One of the most common questions I get with English grammar is this: Is there any difference between I love eating cake and I love to eat cake?

The 2 verb combinations are something that English learners have to learn and remember. For example with these sentences:

We decided to go to Italy

We pretend to go to Italy 

We are expecting to go to Italy next week

We failed to go to Italy last week.

The first verb (decide, pretend, expect, fail) is forcing us to use the infinitive ‘to go.’ It doesn’t matter which tense the first verb is, the second verb will always be the to infinitive.

However some verbs, for example:

We anticipate going to Italy

We are considering going to Italy

We enjoy going to Italy

We postponed going to Italy.

In these sentences, the main verb is forcing us to use the gerund (-ing form) of the verb ‘go.’ Again it doesn’t matter the tense of the first verb, the second verb will always be in -ing form. See this page for more examples

But wait….

What about love, like, hate and prefer….?

Love plus to-infinitive or -ing?

Love + another verb can be both to-infintive and -ing form. 

I love to swim and I love swimming has almost no difference in meaning at all.

Swan (Practical English Usage) says love/like + to infinitive suggests choices and habits. So for example:

I love to put cream in my coffee (that’s my choice or my habit) I love putting cream in my coffee (I enjoy the experience of cream in my coffee) But the difference is really unnoticeable because with both sentences we know – you love your coffee with cream!

The same thing with like, hate and prefer. I like to go for a walk on Tuesdays, and I like going for a walk on Tuesdays mean the same.

I hate to cook dinner, I prefer to eat out and I hate cooking dinner, I prefer eating out. Both sentences mean the same, although we tend to use -ing with hate more often.

  Emphasis on choice or habit Emphasis on enjoyment or experience
love I love to eat cake I love eating cake
hate I hate to walk *not common I hate walking
like I like to swim I like swimming
prefer I prefer to cycle I prefer cycling


I’m loving it

Many grammar books will tell you it’s incorrect to use the stative verbs love, like, hate and prefer in -ing form themselves. But times change and in English they change fast. These days the sentence I’m loving coffee with cream means it’s a person’s current preference, something they’re doing often, or something that’s becoming a habit – as with other present continuous verbs, it’s something that’s happening now.

I’m loving wearing jeans and high heels at the moment. 

I’m liking sesame ice cream this summer. 

I’m hating that new song by Justin Bieber.

I’m preferring red socks to blue at the moment. 

Of all these constructions, I’m loving is the most common, but they are all still informal language. In exams stick with I love it!

Love on/ hate on

English speakers just love phrasal verbs, and we make them up continuously! Love on, and hate on, are becoming popular recently. To love on means to show love, support, and care in a platonic way (not sexual) especially in a public way.

When you’re starting a new community, support your members and love on them 

Hate on, of course, means the opposite – to show hate, to insult, criticise, or ridicule, especially in public.

Stop hating on him, he is my friend.

It’s interesting that both love on and hate on have a feeling of making your feelings public – you show you’re loving on someone by your public actions and words – and the same for hate on.

I would love it

Be careful with would + love, like, hate or prefer. These verbs nearly always take the to-infinitive.

I would love to go to the park

I would like to put cream in my coffee

I would hate to be shorter

I would prefer to go before Sunday

What do you think? Do you have any questions about love and hate? Ask me below!


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