I like doing something and I like to do something.

Hello everyone. I hope that everyone is all right and doing fine. Ok, well, I have a question about the verb (like)!! As we know, there are a lot of usages for this verb such as:
(Like doing something) and (like to do something).
Here are some examples:
• I don’t like talking in public.
• He’s never liked talking about people behind their backs.
• She doesn’t like to swear in front of the children.
I would like to ask the following:
What are the differences between (like doing something) and (like to do something)?
As a beginner in English language, I really don’t know how to differentiate them!!
Would anyone please explain that to me?
I appreciate your help.

Thanks in advance.

Hi Helmey,

You’re asking pretty good questions for “a beginner in English” :wink:

Basically, I’d say that Americans tend to use sentence constructions such as ‘He likes to help people’ more often than speakers of British English who would more likely say ‘He likes helping people’. But since I’m not American, it would be good to hear someone from overseas here.

To me, the verb ‘like’ usually triggers an -ing form.

Joe likes playing football

Jim and Jane like watching thrillers.

Jack’s brother’s dog Jed likes chewing on bones.

Other verbs that express likes/dislikes and that are usually followed by a gerund are i.e. ‘love’ ‘hate’, ‘enjoy’ etc

Hi Ralf.

Thanks a lot for replying my post and I really appreciate your help. I’m glad that I’m a member in here and I can learn a lot from you.

In my humble opinion, “like doing something” refers to a permanent hobby while “like to do something” implies a temporary interest in a particular situation. For example:

  1. Joe likes playing football. (permanent hobby)

  2. Joe likes to play football with Tim because Tim is his best friend. (When Tim is no longer Joe’s best friend, Joe won’t like to play football with Tim, so it’s just his temporary interest not permanent hobby)

My teacher taught me that but I’m not sure if he’s correct. Can any native speaker shed more light on this?

P/S: There’s also a similar thread on a different forum. Perhaps it can be used as a reference: usingenglish.com/forum/ask-t … erund.html


I think the subject has been well aired. The only distinction I would make is that the infinitive is more specific and the ‘ing’ form is more general. There is a famous line from Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet about the nature of life:

, which clearly wouldn’t work if that were ‘being’ instead. Another example can be seen after the verb ‘hate’. One way of apologising is to introduce your interruption with this verb as in: I hate to interrupt you but I think you are wrong. This is ‘interrupt’ on a specific occasion. Whereas if you say: I hate interrupting people when they are talking, you are expressing a general ‘hate’.


I agree with Alan’s take on the usage, and would also like to add that I’m not aware of a significant difference in usage between AmE and BE. I suppose that might be interesting (for some) to research, though.

You can say ‘I like doing something’ or ‘I like to do something’. Often it doesn’t matter which you use, so you can say:
I like getting up early. or I like to get up early.
In British English, there is sometimes a difference between ‘I like doing’ and ‘I like to do’
‘I like doing something’ means ‘I enjoy it’
Do you like cooking?
I like living here.
‘I like to do something’ means ‘I think it is good or right to do it’
I like to clean the kitchen as often as possible.
Mary like people to be in time.