When we have a sentence of the form: What + sb + verb + [be (in the appropriate tense)] + ... (for instance, what I like is ...), which rules do we have to apply to determine whether the sentence is followed by to + infinitive or a gerund? Are these rules the same ones that we use when deciding if the verb is followed by to + infinitive or a gerund?

  • 1
    Either can work, e.g. "What I like is to eat at home" or "What I like is eating at home".
    – Billy Kerr
    Jan 9, 2023 at 20:46

2 Answers 2


Turn it around to understand it:

To eat at home is what I like.=
What I like is to eat at home.

Eating at home is what I like. =
I like eating at home.

The infinitive implies you like the idea. The second implies you enjoy the action of doing so. That is the only difference.


(what-cleft or pseudo-cleft)

This one is used to emphasize.

I liked to have a talk with her on the phone.

What I liked was (to) have a talk with her on the phone.

If you want to emphasize the verb "have", you can omit "to".

You can use to-infinitive or infinitive itself.

This is just a some high level grammar.

  • Ok, so I understand that writing the sentence in this form (What + sb + verb + ...) does not change the rules of to + inf/ gerund. For instance, we know that suggest goes followed by a gerund, therefore "What I suggest is..." must go followed by a gerund too. Another question, could we say: "What I liked was having a talk with her on the phone"?
    – user_12345
    Jan 2, 2021 at 20:14
  • You could find the answer to your question in what I've already said above.
    – gomadeng
    Jan 2, 2021 at 21:18
  • But what about using the gerund in your sentence?
    – user_12345
    Jan 2, 2021 at 21:23

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