"He likes swimming" or "He likes to swim"?

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One can say: He likes swimming or He likes to swim. What is the exact meaning of each of these? What is the difference?

Trident D'Gao

Posted 2013-02-05T01:10:38.697

Reputation: 1 503

Answers

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The two are often interchangeable but not always. While he likes to swim always means that he enjoys propelling himself through the water using his own body power, he likes swimming could also be used if he enjoys watching it as a spectator:

"The Olympics are on- we could watch swimming or running. Isn't Bill coming over? He likes swimming, so we should watch that."

Jim

Posted 2013-02-05T01:10:38.697

Reputation: 8 476

3Smart distinction. I hadn't thought of that. – temporary_user_name – 2013-02-05T02:46:04.143

That sentence isn't ambiguous, though. Rather, there are two sentences and they have distinct structures. In one sentence swimming is the verb of an object gerund clause with he understood as its subject, and in the other it's a noun like golf or football. Naturally, the two sentences don't mean the same thing. – John Lawler – 2016-07-30T16:58:17.740

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The two are interchangeable. "He likes swimming" means "He likes the act of going to swim." They mean the same thing and you can say either.

WendiKidd

Posted 2013-02-05T01:10:38.697

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There is an interesting commentary on the similarities and differences between like + gerund and like + infinitive here. I have not yet finished digesting it but there is definitely some food for thought there, for both EFL teachers and students on this issue.

Shawn Mooney

Posted 2013-02-05T01:10:38.697

Reputation: 1 808