Which is good English:
- I like dancing
- I like to dance
- I like to dancing
- I like dance
If you think #1 and #2 are correct, you are right! “I like dancing” and “I like to dance” are both OK! “I like to dancing” and “I like dance” are NOT OK.
When you use “like”, you have two options for the next verb. Option 1 is an infinitive. Infinitives are to + base verb. To go, to swim, to eat, to dance, to drive, to talk, to listen, to cry . . . all are infinitives!
Option 2 is a gerund. A gerund ends in -ing. Going, swimming, eating, dancing, driving, talking, listening, crying . . . all are gerunds!
You can’t mix infinitives and gerunds. So, “to dancing” and “dance” are not correct.
Look at these words. Which are gerunds? Which are infinitives?
1. snowing 2. camping 3. to cook 4. to play 5. reading 6. to swing 7. opening 8. to think
Sometimes you use a gerund. Sometimes you use an infinitive. Sometimes you can use both. There are no real rules. You just need to remember. Here are some examples:
A. After you use these words, you can use an infinitive OR a gerund. They are both OK:
CONTINUE, HATE, LIKE, PREFER, START
1. We continue to study grammar. We continue studying grammar.
2. No one hates to learn English. No one hates learning English.
3. Some people like to study at night. Some people like studying at night.
4. Do you prefer to learn vocabulary first? Do you prefer learning vocabulary first?
5. We started to read at 3:00. We started reading at 3:00.
B. After these words, you can ONLY use an infinitive:
DECIDE, INTEND, NEED, PLAN, REFUSE, WANT
1. I decided to go to the gym after work.
2. I intended to go to the gym after work, but I didn’t go.
3. I needed to go to the supermarket.
4. I’m planning to go to the gym after work tomorrow.
5. I refuse to go to the gym in the morning.
6. I want to lose weight.
C. After these words, you can ONLY use a gerund:
AVOID, ENJOY, MISS, DISLIKE, FINISH, SUGGEST
1. Since the divorce, my parents have avoided meeting.
2. Do you enjoy swimming or playing soccer?
3. I miss seeing my friends from college every day.
4. Most children dislike eating vegetables.
5. Let’s finish talking after class.
6. What movie do you suggest watching this evening?
D. Practice. Choose the correct verb.
1. Do you avoid (working, to work) on Friday night?
2. Who decided (ordering, to order) pizza?
3. Does she prefer (using, to use) a pen or a pencil?
4. What does he suggest (doing, to do) to resolve the problem?
5. Did we decide (eating, to eat) at 6:30?
6. No one wants (hearing, to hear) that music right now.
7. Lorena started (practicing, to practice) the piano at age 8.
8. Jenny didn’t miss (seeing, to see) the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
9. Did the students refuse (coming, to come) to class?
10. What time did you finish (working, to work) today?
(adapted from Ventures 3,, p. 69)