Do you find it difficult to know when to use go, to go or going in English?
Do we say:
“I love go”, or “I love going”?
“I want eat”, or “I want to eat”?
“I can swim”, or “I can to swim”?
Verbs are followed by a particular form of the verb, either infinitive (with or without “to”), or the +ing gerund form. Choosing which one to use is sometimes difficult.
In this article, I hope to give you a guide on how to use them by putting them into groups. There are exceptions to these, of course, and some verbs can take both the infinitive or gerund form.
First, we will look at some simple examples to help you to use the most common verbs in the correct way. Then, we will look at some examples of the exceptions. At the end of this article there are also some exercises to practice, and a video containing a song for you to listen to and practice too.
VERBS THAT TAKE THE GERUND +ING FORM There are many common verbs that take the +ing form. Here is a list of some of the most common ones, and some examples of gerunds we can use with them.
look forward to
|going / playing / eating / helping / creating / doing / speaking / studying / listening to / running / talking / watching / passing|
VERBS THAT TAKE TO + INFINITIVE There are also many common verbs that take the infinitive with “to”. For example, we always say “I chose to go to London”, and not “I chose go to London”. Or “I hope to see you soon”, and not “I hope seeing you soon”. It is important to remember to add “to” with these verbs. Here are some examples:
|VERB||+TO + INFINITVE|
|to go / to play / to eat / to help / to create / to do / to speak / to study / to listen to / to run / to talk / to watch / to pass|
MODAL VERBS Another group of verbs that follow the same pattern are modals. They take the infinitive, but without “to”. Here is a list of some of the most common ones:
|MODAL||+ INFINITVE (WITHOUT TO)|
|go / play / eat / help / create / do / speak / study / listen to / run / talk / watch / pass|
Verbs Which Take Gerund or Infinitive
Some verbs can take either the infinitive or the gerund, but the meaning of them changes.
Look at the examples below: I will try to finish my homework tomorrow. Why don't you try speaking to him about it?
Try + to + infinitive means to make an effort to do something. We could rephrase the sentence above to say, I will make an effort to finish my homework tomorrow.
Try + gerund means to experiment, to find a solution to a problem. We could rephrase the sentence above to say, I think it is a good idea to talk to him to resolve the problem.
Here's another example: I stopped going to the gym three years ago. I stopped to buy petrol on my drive home.
Stop + gerund means to finish an action in progress. In the example above if you used to go to the gym and then didn't continue doing it anymore, you stopping going to the gym.
Stop + to + infinitive means to interrupt one action to do another. In the example above, during the action of driving home, you stopped the car for a few minutes to buy petrol and then continued driving home.
These are just two examples of verbs that work in this way. Other examples are remind, forget, mean and come.
Got it? Let's Practice! Use the tables above to complete the sentences. Choose a suitable verb from the boxes, as well as the correct form of it for each sentence.
- I love ________ pizza on Saturday nights.
- She chose ________ science instead of literature.
- They wanted ________ a film at the cinema, but there was nothing that interested them.
- He will _______to Bali next year when he has saved some money.
- I'm really looking forward to ________ tennis next week.
- Oh no! I forgot ________ my homework last night!
- I miss _________ to my friends when I'm away from home.
- I try ________ English every day.
- They hope _________ their exams this month.
- You really should ______ more healthily.
How many did you get right? Remember, you can check the answers at the end of this article.
Got it? Let's Practice! - Answers
- eating (to eat is also possible) 2. to study 3. to watch 4. go 5. playing / watching 6. to do 7. talking 8. to study / to listen to / to speak 9. to pass 10. eat
I WANNA BE LIKE YOU - JUNGLE BOOK SONG
Here are some examples of verbs followed by infinitives (with or without to) in the song:
I wanna be like you.
I want to walk like you. (I want to) talk like you.
An ape like me can learn to be human too.
Don't try to kid me. (to kid = to joke with me / to lie to me)
Give me the power of man's red flower so I can be like you.
I'll tear him limb from limb. (I will)
I'll beat him. (I will)
I'll rescue Mowgli. (I will) ...can learn to be like someone like me.
Hero image by author