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Would you be willing to spend a few moments to read the letter I wrote to you?

Would you be willing to spend a few moments reading the letter I wrote to you?

Are both the sentences grammatically correct? Is there a difference in what they mean?

Would you be willing to spend a few dollars to buy this? In this last sentence, it'd be grammatically incorrect to use the participle buying, right?

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  • You spend time doing something. Native speakers never spend time to do anything. Conversely, we can ask if someone can spare [the] time to do something, but we never ask if they can spare time doing it. Sep 23 '16 at 16:46
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    @FumbleFingers Take a moment to rethink that statement.
    – chepner
    Sep 23 '16 at 16:47
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Either one is grammatical, and both have essentially the same meaning.

I might consider the first one as emphasizing the fact that you want the entire letter read, while the second one doesn't expect the reading to be finished after just a few moments.

Your buying example isn't exactly ungrammatical, but it does sound awkward. You could understand it as a shortened form of "Would you be willing to spend some dollars [as part of the process of] buying this?"

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  • I have rethought my statement, and I still think that idiomatically you're wrong. Sep 23 '16 at 16:50
  • Your OED link is to take [the] time to do it. But we're talking here about spend time to do it, which gets just 3 hits in Google Books (only one of which I can read in context anyway). That's compared to over 1000 instances of spend time doing it. It's also relevant whether "doing it" represents an activity [requiring time] or a goal. Sep 23 '16 at 17:15
  • Of the two sentences I used in the question, which would you use ?@FumbleFingers Sep 23 '16 at 17:16
  • @lekon chekon: Per my first comment, reading is idiomatically streets ahead of to read in your specific context. Sep 23 '16 at 17:18
  • I'm not sure precisely how to sum up the activity/goal distinction, but it seems to me it's more acceptable to say You should spend [the] time to learn this than, say, Can you spend a few minutes to listen to this? primarily because in the first case you're being asked to spend time pursuing a goal, whereas in the second it's just an "activity" (which presumably leads to some goal). Sep 23 '16 at 17:25
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I would say there's a difference:

Would you be willing to set aside a few moments to read the letter I sent you?

Would you be willing to spend a few moments reading the letter I sent you?

to read is prospective

reading is durational

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