I usually make the mistake

'I prefer watch movies' instead of 'I prefer to watch movies'

Is there a grammar rule that can help me to remember not to make this mistake?

  • 2
    Possible duplicate of "prefer ~ing" / "prefer to infinitive" Jun 3, 2016 at 17:29
  • Is not a duplicate because he didn't make my mistake "I prefer watch movies". He is asking about the 2 correct forms. Jun 3, 2016 at 17:33
  • Carlos - there's not really a "rule" saying whether you should say I prefer to watch or I prefer watching. They're both fine, and they mean the same thing. The first (infinitive) is still slightly more common, but the second (gerund) is becoming more popular with each passing decade, so it'll probably be the most common form eventually. Your first one (I prefer watch) with a "bare infinitive" is completely ungrammatical, and I see no benefit in exploring it any further. Jun 3, 2016 at 17:34
  • Where did you find "I prefer watch movies" in actual usage?
    – user3169
    Jun 3, 2016 at 17:35
  • 3
    Carlos - the reason you can't use the bare infinitive watch in your example is because that's only valid after a modal verb. For example, I can watch, I must watch, I used to watch. It's not valid for normal verbs such as I like watch (which is ungrammatical). Jun 3, 2016 at 17:42

1 Answer 1


When you use a verb as a noun most of the time it needs the word to in front of it or -ing tacked on the end of it.

I prefer to watch movies

I prefer watching movies

Certain verbs used in certain ways, if followed by an infinitive, require or encourage that the to not be present. This is called a bare infinitive. Prefer is not one of these.

Some useful heuristics for deciding when to omit the to:

  • They [bare infinitives] usually occur after certain verbs like feel, hear, help, let, make, see, and watch. [reference]

  • In the construction X to do { form of to be } Y, where Y is an infinitive, to is usually omitted.

All I want to do is walk.

  • But it's not ungrammatical to include the 'to' in your last example, correct? 'All I want to do is to walk, to smoke, and to ponder my existence.' (just clarifying, not criticizing)
    – ColleenV
    Jun 3, 2016 at 18:19
  • Right, you can still include the to for the last example.
    – LawrenceC
    Jun 3, 2016 at 18:24

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