Quiz time! Which sentence is correct in each pair?
1a It started to rain.
2b It started raining.
2a You must continue to practise.
2b You must continue practising.
3a I prefer to walk.
3b I prefer walking.
4a He loves cooking.
4b He loves to cook.
Keep reading to check your answers!
Some verbs can be followed by either the gerund or the infinitive and the meaning is the same. So A and B are both correct in all of the above sentences.
After these verbs, you can use either the gerund or the infinitive:
begin continue prefer start
It started to rain / It started raining.
You’ll continue to improve with practice / You’ll continue improving with practice.
There are some exceptions, however, which are mostly about just what sounds better.
We say: It’s starting to rain.
(We don’t say: It’s starting raining, probably because it sounds strange if we use -ing twice.)
It’s also unusual to use the -ing form for non-action verbs. (Non-action verbs describe states and not actions, for example understand, know, want, believe.)
We usually say: I began to understand what he wanted.
(Not: I began understanding what he wanted.)
We can say I prefer walking or I prefer to walk.
But if comparing two things, say I prefer walking to running.
(Not: I prefer to walk to to run. That sounds very awkward!)
After these verbs you can also use either the gerund or the infinitive:
like love hate can’t stand can’t bear
However, there are a couple of things you should know.
In British English, it’s more common to use the -ing form whereas Americans use the infinitive more often.
UK: I love cooking.
USA: I love to cook.
In British English, I like + infinitive sometimes (not always) has a different meaning. We use it to talk about choices and habits.
I like cooking. = I enjoy cooking in general.
I like to cook at the weekends. = It’s my habit. Maybe I enjoy it too.
I don’t like going to the dentist. = I don’t enjoy it.
I like to go to the dentist twice a year for a check-up. = It’s my habit. I think it’s important but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it!
You can read part 1, part 2 and part 3 by clicking on these links.
Part 5, the final part, is here!
Click the buttons below to get my e-book which covers this topic in more detail, including practice exercises, and my free verb list.
About the blog