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My teacher said that "stop to do" had two meanings: quit doing present work to do next work (which is following after the word "do") and pause for a while then continue. I have searched a lot about its meanings but what i got just about the first meaning. Is the second one true?

For examples:

  • I stop to play games.

First meaning: i stop doing something in order to play games.

Second meaning: i pause playing games for a while then i continue.

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    Your teacher was wrong about he first meaning; the phrase can be interpreted that way, but no native speaker or English would ever phrase it that way. They'd use the gerund form: stop doing. Using stop to do is a very common solecism among people learning English as a foreign language who haven't yet mastered the infinitive vs participles/gerunds. Saying "quit [doing something]" as "stop to do" is unidiomatic and very awkward. The second meaning you describe is appropriate and common. – Dan Bron May 10 '17 at 15:03
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    Indeed. Stop does not take an infinitive complement; only gerund (He stopped smoking) and embedded question (He stopped what he was doing). Any to-infinitive following stop is interpreted as a purpose infinitive (i.e, He stopped to do Y = He stopped doing X in order to do Y instead). So He stopped smoking and He stopped to smoke are just about opposite in meaning. – John Lawler May 10 '17 at 15:09
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    It would really help if you provided more than a three-word phrase if you're asking about meaning. – J.R. May 10 '17 at 15:25
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    Actually, stop to infinitive could be used in the sense of I was doing A, and I took a break to to B as in I was running, and I stopped to have a cigarette. Important to understand is that I did not stop smoking, on the contrary! I stopped running, so I could smoke. – oerkelens May 10 '17 at 16:06
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    @DanBron: If I say I was watching TV. I stopped to play games., that does convey the first meaning in the question. It would not be phrased by a native speaker as I stopped playing games, because that means the opposite. – oerkelens May 10 '17 at 16:09
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To put it shortly, the first meaning is correct, but the second one is wrong.

When verb stop is followed by another verb in to-infinitive, it solely means you quit doing something else that you are currently doing in order to perform that new action that you mentioned.

The full expression would be:

to stop doing A in order to do B

To express that second meaning, you would have to use other verb, for example:

I stop doing A and will resume (doing A) later.

Reference links for credible sources and examples:

Oxford Dictionary

Merriam-Webster

  • I disagree with the answer in that, as a native speaker of English, I believe both meanings are valid. See my answer below for my opinion. – tamayura May 10 '17 at 16:38
  • After reading the question and your answer carefully, I agree, but I don't find your answer illuminating. The point I would make is that "stop to <verb>" is not an expression in English at all. If somebody says it then (unless they're a foreigner who means "stop <verbing>" .it must parse as "stop (something unexpressed) [in order] to <verb>", where the "to <verb>" is not part of the meaning of the "stop" at all, but an external modifier of it. – Colin Fine May 10 '17 at 16:38
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    @tamayura Are you telling me that, as a native speaker, you would say "I stop to play games" when you want to indicate that you pause playing games and later will resume? That's the second meaning as put by the OP above. I highly doubt that. – Gerry May 10 '17 at 16:47
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    I agree with Gerry - as a native English speaker, I would never use "I stop to play games" to mean "I pause playing games then resume later". – stangdon May 10 '17 at 17:39
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    @tamayura: I didn't express it very clearly. What I mean is that, because "stop" can take an '-ing' clause as its object, "stop playing" is tightly bound together: you can't put "playing" after many other verbs in the same way. But because "stop" cannot take a 'to' clause as its object, the 'to play' has to be interpreted as something external - in fact, a purpose clause, meaning the same as "in order to play". So "stop to play" does not hang together as a unit in the same way as "stop playing does". With other verbs this is not so "I like playing" and "I like to play" both work equally well. – Colin Fine May 10 '17 at 17:46
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EDIT: This answer does not answer the question as asked, due to fact that I misinterpreted the question as it had been phrased at the time. However, I leave my answer up for perusal for those who might find it useful

For clarity, I will rephrase the meanings and number them like so:

(1) Stop action A to do action B

(2) Stop action A to do action B, then return to action A after action B is finished (In other words: pause action A to do action B)

I believe the reason why you found meaning (1) more often is because the pausing of action B in (2) is implied or not stated explicitly. You can guess if you mean (1) or (2) by the duration of action B, but sometimes you could mean both, and that's okay. If the person you're speaking to really wanted to know whether you mean (1) or (2), they could ask you in the course of the conversation.


Take the following sentence, for example:

I stopped playing games to do my homework.

If someone said this to me, it is ambiguous enough that they could mean (1) as in they stopped playing games to do their homework, and we don't really know if they continued after or (2) they stopped playing games, finished their homework because they had to and then went back to playing games. If I really wanted to know which one they meant, I would ask them "Did you go back to playing games after you finished your homework?" and they would say "yes" or "no", depending on what they did.


However, if action B is something that is of a short duration, like drinking a glass of water, then it quite likely that you mean (2). This shows you that context really helps with figuring the intended meaning.

So in:

I stopped exercising to get a drink of water

The context shows that I mean (2). Exercising made me thirsty, so I got a drink of water so that I could continue exercising. Perhaps this also shows that action A creates a need for action B, where action B is the person's solution or remedy for a problem caused by action A. And yes, even with the example mentioned in the comments - for some people, the solution to stress (action A) is to go smoke a cigarette (action B).

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    You see, your point is correct, but it is off-topic. You're saying that, "I stop doing A to do B" could mean (2): the person stops A, does B, and would resume A, which is right. But OP is asking if "I stop to do B" would mean the person stops B, and would resume B later, which is not. – Gerry May 10 '17 at 16:51
  • Thank you for your explicit answer, but it's not kind of my desired answers. I'm actually confused when my teacher said that we used "stop to V" with second meaning as i mentioned in the question that somebody pauses doing something, then continues it, i.e: "I stopped to work, because i got a call" means i was working, then i paused to get a call, then i came back and continued. – Thai To May 10 '17 at 16:52
  • @Gerry Is that so? Now that I'm re-reading the question, it is quite confusing to figure out what the OP's teacher was conveying with "pause for a while then continue" because pause what for a while then continue with what? That's open to interpretation and perhaps what the teacher was intended to convey was not what the OP understood. – tamayura May 10 '17 at 17:04

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