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I would like to know what the difference is between "I love doing something" and "I love to do something".

For example:

  1. “I love singing.”

and,

  1. “I love to sing.”

When I was young, I was told that "love doing something" is right, but one day, I found Jessie J wrote "I love to sing" on her Instagram.

I'm confused.

Thanks.

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    Tell that to Owl Jolson: youtube.com/watch?v=ytR7-wT0Qqw (Seriously, this is a classic cartoon.) – Ben Kovitz Mar 21 '15 at 12:52
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    By the way, please allow at least a day or two before accepting an answer, even if you get a good one right away. For info about why this is helpful, please see “Not so fast! (When should I accept my answer?)”. – Ben Kovitz Mar 21 '15 at 17:57
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    One difference is: Note that "I love to sing" has the meaning that "I sing", while that meaning is only a possible implicature in "I love singing" since the speaker there might have only meant that they like hearing others sing. – F.E. Mar 21 '15 at 18:42
  • Related: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/43066/… – Damkerng T. Mar 21 '15 at 19:29
  • @F.E. Note though that that's only if singing is a noun ; -) It's not true if singing is a verb. (and the OP's clearly asking about the difference in meaning between the verbs - as the -ing has a direct object above the examples). – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 23 '15 at 6:12
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By1) I love singing.

2) I love to sing.

Love is one of the verbs that takes after it either a to-infinitive or an -ing form, without any difference in meaning.

No doubt, according to grammar, although both sentences should convey the same meaning, the sentence #1 is a bit ambiguous. This ambiguity arises because "singing" is not only a verb (present participle) but also a noun that means an act or performance of singing. So the sentence may also be understood to mean that you love to hear singing or love to hear people sing. However, if there is an object after "singing" such as I love singing songs/this song, there is not an iota of doubt that you love to sing.

  • Brian Hitchcock,/Would you please answer in light of the comments. – Khan Mar 22 '15 at 16:39
  • @BrianHitchcock Who has given a correct answer in the comments? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 23 '15 at 6:14
  • F.E. gave a good answer. When he said "possible implicature" that means the sentence might imply... --- but there are good answers now, e.g. Araucaria's. – Brian Hitchcock Mar 24 '15 at 5:21
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Meaning

I love to do that

I love doing that

In many, if not most situations these two sentences can be used interchangeably. But they can have very slightly different meanings too. When we use verbs like like, love, hate plus an -ING form, it generally means that we like, love or hate something while we are actually doing it. When we say that we like, love or hate TO DO something, it means that we like love or hate the practice or effect. This is easiest to show with the verb LIKE.

We usually use like to do something when we mean that we like the effect of doing something, or we think it is a good idea to do this thing because of its wider effects:

  • If I need (to get) a tooth pulled out, I like to go to the dentist.

This would imply that it's a sensible thing to do. In contrast, we usually use like doing something when we find the experience itself pleasurable or enjoyable. Consider this version of the sentence:

  • If I need (to get) a tooth pulled out, I like going to the dentist.

This would tend to imply that you were a bit of a masochist! It means that you actually enjoy going to the dentist.

Another way to think about it, is that when you say "like doing it" you like it while you are doing it. When you say like to do it it means you like it after you've done it.

With the verb LOVE, it's more difficult to find a clear situation where you will love to do something but hate doing it. It is perhaps possible. Consider:

  • I would love to be in charge, but I would hate actually being in charge.

NOTE

The information above is true for British English and for other varieties such as Australian and New Zealand English. These differences have been well documented in various grammar sources. However, it seems from comments here that for some varieties of American English, there is no difference between like to do and like doing. See F.E.'s comments below for further information.

Grammar

In the phrases love to do it and love doing it, we understand that the subject of LOVE is the same as the subject of DO. Very often though, we can also find nouns that end in -ing [sometimes we can make nouns ending in _ing]. For example, there is a noun singing. Many nouns, like the noun singing, describe actions. When we use the NOUN singing and we don't say who the actual singer is, then it can be anybody:

  • I love to sing jazz.
  • I love singing jazz.
  • I love singing.

The first sentence says that I love the habit or practice of singing jazz. Maybe I love to do it at certain times or for certain occasions. The second sentence says that I really enjoy singing jazz. In the third example singing does not have a direct object. This word could be a noun or a verb. If it's the noun then this sentence means that I love listening to people singing jazz. If it's the verb it means that I love doing the singing. If it's a noun we will use an adjective to describe the singing. If it's a verb we will use an adverb:

  • I love quiet singing.
  • I love quietly singing / singing quietly.

