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I always get confused using the 'to' after a verb.

For example:

I want to go there vs I want ice-cream.

I need to do calculation vs I need calculating all this.

She loves dogs vs She loves to wear fancy dresses.

Is there any specific rule when we use 'to' after a verb or when not?

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  • It's not a matter of when we use 'to' after a verb. It's about when do we include [the infinitive marker] 'to' before a verb? We do include it in most cases (I want to watch, He had to go, You need to sleep). But not in others (I must stop, He let go, You can wait). All those highlighted verbs are infinitives, regardless of whether the explicit "marker" to is present or not. Aug 30 '20 at 14:34
  • In which context, note that You need sleep is a noun usage, same as You need food. And You need eat simply isn't valid English - it has to be You need to eat. Aug 30 '20 at 14:41
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The to in your examples is attached to the following verb (I want to go, I need to do), forming an infinitive. The examples without to have nouns follow the main verb (I want ice cream, she loves dogs), and nouns do not have an infinitive form.

You also wouldn't use to if a gerund follows, eg.

She likes wearing fancy dresses.

This is similar to your second example, with the caveat that need + gerund sounds very unnatural.

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  • Does it mean 'Verb + noun' and 'verb + -ing(gerund)' are same pattern?
    – GKS
    Aug 30 '20 at 17:02
  • @GKS pretty much, yes. A gerund generally acts as a noun grammatically (with some caveats, such as being able to take an object like in the example). Aug 31 '20 at 9:51

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