Infinitive or -ing?
Sometimes we need to decide whether to use a verb in its:
- -ing form (doing, singing)
- infinitive form (to do, to sing).
For example, only one of the following sentences is correct. Which one?
- I dislike working late. (???)
- I dislike to work late. (???)
When to use the infinitive
The infinitive form is used after certain verbs:
- forget, help, learn, teach, train
- choose, expect, hope, need, offer, want, would like
- agree, encourage, pretend, promise
- allow, can/can't afford, decide, manage, mean, refuse
- I forgot to close the window.
- Mary needs to leave early.
- Why are they encouraged to learn English?
- We can't afford to take a long holiday.
The infinitive form is always used after adjectives, for example:
- disappointed, glad, happy, pleased, relieved, sad, surprised
- I was happy to help them.
- She will be delighted to see you.
This includes too + adjective:
- The water was too cold to swim in.
- Is your coffee too hot to drink?
The infinitive form is used after adjective + enough:
- He was strong enough to lift it.
- She is rich enough to buy two.
When to use -ing
The -ing form is used when the word is the subject of a sentence or clause:
- Swimming is good exercise.
- Doctors say that smoking is bad for you.
The -ing form is used after a preposition:
- I look forward to meeting you.
- They left without saying "Goodbye."
The -ing form is used after certain verbs:
- avoid, dislike, enjoy, finish, give up, mind/not mind, practise
- I dislike getting up early.
- Would you mind opening the window?
Some verbs can be followed by the -ing
without a big change in meaning: begin, continue, hate, intend, like, love, prefer, propose, start
- It started to rain.
- It started raining.
- I like to play tennis.
- I like playing tennis.
Now check your understanding >