Verb Patterns - tricky ones

Some verbs can be followed by either the infinitive or -ing form.

Take the verb "to start":
  • She started crying when he shouted at her. RIGHT
  • She started to cry when he shouted at her. RIGHT
  • The bells start ringing at twelve. RIGHT
  • The bells start to ring at twelve. RIGHT
There is no difference in meaning between the sentences.

We don't use two -ing verbs together. So:
  • Look! It is starting raining. WRONG
  • Look! It is starting to rain. RIGHT
  • I was just starting falling asleep when the phone rang. WRONG
  • I was just starting to fall asleep when the phone rang. RIGHT

Be careful with the verb "to stop". Consider the following sentences:
  • Stop laughing at me! RIGHT
  • Stop to laugh at me! WRONG
  • We stopped putting petrol in the car. WRONG
  • We stopped to put petrol in the car. RIGHT
"Stop" is normally used with the -ing form. The -ing verb is the action that stops.

When "stop" is followed by the infinitive, it gives the reason for stopping.

Think about the examples I gave above.
Q: Why did you stop? A: (We stopped) to put  petrol in the car and to have a coffee.
We stopped putting petrol in the car (grammatically correct but illogical). This suggests you started putting something else in the car in place of petrol.

"Remember" can also take both forms but with a difference in meaning. Consider the following sentences:
  • I remember going on holiday to the beach as a child. RIGHT
  • I remember to go on holiday to the beach as a child. WRONG
  • I can't remember seeing this film before. RIGHT
  • I can't remember to see this film before. WRONG
  • Remember to phone your mother tomorrow. RIGHT
  • Remember phoning your mother tomorrow. WRONG
  • I hope you remembered to turn off the cooker. RIGHT
  • I hope you remembered turning of the cooker. WRONG

In the first example with -ing: I went to the beach as a child and now I remember it. So the remembering happens after the -ing verb.
It's the same with the second example:  I saw or didn't see the film but now I can't remember. Again the remembering (or not) happens after the -ing verb.

In the first example with the infinitive: you need to remember to phone your mother. So in this case, first you "remember" and then you "phone". You are reminding someone to do something.
Similarly in the second example, you needed to remember to turn off the cooker. "Remember" (or not)happens first and "turn off" second.

It's a similar story with "forget":
  • I forgot to wish her happy birthday. RIGHT
  • I forgot wishing her happy birthday. WRONG (well I suppose it could mean: I wished her happy birthday but then I forgot that I had and I wished her happy birthday again! Clearer to say: I forgot that I had already wished her happy birthday)
  • I will never forget seeing you for the first time. RIGHT
  • I will never forget to see you for the first time. WRONG
In the first example: I needed to wish her happy birthday but I didn't because it went out of my mind (didn't remember to)
"forget" + ing is often used in negative sentences. In this example, I saw you and now I can't forget it.

If you think "remember" and "forget" are complicated, just take a look at "try":
  • I've tried everything. I've even tried switching it off and back on again. It still doesn't work.
  • I've tried skiing but I don't like it.
We use"try" + ing when we experiment with different methods to see which one works or you decide that you don't want to do it again.
  • It's not easy but try to keep calm.
  • I tried to eat it but it was disgusting.
We use "try" + infinitive when you need to make an effort to do something and either the action is difficult or impossible to do.

Let's finish with an easier one - "regret":
  • I regret telling her.
  • I regret not going to the party.
In the first example: I told her and I wish I hadn't. In the second example: I didn't go and now I wish I had gone. The -ing verb is the first action, the regret comes later. "regret" + ing is the most common form.

  • We regret to inform passengers that the flight has been cancelled due to bad weather.
  • I regret to have to tell you that I won't be attending the conference after all.
"regret" + infinitive is formal. We use it to give bad news and to say sorry for a present situation.

Choose the correct answer:

1. I wish they would _____________ . I'm _________________.

A. stop to talk / try to read              B.   stop to talk / trying to read
C. stop talking / trying to read         D.  stop talking / trying reading

2.  I _______________.  I heard it was fun.

A. regret to go               B. regret going
C. regret not going         D. regret not to go

3. I _______________ an e-mail from her.

A. don't remember getting       B. don't remember to get
C. remember not to get           D. not remember getting

4.  The film is _______________ interesting.

A. start to get              B. starting getting
C. starting to get          D. start getting

5. Don't worry! I _________________ her a card.

A. didn't remember sending       B. didn't forget sending
C. didn't forget to send             D: remembered not send

6. _______________ it at a high temperature. That might work.

A. Try to wash            B. Don't try to wash
C. Try washing            D. Not try washing

7. We __________________ you that your application has been unsuccessful.

A. regret informing             B. regret to inform
C. don't regret inform         D. regret to not inform

8. When the Queen came out of the church,she ______________  to the cheering crowds. Some children gave her flowers.

A. stopped to chat            B. stopped chatting
C. stopped not chatting     D. stopped not to chat

9. Will you _____________ some milk on your way home?

A. remember buying      B. forget not to buy
C. forget not buying       D. remember to buy

10. The car _______________ a funny noise so I ________________ and _______________ where it was coming from.

A. started to make / stopped to drive / tried to find out   
B. started making / stopped driving / tried finding out
C. started to make / stopped driving / tried to find out
D started making / stopped to drive / tried finding out


Montse said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Graham said…

It is tricky and in theory, above your level but you have done an excellent job.

10 out of 10!
Anonymous said…
Hi Graham,

I've made the exercise about verbs patterns (gerund or infintive) and the reading about Zapatero posted by you recently. I'm not completely recovered from the cold yet. Don't be very hard this afternoon. See you later.

Graham said…
Hi Ángel,

We took it easy in class today, didn't we?

You should read the examples and do the exercises in the Gerund / Infinitive Tutorial - see under Grammar links on the left hand side of the blog.

I've DONE THE EXERCISE...... Have you done the Make/do exercise yet? (see labels)
Diana said…
Graham said…
Hi Diana,

Only two mistakes as far as I can see.

Nº4 c
Nº10 c

A piece of cake!
Hi Graham! Here are my answers:

1. C
2. C
3. A
4. C
5. B
6. C
7. B
8. A
9. D

Graham said…
Hi María,

5. C

I didn't forget to send her a card = 1/ I didn't forget (her birthday) and 2/ I sent her a card.

Apart from that, all correct. Well done!