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I know that some English verbs can be followed either by the -ing form or by the infinitive form, with a little difference in meaning though.

Could you tell me what is the difference between these two examples?

He continued to talk.

He continued talking.

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  1. He stopped to talk means that he interrupted whatever he was doing at the time and began to talk. The infinitive expresses the purpose.

    He stopped talking on the other hand, has the opposite meaning. It means he didn't talk any more, he was silent.

  2. He went on to talk (about) This means the speaker changed the topic of discussion, and started a new one.

    He went on talking (about) here the speaker continued the action of talking, this might have included one or more interruptions however, the topic remained the same.

  3. He continued talking There are two possible interpretations; in the first, he talked virtually uninterrupted. In the second, despite being interrupted he kept on talking

    He continued to talk This means he talked continuously, and probably without any interruptions.

In other words, continue is one of those verbs that can be used with the infinitive or the gerund without any changing in meaning.

Verbs that take gerunds or infinitives without changing in meaning (as listed by Grammaring)

BEGIN, START, CONTINUE, CEASE, DREAD, INTEND, LOVE

Go on is defined by the Free dictionary as To keep on doing (something): "Don't go on talking."

Continue TFD v.t. to go on with or persist in: "to continue reading".

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  • @snailboat I had a different link (OWL purdue) then I changed my mind when I realized the list included verbs whose meanings changed. I forgot to edit the title. Will change it, thank you for pointing it out. As for VDO I imagine it means verbs acting as direct objects. – Mari-Lou A Nov 19 '13 at 23:19
  • "Love" doesn't truly belong in the list. "I love skating" could mean as a spectator, whereas the wording "I love to skate" rules that out. – Kaz Nov 20 '13 at 2:17
  • @Kaz I disagree with you there. If you're a spectator you'd say: "I love watching football matches" If you enjoy playing the game, then "I love playing football" and "I love to play football" are both fine and mean virtually the same thing. You could argue that "I love to play football in the summer" fits better than "loving" but in speech the difference is negligible. – Mari-Lou A Nov 20 '13 at 9:00
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    "I love watching" changes the verb to "to watch"; my comments are about "I love skating" and "I love to skate". If you love watching skating, you certainly have the option to express using nothing but "I love skating". It is ambiguous, requiring context. And that ambiguity is what makes it not have the same meaning as "I love to skate" which is not ambiguous. Based on this, I cannot conclude that "to love" belongs to the list verbs which give the same meaning to the forms "love to [verb]" and "love [verbing]". It belongs to a list of verbs which give different meanings, with overlap. – Kaz Nov 20 '13 at 17:03
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    So only if I say: I love skating then it possibly means I watch it being performed? You can love a sport without necessarily having to do it. What about I love reading, and dancing, and painting, and drinking etc.? All those verbs can be used in the infinitive form after love with no change in meaning. "I love skating" in isolation is no different from "I love to skate", it is the context which determines whether it is a sport I do myself or if I limit myself to watching it. – Mari-Lou A Nov 20 '13 at 21:54
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In this example, they mean the same thing. I'm hard pressed to think of a sentence where both are valid and where they mean different things, but I'm reluctant to say that as a 100% rule as I'm sure I can't think of every possible sentence.

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    I thought that they were something like "He stopped smoking" and "He stopped to smoke". Thanks. – jeysmith Nov 14 '13 at 21:19
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    @jeysmith Hmm. Well, I suppose that it depends, then, on whether to can reasonably interpreted as in order to. Because that's the difference in your smoking example: "He stopped smoking" = "he no longer smoked." "He stopped to smoke" = "he stopped in order to/so that he could smoke". But in your talking example "He continued in order to/so that he could talk" doesn't really make sense. (For all I know I'm not making sense, but I'm trying to! :)) – WendiKidd Nov 14 '13 at 22:38
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    @WendiKidd :-) Yes, I presume that "He continued in order to/so that he could talk" doesn't really make sense. I wrote that "unhealthy" example just because I know what is the actual difference between those two sentences, and I thought that there could be a subtle difference in meaning between "He continued to talk" and "He continued talking" that an English learner, as I am, couldn't get "at first sight". – jeysmith Nov 14 '13 at 23:21
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    Basically the pattern "to stop to [verb]" is specially reserved to mean to stop (intransitively) so that to be able to [verb]. It applies to some other words, like "to pause": to pause thinking versus to pause to think. – Kaz Nov 15 '13 at 2:08
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    And it occurs to me, there are cases where the meaning could be opposite. Like, "He deserved to kill": he had the right to kill others. "He deserved killing": his crimes called for the death penalty. – Jay Nov 15 '13 at 18:47
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I agree with Jay. Deciding whether to use talk or talking in this sentence has more to do with the flow or sound of the statement. Talk sounds more abrupt,then,"He continued talking". You may not like it when, He continued to talk. He continued talking, sounds friendlier.

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He continued talking could mean he never stopped. He continued to talk implies to me there was a pause, and then he started talking again.

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  • Hmm. Interesting thought, but I think either could be used either way. He took a drink of water, then continued to talk is just as acceptable as He took a drink of water, then continued talking ("there was a pause, and then he started talking again"). Similarly, Without so much as taking a breath, he continued talking is no different than Without so much as taking a breath, he continued to talk ("he kept talking without stopping"). So I don't think there's really a distinction between the two; either meaning could be inferred from context for either talking or to talk. – WendiKidd Nov 15 '13 at 22:49

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