Infinitive or -ing?

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I’m excited about today’s lesson, because it is based on a question from  Speak English Ambassador Sandrine. She sent me a message saying “This grammar point makes us crazy! Please help!” What is this grammar point? When to use infinitive verbs and when to use -ing verbs.

Maybe you think that there is no logic here. It’s English, eh?
Fortunately, this grammar point is easier than it seems.

These difficult little grammar details are exactly the type of subject I cover in my course Successful Small Talk, where you learn how to feel comfortable in everyday conversations. And that includes having good grammar.

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Quick grammar reminder

Before we start, here’s a quick reminder:

the infinitive =  “to + verb”. Like to play, to go, to call, etc.

The -ing form, or verb + -ing is…the verb+ing. Like speaking, taking, going, etc.

You’ll hear those expressions, the infinitive and the verb+ing A LOT in this lesson.

Verb + infinitive

Here are 4 common verbs that take the infinitive after the verb:

  • learn
  • decide
  • want
  • help

After these verbs, you’ll put a 2nd verb in the infinitive.

Do you want to test yourself? Watch the video!

We play a game where I quiz you. It’s fun! Just click on the video below.

Verb + gerund

Now, here are 4 common verbs that take the -ing form (the gerund) after the verb:

  • enjoy
  • finish
  • recommend
  • practice

Here are a few examples, and some questions for you.

You can answer one of them in the comments to practice!

Enjoy + verb+-ing
I enjoy running on the weekends. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Finish +verb+-ing
Have you finished reading any good books recently? I recently finished reading Deep South by Paul Theroux.

Let’s continue this conversation with recommend + verb+-ing:
I recommend trying to read it, if you have a good level of English.

And practice +verb+-ing
What’s your favorite way to practice speaking English?

When you can use both

There are also a few words that can take both infinitive and verb+-ing after them: Love, hate, and start.

You can use both the infinitive and the -ing form, and there’s no change in meaning.

Like
I like to have eggs for breakfast.
I like having eggs for breakfast.
Same thing.

Love
I love to eat Mexican food. I love eating Mexican food.
And if you know a good Mexican restaurant anywhere in France, please tell me. (Please. I need some good Mexican food!)

Hate
I hate to hear people say they’re bad at English.
I hate hearing people say they’re bad at English.
You’re not bad at English, maybe you’re just not advanced. But that’s not bad, that’s just your level.
And you can improve your level! (A positive attitude helps!)

Start
If you start thinking you can do it, you’ll have more success.
If you start to think you can do it, you’ll have more success!

The special case of “stop”

Stop is a little special, because the meaning of your sentence will change if you use the infinitive or the verb+-ing.

If you say “Monica stopped taking piano lessons”, so stop + verb+-ing, stop taking, it means she used to take lessons in the past, but now she doesn’t take lessons. She stopped taking piano lessons.

If you say “Monica was driving to Miami and she stopped to have lunch”, so stop + infinitive, stop to have lunch, it means she was doing one activity–driving–and she stopped this activity to do another activity: to have lunch. She stopped driving to have lunch.

Practice with me
Want to practice all of this with me? Watch the video lesson!

If you learn these you will NEVER have problems with this grammar point again.

And if you want my Top 10 Small Talk lessons, plus information on my Successful Small Talk course, be sure to join my Speak English Ambassadors Email list. Enter your email address in the form below.

That’s it for today!

Thanks for watching Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!
All the best,

Christina

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