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What is the difference between the two? Do they mean the same thing?

Example sentence:

If you keep standing there, people will start to look/start looking at you.

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3 Answers 3

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Both structures have the same meaning. However, it's preferable to use the infinitive one, when you use the present participle of the verb "start", e.g.:

  1. I'm starting to get embarrassed, please stop doing that in front of my friends! (CORRECT)
  2. I'm starting getting embarrassed, please stop doing that in front of my friends! (Although it gives the same meaning as the former, it's unusual to use this structure with this verb, and sometimes it can sound weird to native speakers.)

Looking at your sentence, both can be used as you're not using the present participle form of the verb "start":

If you keep (on) standing there, people will start to look/start looking at you.


I found a web that gives other difference, but that difference doesn't seem to exist actually as far as I know, and @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica indicates below.

LINK: https://www.englishpage.com/gerunds/gerund_or_infinitive_different_list.htm

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  • Yes, except I don't think that final "subtle difference" even exists at all. I see no particular reason for preferring your example over I started learning Spanish in January, but I couldn't complete the whole course. Even if that "abortive" start was many years ago, and speaker either has or hasn't actually completed the course since, neither choice of verb form would imply anything about that. Feb 2, 2021 at 16:00
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica, well, me either, I just put that non-existent difference as I found it in a web, and I wasn't pretty sure if it was a thing of matter because I'm not a native speaker. Here is the source: englishpage.com/gerunds/gerund_or_infinitive_different_list.htm
    – Thunder05
    Feb 3, 2021 at 3:04
  • I can easily tell you're not a native speaker from your comment (we natives say Nor me or Me neither in such contexts! :), but I wouldn't have guessed that from your actual answer text, which is clear, well-expressed, and accurate. I'm only one person, so just because I don't recognise that "started, but not yet finished" implication doesn't prove all other native speakers think the same. Whatever - it does no harm to refer to the idea, even if we don't believe it ourselves! Feb 3, 2021 at 13:58
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I am not a native speaker but as far as I know, they both mean the same thing. There might be a very lil difference that can perhaps only be spotted by native speakers, but grammatically here they are both working as a noun.

Please take my answer as just a sharing of point of view and I am still learning.

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I have just found something which I want to share and try to explain. Let's take two sentences I like to go my friend's house and I like going my friend's house. In first sentence, the subject 'I' like 'to go' means I am not going currently but I like or I want to go and the infinite 'to go' is yet to happen in future. I like that future event.

In the 2nd sentence, I like going his house, here, the subject likes 'going' , 'going' is gerund here but still giving continuous form, I like that feeling of going.

But in the case of start, the meaning of the word 'start' manages to fill the difference between two.

Like they will start to look at you...'to look' is yet to happen in future but adding 'will start' before it will begin that future thing.

And, they will start looking at you, 'looking' is continuous form but adding 'will start ' before it begins that continuous form.

So, in this case the difference between them is almost nothing.

And,That' why there are certain verbs which can follow both gerunds and infinitives without changing the meaning of sentences.

https://www.myenglishteacher.eu/blog/list-of-verbs-followed-by-both-gerunds-and-infinitives/

I can be wrong too.....so just take it as a sharing of point of view.

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