-ing form or infinitive – part II

See, watch and hear

After these verbs, an -ing form refers to an action in progress. An infinitive refers to a completed action. Note that these verbs are followed by an infinitive without to.

  • When I looked out, I saw him crossing the road. (He was in the middle of the action.)
  • I saw him get off the bus, cross the road and disappear in the crowd. (I watched the whole action.)


Try + -ing form is used to talk about making an experiment.

  • ‘Susie is in a foul mood.’ ‘Try sending her some flowers.’

Try + infinitive is used to talk about making an effort to do something difficult.

  • I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t.

Like, love, hate and prefer

After these four verbs, infinitives and -ing forms have similar meanings.

  • I like reading detective novels.
  • I like to read detective novels.
  • I hate working late in the evening.
  • I hate to work late in the evening.

After would like, would love, would prefer and would hate, infinitives are more common than -ing forms.

  • I would like to know what my duty is. (NOT I would like knowing what my duty is.)


Afraid of + -ing form is used to talk about fear of things that happen accidentally.

  • I didn’t make any noise, because I was afraid of waking the children.

In other cases afraid can be followed by an infinitive or -ing form with no difference in meaning.

  • I am not afraid of telling the truth. OR I am not afraid to tell the truth.