like mowing the lawn?

English Grammar Tests, Elementary Level

ESL/EFL Test #192 [color=blue]“Verb Tense Practice (9)”, question 9

I like the lawn. I love the smell of fresh-cut grass.

(a) mow
(b) mows
(c) mowed
(d) mowing

English Grammar Tests, Elementary Level

ESL/EFL Test #192 [color=blue]“Verb Tense Practice (9)”, answer 9

I like mowing the lawn. I love the smell of fresh-cut grass.

Correct answer: (d) mowing

Your answer was: [color=red]incorrect
I like mow the lawn. I love the smell of fresh-cut grass.

Why is mowing the right choice?I thought it’s his habit

‘Like’ modifies the verb.

“like + ing” is used mostly to talk about enjoyment, and “like+ infinitive” mostly used to talk about choices and habits.

However, although he enjoys it, you could also say it is a habit, so you could use
I like to mow the lawn,
but that is not a choice in this particular test, because of the absence of the ‘to’

(the above is BrEng use. I have been told that in AmEng “like + infinitive” is usual for both.)

Hi Karimalajoy,

Some verbs are followed by either the infinitive or the gerund and ‘like’ is one of these verbs. Very broadly if you say: I like to do something, you are going on to talk about something specific/particular. If you say I like doing, you are talking about an activity in a general way.

Look at these two sentences:

I like to swim in the sea when it’s really hot.

I like many sports and I like swimming and playing tennis.


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I’m afraid that I have never run across an explanation of ‘specific’ vs ‘general’, and I would be interested in where you discovered that, Alan. I like swimming in the sea when it’s really hot (I do it quite often and at length) and I like to swim and play tennis are nowise less in use. Perhaps you are using different words but have the same viewpoint as Quirk et al?

Quirk et al spend a considerable space on this point (16.40) but do not mention specificity. Their take is one that I am more familiar with: that the infinitive gives a sense of potential for action while the participle gives a sense of the performance of the action. Below, some of their various comments on various verbs and structures (which I quote and paraphrase freely):

She tried to bribe the jailor– suggests that she attempted the act but did not succeed; it was only a potential bribe.
She tried bribing the jailor-- suggests that she actually accomplished it, though without the result desired.

  1. With emotive verbs (hate, like, love) the bias of the infinitive towards potential tends to favour its use in hypothetical contexts: I would love to see your stamp collection. But the participle is favoured where the action has happened: I loved seeing your stamp collection.

  2. Aspectual verbs of beginning, continuing and ending often take both constructions: I started writing / to write while I was in hospital, where there is no observable difference in meaning; but in other cases, a contrast between potential and performance may influence the choice:

He started to speak, but then thought better of it.
He started speaking, and didn’t stop for more than an hour

  1. With retrospective verbs (forget, remember, regret), the potentiality/performance distinction extends into the past so that there is a temporal/modal difference between the two constructions. The infinitive indicates that the action takes place after the mental process of the retrospective verb has begun: I remembered to fill out the form. Thus ‘to fill’ is a potential action at the time of remembrance.

Meanwhile, the participle refers to a preceding action coming to mind at the time of the retrospective verb: I remembered filling out the form. Here, the action was already performed at the time of the remembrance.

We know that there are many verbs that will take either structure; their respective meanings range from synonymous to quite different, but this dichotomy of potential vs kinetic seems to pervade all of them.

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Hi Charles,

I know we’ve met on this road before. As for ‘forget’ ‘remember’ ‘regret’ and ‘try’, they are special cases. I first came across this distinction almost 50 years ago in a grammar book called ‘Living English Structure’ by W Stannard Allen and I’ve been flogging this philosophy ever since.


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Thanks, Alan-- I’ll see if I can find a copy.

Well, I found a review of Allen’s book at AbeBooks:

Almost 45 years ago, me and some relatives had this book as a guide to learn pure and beautiful british English. We would appreciate if there is any hope to get it again. Unfortunately, anyone of us lost it and we all miss our key book.

Sounds pretty influential.

It seems that I had better results than you, Mister Micawber.
Living English Structure

Unfortunately every other page is missing, so I admit I may be taking this out of context, but in section 40 (Infinitive and Gerund) on page 187, Allen states:
"With a gerund, the affirmitive has the more general meaning of ‘I am fond of’; the negative expresses the speakers’ dislike.

So it seems to me on what I acknowledge is only a fleeting glance that I am in agreement with Allen when I say in post #2 above

But that simply refers to ‘like’. You would expect that anyhow with either gerund or infinitive.



My quote simply refers to ‘like’. Allen’s doesn’t.

So, why in that question I typed “mowing” and it says it is wrong? Just few minutes ago…
Thanks for your explanation

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