The first sentence means I like it when other people sing quietly. The second sentence means that I like to sing quietly myself.

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    "When you say like to do it it means you like it after you've done it." <-- Er, after I've gone to the dentist, my mouth is all numb and I'm drooling all over myself, and so, I am not in a state where I like having gone to the dentist! Maybe you like drooling all over yourself! :D – F.E. Mar 23 '15 at 7:18
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    Wha? That's crazy... "pulling" sounds so wrong to me! HA HA! – Catija Mar 23 '15 at 7:25
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    @Araucaria It's your wording that I'm questioning: it's making it sound like that a EFL speaker should expect that the two versions will usually have different meanings. I'm of the camp that thinks that kind of statement is way too strong. That if anything, that it is rather unusual when there is a basic difference in meaning--but textbooks tend to provide those types of examples, and so, give a false impression. imo. – F.E. Mar 23 '15 at 16:30
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    @F.E. OK, will have a ponder and fiddle about with it when I get back. Monday social programme to attend to! (or if you want to do an edit, I trust you!) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 23 '15 at 16:31
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    @F.E. In BE those obs don't seem to hold. The I like going to the dentist type sentences just sound plain weird to us! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 24 '15 at 11:22
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As said by the comments:

In I love to sing, the verb "love" is said to control the subject of the verb "sing", resulting in the phenomenon often called equivalent noun phrase deletion (equi-NP deletion). Basically, in this construction, the subject of the subordinate verb is constrained to be the same as the subject of the main clause. The underlying semantic structure would be "I love: (I sing)".

I love singing is ambiguous. The word "singing" can be seen as general activity of singing (where I express my appreciation of listening to songs), where the subject (and all other thematic roles) are left unspecified and made vague by the nominalisation (good example of political rhetoric pattern here: "The pollution" - who polluted? shrug).

Or, it can be seen as a gerund complement that means the same as the case with the infinitive in it, with the same control phenomenon (compare: I love singing blues which can't get the first, unrestricted interpretation - but is itself then syntactically ambiguous, with the other meaning being "I love blues which sing").

  • -1 (for the moment, sorry). This is not true, old bean! "Love" controls the subject of the verb after it regardless of whether its an -ing form or an infinitive. It is only if we use the NOUN "singing", that we can interpret the singer freely. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 23 '15 at 6:09
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    @Araucaria: You are correct, let me see if I can rephrase. – Amadan Mar 23 '15 at 6:14
  • @Araucaria: Better? – Amadan Mar 23 '15 at 6:24
  • Yes, it is I think :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 23 '15 at 7:14
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Since, now the question is edited, I'm rewriting the answer with a bit different approach.

The verb you are concerned is 'love'. Now all verbs have their patterns. This means what verbs take after them depends on the verb. Some verbs take infinitive, some take '-ing', and there are many other patterns.

Getting back to your 'verb' -love. Now this special verb takes both -to+verb and -ing. This means, it can have both

I love singing (verb taking 'ing')
I love to sing (verb taking to+verb)

Good read about verb pattern is here on the BBC.


It is good to know that if you are talking about your hobby, the construction I love singing is more common.

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    I love singing has a slight issue of not implying the speaker is the one doing the singing... it can mean that someone just likes to hear singing. I love to sing is clear, the speaker enjoys to sing themselves. – Catija Mar 22 '15 at 5:03
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    @Araucaria this is new to me then. Kindly explain these: My singing is not bad because singing is my hobby and I practice it daily. – Maulik V Mar 23 '15 at 9:26
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    @Araucaria Are you using the word noun in an esoteric sense? In ordinary language, singing is a noun, even if it refers to a hobby, even in "I like singing". – Ben Kovitz Mar 23 '15 at 10:10
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    @BenKovitz And in addition, in I like singing (I like doing it), "singing" is the same singing as in I like singing songs. This is basic proof that "singing" there is a verb - nouns can't take direct objects, only prepositional phrases. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 23 '15 at 10:41
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    @Araucaria Thanks, now I think I understand what you're getting at. It still seems to me like an esoteric use of noun, but there seems to be a lot of competing terminology out there for how to describe the many roles that -ing words can play. Another one I've come across is verbal noun as opposed to gerund: in that terminology, a gerund still plays the role of a noun, but it also can have a subject, direct objects, and adverbs (just like an infinitive), but a verbal noun can't. But I think that terminology is fairly esoteric, too. – Ben Kovitz Mar 23 '15 at 10:45

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