In this exercise:

Ali stopped _____ to his friend. He talked to him then.
a) talk
b) talking (I chose this one)
c) to talk (This one is marked as the correct answer)
d) being talked

Why did they choose "to talk" as the right answer? And why not "talking"?

I understand the meanings of talk and stop so I don't understand why one is wrong and the other correct.

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    Both are acceptable answers but mean very different things in this context. Stopped to talk = stopped, in order to talk; stopped talking = no longer talks with his friend, they have had a falling out. However, the second sentence seems to suggest that they were talking, so it is "to talk". If it said "and they had a good chat" it would be clearer.
    – TimR
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 13:00
  • @FahdSalah Hi Fahd. Welcome to ELL! Please only post one question at a time (otherwise it gets very complicated). Could you ask the new, second part of your question in a different question, please? I have edited this question for you! :-) Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 14:06
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    Someone cannot stop talking to someone and talk to them at the same time. (Though, I suppose, you could argue that one cannot prepare to talk to someone and talk to them at the same time.) Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 15:45
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    No one seems to have pointed out that "He talked to him then" is not very good English. I'm not sure where this test came from but it was probably not a native speaker.
    – Andrew
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 18:11
  • The other problem is who is him, if you’ll pardon the bad grammar. If him is the friend, then to talk would be appropriate, implying that Ali was on his way somewhere else. if him is somebody else, say, a customer, then talking is appropriate, implying that Ali started to address somebody new.
    – Manngo
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 1:26

2 Answers 2


Infinitives of purpose

We can use an infinitive of purpose at the end of a clause to explain WHY we do something or did something:

  • I came to London to learn English.
  • I went to the shops to buy some milk.
  • I am studying hard to go to university.

In the sentences above, why did I come to London? To learn English! Why did I go to the shops? To buy some milk! Why am I studying hard? To go to university! Notice that the infinitives of purpose here have no special relationship with the verb. They are Adjuncts. They give us extra information about the sentence and explain why someone did something.

Stop + --ing:

The verb stop can take an -ing clause as a Complement:

  • I [stopped smoking].
  • I [stopped running].
  • I [stopped reading my book].

The -ing phrases above explain what action finished. So I finished smoking and running and reading my book. Sometimes we don't need to use an ing clause to explain what stopped, because the listener can already understand this:

  • It was raining yesterday. Suddenly it stopped.

In the second sentence above we understand that it stopped raining. We don't have to use the verb raining a second time. Or consider this sentence:

  • I stopped on my way home yesterday ...

In the sentence above, we understand something like stopped going home, or stopped walking or stopped driving. The exact action is not very important.

Using both things together:

So we can use a sentence with the verb stop with or without an -ing clause afterwards. Whether or not we use an -ing clause, we can also use an infinitive of purpose to explain why we stopped (doing something). So I can say:

  • I stopped smoking to improve my health.
  • I stopped eating to speak to my friend.

In the sentences above, if the listener knows I was already smoking or eating I could leave the -ing clause out:

  • I stopped to improve my health.
  • I stopped to speak to my friend.

Notice that the infinitives of purpose have no special relationship with the verb stop!!! They are just extra bits of information.

The Original Poster's Question:

  • Ali stopped _____ to his friend. He talked to him right then.

I have added the word right to make the second sentence more natural. Now if Ali stopped talking, it means that the talking finished. But this is not possible because Ali talked to his friend! But if Ali stopped (doing something else) because he wanted to talk to his friend, then the two sentences make sense, because Ali did talk to his friend. This is why the infinitive of purpose to talk to his friend is the best answer.

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    I'm happy to learn the name for a construct I knew about (e.g., equivalent to Spanish para + infinitive) but couldn't identify! Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 17:03
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    @MrReality I apologise for not answering any questions or in general (I'm making a very special exception here) responding to comments. As a matte of principle I am not partaking in SE at the moment or for the forseeable future, until the company have demonstrated a fundamental and complete change of heart, a complete change of attitude towards their volunteer community, and have manifestly demonstrated a newly found sense of common decency (not a provide a lipservice to one, but a demonstration). Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 16:05
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    @MrReality However, as I am making a one-off exception here, and because of all of your interesting questions as awell as your helpful and community-minded edits, my answer to your question is that in So it was raining really hard for hours; and then all of sudden. it stopped to rain, the clause it stopped to rain is ungrammatical in the types of standard English that I speak and study. That doesn't mean it's ungrammatical in all Englishes - but I suspect it is! Thanks for your helpful edits! :) Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 16:08
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    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore, thanks! I think "stopped to rain" may be grammatical in the variety of English I'm exposed to, Indian English, but good to know that it isn't in other Englishes. I too hope that the company demonstrates a positive change of heart, and doesn't discourage its own valuable, helpful users from participating in it. So I support your and other users' decisions and don't mind that you are not able to respond to my comments. // Actually, even otherwise, I don't pay heed to it much if the post author whose post I've commented on is for any reason not ... Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 10:21
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    ... able to reply -- one of the reasons for which is that, I think if not him then some other forum member, happening on my comment in future, could respond to it too. (And, so I hope you don't mind if my comments on your answers increased even further!) Thank you so much for all your contributions to this site, by the way! Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 10:22

Stopped talking

Ali was talking, but then stopped talking and did something else.

Stopped to talk

Ali was doing something (like walking), but then he stopped that something and started talking.

Stopped talking:

Ali was talking to his friend. When they finished, he stopped talking to his friend and went to the store.

Stopped to talk:

Ali was walking down the road. He saw his friend, and stopped to talk with him.

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For the above picture, added by OP, per OP's comment:

I'll be revising all my lessons.

That is fine. That means that you will revise your lessons for an undetermined time frame.

I'll have revised all my lessons by next Friday.

That is the intended correct answer. That means that by next Friday, you will have the lessons completely revised.

I'll be revising all my lessons by next Friday.

That just sounds wrong, to my ears. It means that you will continuously be revising your lessons, but it wants an "until." A "by" afterward sounds wrong.

I'll be revising all my lessons until next Friday.

That also sounds right, but has a slightly different meaning. It means that from now until Friday, all you will be doing is revising your lessons.


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