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Consecutive verbs in English

What structure to use when one verb directly follows another? When to use an -ing form, and when to use an infinitive

On this page:  Gerund or infinitive? Alphabetical table of verbs
Consecutive verbs, also called catenative verbs or linked verbs, are verbs that can be followed directly by a second verb, the second verb being normally the object of the first. Depending on the first verb used, the second verb will be in the form of a gerund (-ing form) or of an infinitive with to. With a few verbs, there is a choice of structures; with most there is no choice.
While the definition of "consecutive verbs" applies also to auxiliaries and modal verbs, these are used differently, so are best considered as separate categories.  These are treated on their own pages: See be, have, get and modal auxiliaries of obligation or possibility.
Check what you already know:  Infinitive or gerund quiz

1. Gerund or infinitive ?  The main principles

Many learners of English have difficulty knowing whether the second verb in a linked verb pair should be a gerund in -ing, or an infinitive with to. As these common examples show, different verbs use different structures.
   I want to learn English fast ! (with want a full infinitive is required)
   I keep getting confused by this question ! (with keep a gerund is required
   I love meeting my friends in the café after work !
   I love to meet my friends in the café after work ! (with love either a gerund or a full infinitive can be used)
Confused ?  That's understandable!  But luckily there are a couple of general principles that will help you know which structure to use.
  • Type 1 verbs : When the first verb is prospective, i.e. it looks (or looked)  towards the future, the second verb is the consequence or follow-on of the first verb. In this case the second verb can almost always – and with many verbs must – be used in the form of an infinitive with to: sample verbs: ask,  decide, expect, hope, intend, need, plan, promise, want,
   The secretary asked to go home early
   I decided to take the train instead of the car.
   I expect to be home late tonight.
   I intend to buy a new car some time this year.
   We need to go to the supermarket before it shuts.
   They plan to open three new shops in London this year.
   I promise not to tell anyone !
   I want to learn English fast ! 
  • Type 2 verbs. When the first verb expresses an emotion, a permanence, or a principle, the second verb is most likely to be in the form of a gerund.  Sample verbs : be afraid/tired of ... etc , can't stand, detest, dislike, enjoy, hate, keep,  keep on, like, love,
   The secretary was tired of working late every evening.
   I can't stand listening to that man hour after hour !
   He detests / hates / loves  getting up early in the morning.
   I very much dislike having to tell you everything three times !
   The children really enjoy going to see their grandparents.
   Doctor, I keep getting this terrible pain in my arm !
   He kept on reading until he went to sleep.  
  • Other verbs.  Not all consecutive verbs are type 1 or type 2. Several other consecutive or catenative verbs do not fit into either of these types. There are also verbs of obligation or prevention, and causative verbs, which are not really consecutive verbs, as the two verbs are always separated in active structures by a noun or pronoun.  See  verbs of authority 
  • Infinitive without to ?  No ! Let's not make things complicated! Unlike modals (will, can etc.), and with one exception, consecutive verbs are never followed by a short infinitive without to !  The exception is let, which has to be followed by a short infinitive. But apart from a few idiomatic phrases such as Don't let golet is not a consecutive verb, and cannot be directly followed by a second verb.  Just a few other verbs can be used consecutively and followed by a short infinitive without to  (dare, help, go ...) but this is optional, an exception to the rule, not another structure.
  • IMPORTANT ! Non-consecutive verbs.  There are a lot more verbs which, in the passive, can be directly followed by a second verb, just like those consecutive verbs that can be used in the passive.
    Examples: I was told to go home  
    or  My brother was taught to speak English by Mrs. Jones .
    or  He was believed to be in New York at the time
    or  The child was seen getting into a black car
    However in active statements, the two verbs must be separated by at least a noun or pronoun
    Examples: The boss told me to go home  
    or  Mrs. Jones taught my brother to speak English.
    or People believed him to be in New York at the time.
    or Someone saw the child getting into a black car.
    Verbs that are used like this are not consecutive verbs, but normal (non-consecutive) verbs followed by an infinitive phrase or a gerund phrase.

2. Alphabetical list of 80 common consecutive verbs

  • Note that apart from allow, used as an example, the table below does not include verbs of authority (permit, forbid, let ), modal verbs, or non-consecutive verbs.

In this table, each verb is listed in the form of a short and realistic example.  

Verb, in sample form Type followed by a gerund (-ing). followed by an infinitive with to. Notes
He admitted doing it  or  to doing it
He advised 1 taking the train. us to take the train Depends on the structure
I can afford 1 (rare) to buy a new car Gerund sometimes used in negative structures
I agreed 1 to meet him at 8.
I aim 1 to finish on time
I allow 1 you to go home now. Cannot be used consecutively in the active.  A second subject is essential
I appreciate 2 being here.
I arranged 1 to meet him.
She asked 1 to go home.
She attempted 1 to hide.
I avoid 2 travelling on busy days
I can't bear 2 living in London to be without you. Slightly different meanings.
He begged 1 to stay.
I begin (rare) to understand.
He didn't bother telling anyone to tell anyone. Either structure possible
I choose 1 to remain silent.
She completed filling in the form.
She consented to marry him.
She considered going to South Africa.
He continued 2 living in London to live in London. The same meaning.
   But !!   He went on 2 living in London to live in London. Take care! Two different meanings
He dares 1 to argue with me. or: argue with me.
He decided 1 to stop smoking.
I delayed going to New York.
To deny having been present.
He deserves 1 to be punished.
I detest 2 eating fish.
I dislike 2 eating fish.
I enjoy 2 eating fish.
I expect 1 to win first prize.
He failed to win a prize.
He finished building the wall.
She forget to say she was gloing home.
I am going 1 swimming. to swim. Take care! Slightly different meanings 
He happened to hear her.
He helped to paint the garage. Take care!  Also ..paint the garage.
   I couldn't help hearing what you said.
Take care!
I hesitate 1 to do that.
I hope 1 to be there
He imagined 2 living in Tahiti.
I intend 1 to be there.
He will learn

to speak English
I like or love 2 being with you to be with you Either structure possible
   But !!   I would like 2 living in London
to live in London. Take care! Slightly different meanings 
I long 1 to be with you.
It means 2 starting again. Take care! in the sense of implies
He means 1
to start again Take care! in the sense of plans
I don't mind 2 living in London.
I miss 2 seeing you.
He neglected to say he was going out.
He offered 1 to help
I plan 1 being here by 8. to be here by 8. The gerund form is not common
She practiced singing all day.
I prefer 2 living here to go by train.
They prepared 1 to welcome the Queen.
I pretended to laugh.
She proceeded (went on) 1 to win the match.
I promise 1 to be good.
I propose 1 staying here to go home. Depends on the context.
I recall  living in London.
I recommend seeing this film you to see this film Depends on the context.
He refused 1 to change his mind.
I remembered living in London. to shut the door. Take care! Different meanings.
I regret 2 having done that.
I resumed reading my book.
She risked being seen.
It seems to be OK.
I can't stand 2 living in London.
I started reading. to read. Either structure possible
I stopped reading. to have a drink. Take care! Two different meanings
I suggest going home now.
I swear 1 to tell the truth.
I tend to agree with you.
He threatened 1 to hit me.
Will you try opening this for me! to open it ? Slightly different meanings
He undertakes 1 to finish it by midnight.
I'm waiting 1 to go home.
I want 2 to go home.
I wish 2 to go home.
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