I have seen a promotional video for Beyond the Future in Mr Love: Queen's Choice, I copied its lines and want to rewrite them to practice my expression and grammar.

Here is the one confused me of the lines:

Whether it's a play or a game, what I want is to spend time with you.

There is a problem I met, I want to use prefer doing to replace the original want to do as follow:

Whether it's a play or a game, what I prefer is to spending time with you.

But then I hesitated, I am not very sure this is correct grammatically, maybe it only ought to be rewritten as this, I know which is correct:

Whether it's a play or a game, what I prefer is spending time with you.

So are they both correct? May you tell me?


1 Answer 1


First, the expressions are to spend time and spending time - never to spending time (but see the note at the end).

Secondly, some words (verbs, adjectives) require one or other of these constructions, some allow either. So

I like spending time with you or I like to spend time with you.


I enjoy spending time with you, not *I enjoy to spend time with you.

(The * means "not grammatical).


I hope to spend time with you, but not *I hope spending time with you.

You cannot predict from the meaning that like will take either construction, that enjoy takes only an -ing clause and that hope takes only a to-infinitive clause: these are details that just have to be learnt.

Note prefer takes a to phrase as its standard of comparison:

I prefer apples to oranges.

This is quite separate from the to in a to-infinitive clause, and can be combined with an -ing clause:

I prefer reading a book to spending time with you.

This is grammatical: it is not the sort of mixed clause I described above as unacceptable: it is the preposition to followed by an -ing clause.

  • 1
    I think it's worth explicitly pointing out that we can use infinitives for "X rather than Y" comparisons - in which case the word than is required, not the preposition to. I [would] prefer to starve [rather] than [to] eat that!. Where both instances of to are infinitive markers (but the second can be "deleted" as being a predictable repetition of the first one, in a parallel construction). Apr 16, 2022 at 14:27

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