I have come across the following sentence (no context, the rubric of the task is to fill in the gaps with the words in capital letters, making all the necessary changes) in Macmillan Exam Skills for Russia by Malcolm Mann and Steve Taylore-Knowles, 2007:

My grandad loves to .... and we often go out on his boat. SAIL

If not for the particle 'to' before the ellipsis, my choice would be 'sailing' because according to Michael Swan in his Practical English Usage (Fully Revised) Third Edition OUP, 2005

to talk about enjoying activities in general, we can use ‘like… ing’ (especially in British English)'.

Why would authors give so little context and provide our students with such an ambiguous example?

Furthermore, the part of the rule that one 'can use ‘like + infinitive’ to talk about choices and habits' hasn't been covered/discussed anywhere in the coursebook.

What would your choice be if not for the particle 'to'? I'm mostly interested in British English native speakers' answers.

  • 1
    If the book hasnt covered 'like ...ing' then you wouldnt expect it to be used in an exercise. As a Brit i think i would prefer 'like ...ing' over 'like to ...', but there's not much in it, they have identical meanings.
    – Alan Third
    Dec 15, 2014 at 11:50
  • It's more important that you get an accurate answer about British English than it be written by a native speaker.
    – user230
    Dec 15, 2014 at 17:43
  • I need an accurate answer from a native speaker, yes.. @snailboat
    – Yukatan
    Dec 15, 2014 at 17:49
  • No, just an accurate answer. It doesn't matter who writes it.
    – user230
    Dec 15, 2014 at 17:54
  • Related: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/53252/… Mar 21, 2015 at 19:29

2 Answers 2


Sorry, not a Brit but still... my two cents that might be helpful.

like, love etc are special verbs that take both, the gerund and to-infinitive.

I love reading and also I love to read


I like reading and also I like to read

Note that when hate, like, love and prefer are used with would or should, only the to-infinitive is used, not the -ing form. The reference is Cambridge Dictionary. Another reference is here and a forum discussion is here.

These are called as verb patterns and there's no way you can come out with rules. You just need to remember, they way I do! :)


I would suggest the following solution because the instructions: "to make all the necessary changes" must also include modifying the given word SAIL. Otherwise, merely adding the verb sail in the gap seems a bit too trivial, don't you think?

My grandad loves to go sailing and we often go out on his boat.

With sports or outdoor activities (not games) the following structure can be used:
Like/Love + To Go + Verb + ING

There is no significant difference in meaning between I like camping, and I like to go camping

  • I like (to go) camping
  • You love (to go) skating
  • She likes (to go) swimming
  • We love (to go) running
  • They like rock climbing

In the negative form, the to go can be omitted.

  • I/You/We/They dislike camping
  • I/You/We/They don't like camping
  • I/You/We/They don't like to go camping

  • She / He dislikes swimming

  • She / He doesn't like swimming
  • She / He doesn't like to go swimming

Sources: English Vocabulary: Gerunds Used for Sports; Guide: Using Two Verbs Together; Fifty Ways to Practice Grammar: Tips for ESL/EFL Students

  • your comment about the negative form of 'like/love to go + verb +ING' is a very useful one, I have never come across it, I mean the fact that you can actually omit 'to go'.
    – Yukatan
    Dec 4, 2016 at 20:40

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