I’m studying Complex Object with the verbs of desire. “Like” is one of them.

And it seems to me that this structure isn’t widely used at least in American English today.

e.g I like her to sing

I feel like Americans would rather say:

I like her singing or I like when she sings.

Please let me know whether I’m right in my assumptions.

And also, maybe these sentences have a slightly different meaning?

  • I'm not American, but to me "I like her to sing" has the implication "I like it when she sings for me in particular circumstances", for example "I like her to sing me to sleep". You wouldn't use it to express admiration for a professional singer. Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 9:57

1 Answer 1


It isn't just about a preference between those different ways of saying the same thing. Remember that "singing" can be both a noun for the activity of singing as well as the present continuous form of the verb to sing. So, when someone says "I like her singing" it could mean that they like it when she sings, or that they like the singing that she does.

You are far more likely to hear someone say about their favourite singing artiste that they like their singing, because they are stating a preference for that artiste's style or vocal performance over others.

To say "I like it when [x] sings" suggests that [x] does other things as well besides singing, so one is more likely to say this about someone they know such as their child, or perhaps about someone who is known for other kinds of performing as well.

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