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Infinitive or -ing?


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


to-infinitive form - to do, to sing

or in its:

-ing form - doing, singing


For example, only one of the following sentences is correct:


  • I dislike to work late.
  • I dislike working late.


Which one?!


Use infinitive...


after adjectives, for example


  • disappointed, glad, happy, pleased, relieved, sad, surprised


This includes "too + adjective" and "adjective + enough". Look at these example sentences:


  • I was happy to help them.
  • She will be delighted to see you.
  • The water was too cold to swim in.
  • Is your coffee too hot to drink?
  • He was strong enough to lift it.
  • She is rich enough to buy two.


after certain verbs, for example


  • 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


Look at these example sentences:


  • 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.


Use -ing...


when the word is the subject of a clause:


  • Swimming is good exercise.
  • Doctors say that smoking is bad for you.


after a preposition


  • I look forward to meeting you.
  • They left without saying goodbye.


after certain verbs


  • avoid, dislike, enjoy, finish, give up, mind/not mind, practise


Look at these example sentences


  • I dislike getting up early.
  • Would you mind opening the window?
Some verbs can be followed by the infinitive or -ing form 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