentence 1 we understand Sharing more as a verb (i.e., referring to doing something) because it has a direct object. We could also, for example, add an adverb: Sharing new ideas frequently ...

In sentence 2 we understand Sharing more as a noun (i.e., the name of an activity) because it has a preposition. We could add an adjective (e.g. The frequent sharing of new ideas ...) but not an adverb (frequently). In fact, I would say that sentence 2 needs to have an article, for this reason --> The sharing of new ideas ... .

 

Have a look at this comment thread for more examples and explanation. I hope it helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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