What time do you prefer going to bed?

What time do you prefer to go to bed?

Which of these would you rather use when writing or speaking?

2 Answers 2


Learners of English have been constantly asking this type of questions that revolves around two important titles of English Grammar - Gerund and Infinitive. In this answer I am not going to explain what is Gerund and what is Infinitive (you can easily find a lot of references regarding these tow titles in Google or in any text books). Rather, I will focus on other aspects related to Gerund and Infinitive.

  1. What time do you prefer going to bed (The verb prefer takes a gerund)

  2. What time do you prefer to go to bed (The verb prefer takes an infinitive)

  3. I want to play basketball after my school is over (The verb want takes an infinitive)

  4. I enjoy playing guitar (The verb enjoy takes a gerund)

In English there are certain verbs that takes only gerund (like enjoy), some verbs that take only infinitive (like want), and some verbs that take both. So you have to learn which verb takes what form of verb.

But for a learner, the trouble doesn't end there. Now a new problem arises and it is related to those verbs that take both gerund and infinitive. Why? Consider the following examples (In these examples the verbs can take both gerund and infinitive) -

  1. He stopped to have his lunch.

  2. He stopped having lunch.

  3. He started to play cricket.

  4. He started playing cricket.

In those examples both stop and start take both form of the verb. While sentence #7 and sentence #8 are similar in meaning, sentence #5 and sentence #6 aren't. Sentence #5 says He stopped in order to have his lunch, while sentence #6 says He stopped while taking his lunch. So the problem for the learners with those verbs that take both gerund and infinitive is to again study and learn which form convey what meaning and when the two form convey similar meaning.

For that there is no set rules that I am aware of, you have to study a lot and observe. If anyone know any rules regarding this please let us all know. Thank you.

And @nima, as for your question - "As a native speaker, which one and when or where would your rather write or say?" - what I can say is that when the verb can take both gerund and infinitive, and when they both mean the same, the choice is up to the speaker; it's completely speaker's preference, mainly governed by regional influence, or personal choices. That's all I can say :)

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    Though in most cases either form can be used, I interpret the two slightly differently. As a broad rule (with many exceptions) I see the gerund as usually stating a generality and the infinitive as usually referring to a specific instance. Sentence #7 would likely mean that a person who often played cricket began a game. #8 would likely mean that a cricket novice recently took up the game. Unfortunately both sentences could also be used in the other way, though less comfortably. Your examples of want and enjoy seem to back this up. We want specific things and enjoy generalities. Dec 18, 2014 at 14:29
  • To be clear, this is a very small difference that may have been a part of my upbringing as a speaker of American English in the Midwest. Dec 18, 2014 at 14:31
  • "sentence #6 says He stopped while taking his lunch" No, it means "he went from having his lunch to not having his lunch". It would have to have a comma between "stopped" and "having" to mean "He stopped while taking his lunch". Feb 1, 2019 at 22:27

What time do you prefer going to bed?

what time do you prefer to go to bed?

You can use "to-infinitive" or "-ing form" after the verb "prefer". I am not a native English speaker, but, according to English Grammar Today, the use of to-infinitive is more common.

  • Indeed "prefer to go" is more common than "prefer going". It depends on the verb as I have already mentioned in my answer. Between "start going" and "start to go", "started going" is more common. Well, but if it concerns only the verb "prefer", yes, you are correct "prefer to go" is more common than "prefer going". Dec 18, 2014 at 16:28

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