Saturday, December 8

Stop Smoking or Stop to Smoke? (Gerund vs. Infinitive)

Are you a smoker? Have you ever tried quitting? Do you have any plans to quit?

image courtesy of stock.xhng

Here’s a quote from Mark Twain, the American writer who brought us the novels Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He wrote this about smoking:

Quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it hundreds of times.”


But, no matter how hard it is to break this habit, you should know how to talk about the act of quitting.

Should we say: Stop smoking or Stop to smoke?

Stop + Ving vs. Stop + to V:
What’s the Difference?  

There’s a big difference between these two forms.

In fact, when you say “stop smoking,” you mean this:

while when you say “stop to smoke,” you mean this:

As you can see from our pictures (I drew them by myself by the way ;-) when you say “stop smoking,” your actions are: (1) smoke, (2) smoke, (3) stop.

On the other hand, in the case of “stop to smoke,” your actions are: (1) walk, (2) stop, (3) smoke.

The Gerund

So, if you are a smoker and you are planning to quit, the structure V + Ving is what you need.


I wanna stop smoking.

And if you want to use Verbs with a similar meaning:

quit, give up, finish

they will usually take the Ving (Gerund) as well. Like this:

quit eating fast food

give up looking for an apartment

finish writing the email

This is their meaning:

  • Stop smoking

     First, smoke, then >>> stop

  • Quit eating fast food

     First, eat, then >>> quit

  • Give up looking for an apartment

     First, look, then >>> give up

  • Finish writing the email 

     First, write, then >>> finish

The Infinitive

Stop to smoke.

First, you are walking. Then you stop. And finally, you smoke.

This meaning is also similar to that of other Verbs in English. For example, these Verbs:

plan, decide, hope, promise, agree, etc.

they are often followed by To V, not Ving. Like this:

plan to travel

decide to join

hope to visit

promise to meet

agree to buy

In other words, the action in the Infinitive form tends to be abstract or future.

Take a look:

  • Stop to smoke 

     First, stop, then >>> smoke

  • Plan to travel 

     First, plan, then >>> travel

  • Decide to join 

     First, decide, then >>> join

  • Hope to visit 

     First, hope, then >>> visit

  • Promise to meet 

     First, promise, then >>> meet

  • Agree to buy 

     First, agree, then >>> buy


In the topic of Gerunds and Infinitives, there are actually 4 different groups of Verbs in English. We’ve already studied the first two:

(1) Verbs usually followed by Ving

(2) Verbs usually followed by To V

Here are the other two:

(3) Verbs usually followed by either Ving or To V and with the same meaning

Ex. like, love, hate, begin, start, continue etc.

(4) Verbs usually followed by either Ving or To V with a difference in meaning

Ex. regret, remember, go on etc.

The most confusing part for learners is how to know which Verbs will be followed by an Infinitive or a Gerund, or both.

The rule that we mentioned above is only a small part of a bigger lesson. Of course there will be exceptions or situations where the rule doesn't work. 

In the end, the best way to learn Infinitives and Gerunds is to memorize many words in each group, not one by one. Please find lists of them in your grammar book, then you should learn them like Vocabulary – memorize a lot and fast.

I leave it to you to find out what other words belong to each group. Good luck!

Hope you learned something!

Keep on learning !

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