My question is about these verbs:


When they are followed by another verb we can use to or the gerund (-ing):

I prefer to travel by car. - or - I prefer travelling by car.
Anna loves to dance. - or - Anna loves dancing
Do you like to get up early? - or - Do you like getting up early?

My grammar book says that we can use either to or -ing whithout changing the meaning.
(It also says that there are the exceptions of would like, would love, would hate or would prefer: they must be followed by to. e.g. Julia would like to meet you.)

1) Is there any subtle difference between the usage of to or -ing after these verbs?
2) Do you thing that using -ing is safer? (as written in this wonderful answer to somebody else's question)

  • In your '1)' you say, "in this context". Which context do you mean? Sep 15, 2015 at 17:54
  • Yes, maybe is too ambiguous. I will change it. Thank you!
    – viery365
    Sep 15, 2015 at 18:06
  • 1
    As you have it, I read almost no subtle differences between your examples. The -ing ending might slightly convey that the active act (the doing part of the verb) is more important than the verb itself, but that may be me reading further into your question than I would otherwise. Good question. Sep 15, 2015 at 18:10
  • @MichaelDorgan Thank you very much for your comment!
    – viery365
    Sep 15, 2015 at 18:38

2 Answers 2


Sometimes the gerund and infinitive forms are interchangeable; sometimes they are not. Your examples above ("travelling", "dancing", "getting") are all examples of interchangeable usage. Here are examples where interchanging alters the meaning of the sentence:

"Travelling" vs "to travel":

  • He remembered travelling to Canada. (He has traveled to Canada, and now remembers that.)
  • He remembered to travel to Canada. (He was supposed to go to Canada, and then he did.)

"Dancing" vs "to dance":

  • She stopped dancing. (She never danced again.)
  • She stopped to dance. (She interrupted an activity to begin dancing.)

How do you know when the gerund and infinitive are interchangeable? Generally, gerunds are best for talking about completed actions, and infinitives are best for talking about incomplete or future actions.

Gerund: I was getting up earlier last week. (The getting up already heppened.)

Infinitive: I want to get up earlier. (The getting up hasn't happened yet.)

Still, knowing which form to use requires some memorization and intuition. Here is a list of common verbs from http://www.gingersoftware.com/content/grammar-rules/verbs/gerunds-and-infinitives/:

Followed by a gerund:

admit, advise, avoid, be, used to, can’t help, can’t stand, consider, deny, discuss, dislike, end up, enjoy, feel like, finish, forget, get used to, give up, go on, have difficulty, have problems, have trouble, imagine, it’s no use, it’s worthwhile, keep, look forward to, mention, mind, miss, recommend, remember, quit, spend time, stop, suggest, understand, waste time, work at

Followed by either a gerund or an infinitive without causing a change in meaning:

begin, continue, hate, intend, like, love, prefer, start

Followed by a gerund or infinitive but with a change in meaning:

forget, remember, stop

Followed by an infinitive:

afford, agree, appear, arrange, ask, care, decide, demand, expect, fail, forget, hope, learn, manage, mean, offer, plan, prepare, pretend, promise, refuse, remember, seem, stop, volunteer, wait, want, wish

Followed by a noun or pronoun and then by an infinitive:

advise, allow, ask, cause, challenge, command, convince, expect, forbid, force, hire, instruct, invite, order, pay, permit, program, remind, teach, tell, urge, want, warn

  • "He remember to travel to Canada." Isn't correct. Nov 26, 2015 at 19:34
  • @RileyFrancisco Right, that is not correct. The verb "remember" needs a tense to be used in that format, e.g."remembers", "remembered", or "will remember".
    – woz
    Nov 30, 2015 at 2:32

There are lists of verbs telling you whether to use the infinitive or —ing form. I suggest not to memorise them. You'll learn to use the infinitive or —ing as part of phrases, mostly.

Here I'll highlight some examples where the difference in meaning is greatly noticed.

Have you tried changing your diet? (Have you experimented different foods?)
Have you tried to change your diet? (Have you made an effort to change what you eat?)

I stopped asking him about his son. (I didn't ask any more questions about his son.)
I stopped to ask him about his son. (I stopped what I was doing because I wanted to ask him about his son.)

Please remember to switch the lights off. (Don't forget to do this.)
I remember switching the lights off. (I've done this and I remember this fact.)

So it's not that —ing forms show you a safer way to write this. You'll see difference in meaning anyway regarding the verb.

Of course a good point to always keep in mind is not to use the state verbs with —ing forms. (You can as long as they describe an action, but that's another topic.)

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