This post is different to another one (When to use infinitive and when to use present participle of a same word?), which is discussing pure grammar. Note: This post focuses on more practical scenarios.

I've got a sense that "like doing" is used when talking about hobbies, such as "like swimming"; and "would like to do", "gonna do" or "wanna do" are used when talking about an idea or plan.

A: "Are you doing anything tonight?" B: "I'm gonna go swimming"

According to Google Ngram, "like swimming" is much more common than "like to swim".

enter image description here

Based on above, I guess there are more people use "like doing" than the guys use "like to do" when talking about hobbies. There are 2 comments prepared, please vote up correspondingly.

  • 1
    "liking doing"? Voting comments is not how this site works. Someone has to answer your question and then the Community vote (up or down) such answer. And if the Community thinks that your question is opinion-based, probably they are going to close it.
    – RubioRic
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 7:03

1 Answer 1


like swimming or I like swimming can be used to mean:

  1. I like to watch the sport of swimming.
  2. Swimming is my preferred option.
  3. Swimming is similar to some other activity
  4. I like to swim.

To explain #2: Maybe your co-worker says, "We have to organise an event, these are our options: football, swimming, paper airplane flying," and you reply, "I like swimming."

I like to swim can only mean something like

  • I like to engage in the activity of propelling my body through a body of water.

Because "like swimming" can be used in several different ways, a simple word count like in that graph can't be used to support the proposition that "like swimming" is preferred over "like to swim" when used to mean the same thing.

Two of the four options I enummerate are hobbies (watching a sport and playing a sport are both hobbies) and they do take the gerund form "-ing" but "I like to swim" also refers to the hobby.

In answer to the plan-making question "What do you want to do tonight?", I don't think either "I like (to go) swimming" or "I like to swim" would be good answers. They don't (explicitly) address the question. Of course, there are people who would give such an indirect answer.

  • Swim / Go swimming
  • I would like to swim / to go swimming
  • I want to swim / to go swimming
  • Let's swim / Let's go swimming

would be appropriate as they do directly address the question. While the form "swim" (which I suppose is what you are using "do" to indicate) does appear in that list, "-ing" form is equally applicable. I don't know which is the more common when discussing plans but my naturally inclination would be either to answer "swim" or "go for a swim" or andy of the "swimming forms".

I would encourage you to avoid "wanna" and "gonna". They are not standard English.

  • Your answer is very helpful. I got the weakness of my statement. Thank you! Is seems you said "I want to swim" is an indirect answer to a question but directly answers another question, right?
    – WXJ96163
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 9:01

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