Unit 71 Verb + `to’- or `-ing’

Main points

* Some verbs take a `to’-infinitive clause or an `-ing’ clause with little difference in meaning. Others take a `to’-infinitive or `-ing’ clause, but the meaning is different.

1 The following verbs can be followed by a `to’-infinitive clause or an `-ing’ clause, with little difference in meaning.

attempt, begin, bother, continue, fear, hate, love, prefer, start, try

It started raining.
A very cold wind had started to blow.
The captain didn’t bother answering.
I didn’t bother to answer.

Note that if these verbs are used in a continuous tense, they are followed by a `to’-infinitive clause.
The company is beginning to export to the West.
We are continuing to make good progress.

After `begin’, `continue’, and `start’, you use a `to’-infinitive clause with the verbs `understand’, `know’, and `realize’.
I began to understand her a bit better.

2 You can often use `like’ with a `to’-infinitive or an `-ing’ clause with little difference in meaning.
I like to fish.
I like fishing.

However, there is sometimes a difference. You can use `like’ followed by a `to’-infinitive clause to say that you think something is a good idea, or the right thing to do. You cannot use an `-ing’ clause with this meaning.
They like to interview you first.
I didn’t like to ask him.

3 After `remember’, `forget’, and `regret’, you use an `-ing’ clause if you are referring to an event after it has happened.
I remember discussing it once before.
I’ll never forget going out with my old aunt.
She did not regret accepting his offer.

You use a `to’-infinitive clause after `remember’ and `forget’ if you are referring to an event before it happens.
I must remember to send a gift for her child.
Don’t forget to send in your entries.

After `regret’, in formal English, you use a `to’-infinitive clause with these verbs to say that you are sorry about what you are saying or doing now:


I regret to say that it was all burned up.

4 If you `try to do’ something, you make an effort to do it. If you `try doing’ something, you do it as an experiment, for example to see if you like it or if it is effective.
I tried to explain.
Have you tried painting it?

5 If you `go on doing’ something, you continue to do it. If you `go on to do’ something, you do it after you have finished doing something else.
I went on writing.
He later went on to form a computer company.

6 If you `are used to doing’ something, you are accustomed to doing it. If you `used to do’ something, you did it regularly in the past, but you no longer do it now.
We are used to working together.
I used to live in this street.

7 After `need’, you use a `to’-infinitive clause if the subject of `need’ is also the subject of the `to’-infinitive clause. You use an `-ing’ form if the subject of `need’ is the object of the `-ing’ clause.
We need to ask certain questions.
It needs cutting.