"Well, bout time for me to be hitting the ol' dusty trail" - Peter from Family Guy.

"Well, bout time for me to hit the ol' dusty trail" - me.

(1) Is the 2nd sentence correct grammatically? (2) Can someone explain the grammatical difference between the two verb forms... (3) Am I right in thinking both verb forms as 'to-infinite' verbs? (4) How do I decide between using 'to+verb' vs 'to+be+verb-ing'...

  • All 3 of to be hitting the trail, to hit the road, to be off are "infinitive-based" forms (which is syntactically required, after It's time for me...). Commented May 25 at 22:05

2 Answers 2


With action verbs:

  • I go to school in Miami. [present simple]

  • I'm going to school in Miami. [present progressive as future or present situation]

I'd like to go to school in Miami.

I'd like to be going to school in Miami.


Continuous infinitive The continuous infinitive is used to express a continuing action after a verb or auxiliary which must be followed by the infinitive. The continuous infinitive is formed: to be + present participle

As with the present infinitive, there are situations where the zero form of the continuous infinitive is required, so the word to is omitted. This happens after most modal auxiliaries, and in other places where zero infinitives are used.

continuous infinitive


Google Books has just four legible matches for the continuous verb form...

Time for me to be hitting the [hay / sack / road / ...]

...compared to at least dozens of matches for the plain infinitive form...

Time for me to hit the...

Personally, I think they're just two possible alternative phrasings. I doubt even the most "careful" speaker would consciously choose the less common form specifically in order to convey some subtle nuance of difference. That would be a bit pointless anyway, since there's almost no chance that the audience / reader would understand any such nuance.

Having said that, it's just about possible to suppose the progressive form carries greater urgency / immediateness. It implies the speaker should already be doing whatever is now overdue, whereas the simple infinitive implies speaker should start doing whatever is now overdue to be done.

As ever, my advice for learners is to stick with the simplest verb form that works. Pure speculation on my part, but I think the Family Guy scriptwriters spend a lot of time deciding exactly what phrasing to use. And while they're definitely not in the business of teaching English to non-Anglophones, they very often deliberately choose "less common" phrasings - sometimes for no other reason than to make the audience pay a little more attention when they don't hear exactly what they might expect. Which happens at a subconscious level.

  • 2
    But I must be going is fairly well-established. Commented May 25 at 17:39
  • Per @KateBunting, Captain Jeffrey T. Spalding (Groucho Marx), sings in Animal Crackers, “Hello, I must be going. I cannot stay, I came to say, ‘I must be going.’” And I cannot but add that his song ends with, “I’ll stay a week or two, I’ll stay the summer through. But I am telling you, I must be going.” Commented May 25 at 18:25
  • ...since it's "hidden" in the comments, I should confess that I originally wrote ...when they don't hear exactly what they might be expecting as my penultimate sentence. Which I reluctantly changed to ...what they might expect when I realized I was apparently contradicting myself! But I'm not a learner, so maybe I should have just stuck with "Do as I say, not as I do!" Commented May 25 at 19:15

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