Verb patterns (to+inf and gerunds)

What do we mean by verb patterns?

When we use two main verbs together they make a verb pattern. For example:

  • I enjoy skiing.

  • I wanted to go to the cinema.

How many patterns are there?

There are two main patterns.

Pattern 1

The first verb is followed by a to + inf form.

  • I arranged to meet Rachel at the cinema.

Pattern 2

The first verb is followed by an ‘ing form (a gerund).

  • I avoid driving in the snow.

Other patterns

There are also some other patterns, for example some verbs such as let are followed by a bare infinitive (without to).

  • When I was a child my parents let me play outside until it was dark.

Sometimes the first verb is followed by an object before the second verb.

  • He wanted me to buy the picture.

How can I practice this?

This is the million dollar question! There aren’t any rules to help with this topic. You just have to do the following:

  1. Know that there are different patterns.

  2. Check a dictionary any time you are not sure about the pattern.

Here is a link to the entry for the word enjoy in the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. This shows that if the word enjoy is followed by a verb that verb takes the ‘ing form.

Is there anything else I should know?

Yes. Some verbs have more than one pattern. You can find explanations about these in your coursebook or in a good dictionary.

Tips from the teacher

Here are my two main tips

  1. Many of my students overuse the to+inf form. They seem to forget about the verbs that are followed by the ‘ing form. These include verbs such as, enjoy, imagine, recommend and avoid.

  2. Remember that verbs can also be followed by other types of word. Sometimes it is simpler to avoid using a second verb! For example:

  • · He recommended reading the book. (verb + verb +noun)

  • · He recommended the book. (verb + noun)

Other resources

Quizlet is a brilliant resource for practising this topic. Check out the lists I've created on Quizlet for verb patterns. Remember you can copy the lists and add your own words.

This is for beginners

This is for intermediate students.