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Infinitive or -ing?

Sometimes we need to decide whether to use a verb in its:

  • -ing form (doing, singing)

    or

  • 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 form or the infinitive 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 >

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