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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > I like to sing or I like singing?    

I like to sing or I like singing?


I like to sing or I like singing?
Hi everybody,
Can you tell me what the difference is between "I like to read" and "I like reading"?
Thanks in advance, Marion

25 Jan 2010      


According to Swan, I like + -ing=enjoy. (The infinitive is also possible with this meaning, esp. in American English.)
Like + infinitive = choose to, be in the habit of, think it right to.
Now let �s wait for PhilipR to tell us what Google Fight says. Wink

25 Jan 2010     


I like reading  = You have pleasure in doing that activity
I like to read  = You think it is a good thing to do
I like going to the dentist - You only go there with pleasure if the man is attractive and nice.
I like to go to the dentist -  The dentist may be handsome but you go there because you think is the right thing to do.
Until someone comes up with a better answer, I hope I was of some help.
Have a nice week!

25 Jan 2010     


Agreed with previous replies, Marion. I was also taught that I like+gerund is when you enjoy doing sth, whereas I like + infinitive is thinking it wise to do so.

25 Jan 2010     


Although I do agree with our good chum Swan, I think when it comes to daily activities such as eating, drinking and singing, there is hardly any difference between the 2 expressions anymore.

I suppose it makes sense when you compare �I like singing� vs. �I like to sing when I�m having a shower�. If you�d say �I like singing when I�m having a shower� this could mean you don�t like it when you�re walking in the rain. Wacko

As for going to the dentist, nobody likes that so both tancredo�s sentences above don �t prove much. On second thoughts, you could actually say �I like going to the dentist� if you enjoy pain (i.e. you�re a masochist). Cool

I thought it would be a 50-50 in Googlefight, but �like to sing� emerged as the winner by a clear margin. Not that this proves anything of course.

At your service. Wink

25 Jan 2010     

United States

There is another connotation of this:
One is active participation and the other is passive.

I like to sing - means that you like to actively participate.
I like singing - can also mean that you like to hear voices singing, but not necessarily doing the singing yourself.

25 Jan 2010     



Just my humble opinion, but I think both libertybelle and tancredo  have the most accurate and clear explanations, you should stick to them.
Approve     Regards

25 Jan 2010     


OK, it basically boils down to this...There isn �t a huge difference. I thought of what libertybelle wrote as well, especially in connection to singing but it doesn �t seem to go for, for example, eating...(who enjoys seeing someone else eat? - unless it is your underweight son)
The other explanation mentioned, of �enjoying � versus �think it prudent �, Hummm. Maybe more �being in the habit of � (basically because you enjoy it as well) such as; "I like to drink orange juice with my breakfast" or   "I like to sleep late on Saturdays...."
Could that be right?
Anyway, my beginner students of English as a very foreign language (EVFL ;) do not really need to be able to tell a real difference, am I correct?

25 Jan 2010     

United States


25 Jan 2010     

United States

Definitely correct. The generality of enjoyment vs. habit is true, but not a firm rule.
I like having my scalp massaged. - This is about enjoyment, and I can almost feel the fingers as I write it.
I like to have my scalp massaged, so I have a weekly appointment. - There is a slightly clinical feel to this one. The enjoyment is still there, but it isn �t the focus of the sentence.
As you said, the distinction is not at all necessary for beginners.

26 Jan 2010