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Verbs + Gerund OR Infinitive that Change in Meaning

Explanation and Examples


Some verbs patterns include verbs that take either the gerund (doing) or the infinitive (to do). In some cases, there is no change in meaning and in other cases there is a change in meaning depending on whether the verb is followed by the gerund - also known as the present participle - or the infinitive. Here is a list of both types of verbs, as well as numerous examples of each type of verb pattern.

Verb + Gerund OR Infinitive

The first three verbs that change slightly in meaning can be broke up into a few different groups.


The first three verbs - forget, remember and regret - refer to memory. The gerund or present participle is used to indicate that something has been done before the moment of speaking.


I remember buying him a present.
Mary forgets meeting Tim in Italy.
Peter regrets moving to Chicago.

In each of these cases, the action has taken place before the moment of speaking and the verb refers to a memory (or a lack of memory with 'forget') of that event.

When used with the infinitive, however, these verbs can be used to speak about something that hasn't happened yet.


Don't forget to lock the door when you leave on vacation.
Make sure you remember to pick up some eggs at the super market.
I regret to inform you that you haven't been accepted to the school.

Let's take a closer look at these differences by contrasting two sentences that change only in the verb form following forget, remember and regret.

Jack remembers buying eggs at the supermarket. = Jack bought the eggs and he remembers that action.
Jack remembers to buy eggs at the supermarket. = When Jack goes to the supermarket, he buys eggs if needs.

Annette forgot to lock the door before she left her home. = Annette didn't lock the door.
Annette forgot locking the door before she left her home. = Annette locked the door, but doesn't remember the action.

I regret telling you the bad news. = I wish I hadn't told you the bad news.
I regret to tell you the bad news. = I'm not happy, but I must tell you the bad news.

Go on

These two verbs refer to actions in progress, or actions that begin directly. When used with the gerund (doing) these verbs that an action continued, or completely stopped.

I stopped smoking cigarettes. = I don't smoke any more.
I went on playing tennis. = I continued playing tennis.

When used with the infinitive, these verbs indicate an action that begins immediately, or at a future time.

Janice stopped to make a telephone call. = Janice stopped in order to make a telephone call.
Doug went on to become a doctor. = Doug eventually became a doctor later on in his career.

Let's compare the two forms side by side, changing only the second verb:

Jason stopped playing the piano at six. = Jason was playing the piano, and he stopped doing that at six o'clock.
Jason stopped to play the piano at six. = Jason was doing something else. He stopped that action, and began to play the piano at six o'clock.

Margaret went on speaking about her vacation. = Margaret continued speaking about her vacation.
Margaret went on to speak about her vacation. = Later in the conversation, Margaret began to speak about her vacation.

A number of verbs take the gerund or the infinitive with minor changes in meaning. The following verbs take both forms, sometimes there are small changes in meaning which I note, but these slight changes do not affect overall meaning.


like doing = in general
like to do = choose to do something

I like playing tennis in the afternoon. = I enjoy playing tennis in the afternoon.
I like to play tennis in the afternoon. = When I play tennis, I choose to play in the afternoon.

In both cases, the underlying meaning is that I enjoy playing tennis. Many native speakers use both forms with little or no change in meaning.


prefer to do = if there is a choice, this is my choice
prefer doing = preference for one over the other in general

I prefer to eat before five. = If there's a choice, let's eat before five.
I prefer eating before five. = In general, I choose to eat before five.

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