Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard somebody use a verb in conversation in different ways?

Have you ever heard somebody add “-ing” to a verb in English?

Is it confusing as to what the differences may be in these verb types?

We’re going to help you to understand what the differences are, and how to use each one in conversation.

Here’s a question that talks about this:

Hi Lindsay and Michelle. How is it going?

I am a huge fan of your Podcast. Thank you for creating such a great ESL show for us! It’s way helpful!

So I have a question for you guys, because recently I had some confusion.

What’s the difference between “I like to study”, “I like studying”, and “I like study”?

I’ve  searched on the Internet but found nothing. Could you tell me the differences?

Many thanks!

Qiqi Hung

Breaking Down The Differences

Before we start, I like study does NOT work because study is a VERB.

You can’t say I like and then just add a verb.

So let’s focus on I like studying and I like to study.

This is about infinitives (to) and -ing forms.

This can be tricky at first, but you’ll understand the differences and how to use each.

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Getting Into The Specifics

There are some differences, even though they may seem small.

You want to be sure you understand the differences so that you can use these both properly in conversation.

Grammatically, it’s fine to say “like to eat” or “like eating”.

With the verb “like”, both forms are the same and neither is wrong.

Similar verbs that do this are love and hate.

So you can say I like eating cheese or I like to eat cheese–both are okay and perfectly acceptable to use in conversation.

There is actually just one small difference to keep in mind here.

If you say I like to do something (I like to eat soup) it may be about a habit or preference.

  • Example: “I like to eat soup when it’s cold outside” or “I like to eat soup when I am sick with a cold.”

If you say I like “-ing”  you may be focused on the action as a whole.

  • Example: “I like eating soup.”

Does One Sound More Natural?

The overall difference can be hard to tell, so you don’t really need to focus too much on that in conversations.

Try using both versions and see what may feel more natural to you when you are having conversations.

This is an instance where practice can really pay off.

There are verbs where the meaning SIGNIFICANTLY changes.

For example:

1) Stop/Stopped

  • I stopped eating sugar. (you quit something)
  • I stopped to eat sugar.  (maybe you were walking somewhere and you bought some sugar to eat)

2) Forget/Forgot

  • I forgot calling him last night (or forget) (this means, it’s fuzzy in my mind. Was I drunk? Was I tired? I don’t remember that this happened)
  • I forgot to call him last night (I didn’t remember. It slipped my mind)

It really all depends on the verb itself as to which one may fit better.

There may be slight differences, and you will get a feel for what is more natural to say.

Try to pay close attention to the examples provided as these present the most significant differences.


It can be tricky to understand the differences in how to use a verb in conversation.

Adding “-ing” to a verb can change its meaning, so try it out when you speak.

Most of the time, the differences will be slight and you can use both without an issue.

Practice using these and it will help–though remember it’s about connection and not perfection!

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

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