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Learn to Write English Clearly and Correctly

Set 5 - Lesson 22 ( Go to the Answer Key )


Lesson 22 : English Verb Pairs - When to Use the -ING Form and When to Use the TO Form



Why do we say 'finished cooking' with the second verb in the "ing" form, but 'decided to order' with the second verb being in the Infinitive (to) form?    When two English verbs are used together in a sentence, the second verb will either be an -ing form or an infinitive form (to + verb). Regardless of the reason for this,  it is essential to know which  verbs use which form.  The examples below are only a sample of the possibilities.

Need -ing verbs Example
imagine Can you imagine owning a Porsche
admit Henry admitted robbing the store.
finish I am almost finished cooking dinner.
risk Investors risk losing their money.
practice Ellen practices singing every day.
delay Don't delay sending your payment.
consider Will you consider staying home?
deny Fred denied cheating on the test.
involve The contest involved writing an essay.
stop Please stop kicking my chair.
postpone Mary postponed having the party.
avoid Sam avoided signing the contract.
miss I miss playing tennis in the summer.
put off Many kids put off taking their baths.
carry on We must carry on doing the right thing.
give up You should give up smoking today.













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Use TO + verb Example
offer Did you offer to mow the grass?
promise Politicians promise to fix our problems.
hope Inga hoped to enter the Olympics.
afford Bob could not afford to miss work.
fail David failed to stop for the red light.
decide The driver decided to change lanes.
aim We aim to earn much money next year.
learn Joe will learn to type someday.
deserve Mikie deserves to have a treat.
plan Roy plans to retire early.
arrange They arranged to fly home.
attempt Don't attempt to get out of bed yet.
manage Can you manage to climb the ladder?
forget Will Sally forget to bring a salad?
refuse Willy refused to finish his vegetables.
threaten The man on the roof threatened to jump













People who grow up in English-speaking countries seem to learn these patterns without knowing that they have learned them.  They just know that some things 'sound right' and other things do not.  If you have grown up speaking another language, then each one of these verbs will be a problem because there is no pattern or system to learn.  Every example must be memorized.  However, the more you read and listen to English, the closer you will come to being able to 'feel' which form is correct.  Practice, practice, practice.


Exercise A: Circle the correct verb form in the following sentences.

1. Grace could not imagine (to wear) (wearing) her hair in curlers when she left the house.

2. Mark agreed (to wash) (washing) the dishes after supper.

3. Most hikers avoid (to walk) (walking) in bare feet.

4. The store manager offered (to pay) (paying) for the Christmas party.

5. A nurse should not fail (to give) (giving) the correct medicine to her patients.

6. Betty's new job involved (to lift) (lifting) heavy boxes.

7. Jim's little brother admitted (to break) (breaking) the model airplane.

8. Have you decided (to go) (going) fishing with us?

9. Mother said, "Will you please stop (to slurp) (slurping) your soup!"

10. The little old lady attempted (to cross) (crossing) the busy highway on foot.

Exercise B: Think of three verbs that could be used with each of the verbs in the left column.  Write the verbs you think of in the boxes opposite the first word.  Put them in their proper form (-ing or to -).

Example:  They deny dropping closing seeing
Example: They plan to arrive to buy to drink
1. threaten +      
2. hope +      
3. risk +      
4. offer +      
5. forget +      
6. miss +      
7. finish +      
8. admit +      
9. promise +      
10. refuse +      

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Examination: Put a correct verb form in the blanks in the following sentences.  The answers may vary.

1. Donald managed ___________________ the difficult problem.

2. The baseball player stopped __________________________ on the ground during the games.

3. The doctor decided ________________________the operation before it was too late.

4. Many drivers forget __________________________ before they turn right.

5. One should not delay ___________________________ a doctor after an automobile accident.

6. Can you afford _____________________________ a new car this year?

7. When will you finish ___________________________ the walls?

8. The old man offered ___________________________ my windshield while I waited for the traffic light to change.

9. Can you imagine __________________________ in an old castle during the winter?

10. Parents often wonder if their children will ever learn ______________________ their own shoes.


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