IELTS writing – ‘to’ and ‘-ing’s

‘To’ and ‘—ing’ verbs

English verbs can be complicated, but they needn’t be.  It just takes practice, and that’s where writing comes in.  The more you practice writing verbs, keeping lists and experimenting with new sentences, the easier you will find them when using English for your essays or IELTS exams.

ing grammar english

Take for instance when we use two verbs together.  It seems difficult, but through practice you’ll get to know how to use the different forms.  In the first form the second verb is called ‘the infinitive’, and in this case we use the word ‘to’ to connect the two verbs together.  Here’s a few examples:

I can’t wait to see you again.

He intends to finish his assignment next week.

In other examples the second verb contains the ‘–ing’ form.  Here are some examples of those:

They recommended spending more money.

Experts suggest finding new sources of funding.

If you read these you’ll notice that some of these verbs can be made into both forms – the ‘to’ and ‘—ing’.  In this example the meaning doesn’t change too much:

He intended to finish his assignment next week.

He intends finishing his assignment next week.

In other examples the meaning might be quite different.  Consider these two sentences:

They stopped waiting (‘they stopped waiting [and left or did something else]’).

They stopped to wait (‘they stopped in order to wait’).

Here both sentences are grammatically correct, but the meanings are very different.  In this example it’s important to get the right verb form; in other examples it doesn’t matter too much.

How to remember which to use?

Unfortunately, there are no easy ways to remember.  You just have to practice using them both, and with practice you’ll get better at remembering the best form for each sentence.

Some examples of the ‘to’ verbs:

  • Intend
  • Attempt
  • Plan
  • Trial
  • Claim
  • Seem
  • Offer

Here are a few of the ‘–ing’ verbs:

  • Enjoy
  • Carry on
  • Remember
  • Think about
  • Consider
  • Involve
  • Appreciate

Exercise to practice

To help hone your skills, try to pick the incorrect verb in each of the sentences.  When you’ve finished, see if you can rewrite the sentence with the incorrect verb (that might involve changing the ‘—ing’ to the ‘to’ form, or vice versa).

The new movie is …. to screen at the cinema this week.

(scheduled, delayed, advertised)

We …. to edit the chapter by ourselves.

(think about, want, plan)

My boss … increasing my days off at work

(undertook, suggested, recommended)

We already …. to meet each other after work.

(hope, involve, arranged)

The government  … to pay the worker’s salaries.

(forgot, intended, suspend)

Practice, practice, practice…

If you’re still worried about your use of English verbs after this, don’t work.  Practice will certainly help.

It might be good to know that even native English speakers don’t always get it right.  But if you want to improve your English to a level 9 in the speaking test, it sure helps paying attention to these different verb forms.

learn english through tv

When listening to movies, news reports or interviews with native English speakers, try to pay attention to these two different verb forms.  This will help you become a natural in no time!

The End of the World

A Short Listening Exercise

News reports are excellent resources for sharpening your listening skills, especially when they cover strange or very local events.  Watch the following news report about the predicted end of the world, and see if you can answer the questions below.

Useful phrases / words:

  • Much vaunted – talked about by lots of people, in anticipation of something big
  • Materialise – appear or occur
  • Flocking – people or animals (especially birds) gathering together
  • Winter solstice – the longest day of the year in Europe
  • Druids – ancient people from the UK
  • Anti-climax – disappointing
  • Whisk to safety – take someone away to protect them
  • New age – people who believe in new forms of spirituality
  • Sacred site – a place of sacred significance


  1. How many people turned up last year?
  2. Which two groups of people believe in cycles of time?
  3. What did the Druid in the interview wish for in the new age?
  4. Where did the two ceremonies take place?
  5. At the very end of the report, what does the presenter mean by the phrase ‘we’ve had some pretty apocalyptic rain’?

Extra writing challenge. 

In 100 words or less in the comments section, explain why you think some people believe in the end of the world?