He continued to talk and he continued talking



I know that some English verbs can be followed either by the -ing form or by the infinitive form, with a little difference in meaning though.

Could you tell me what is the difference between these two examples?

He continued to talk.

He continued talking.


Posted 2013-11-14T19:03:52.820

Reputation: 773


Possible duplicate of Infinitive form Vs. -ing form. Also see When should a verb be followed by a gerund instead of an infinitive? at EL&U.

– choster – 2013-11-19T23:25:41.767

2Hmm... I don't think the answer on the other question is applicable here. I'll vote Keep Open. – snailplane – 2013-11-19T23:57:37.453

@choster There are a lot of cases where both to+inf. and gerund are possible. The question you cite concerns a very different case, it isn't a duplicate. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' – 2013-11-20T13:13:42.833



  1. He stopped to talk means that he interrupted whatever he was doing at the time and began to talk. The infinitive expresses the purpose.

    He stopped talking on the other hand, has the opposite meaning. It means he didn't talk any more, he was silent.

  2. He went on to talk (about) This means the speaker changed the topic of discussion, and started a new one.

    He went on talking (about) here the speaker continued the action of talking, this might have included one or more interruptions however, the topic remained the same.

  3. He continued talking There are two possible interpretations; in the first, he talked virtually uninterrupted. In the second, despite being interrupted he kept on talking

    He continued to talk This means he talked continuously, and probably without any interruptions.

In other words, continue is one of those verbs that can be used with the infinitive or the gerund without any changing in meaning.

Verbs that take gerunds or infinitives without changing in meaning (as listed by Grammaring)


Go on is defined by the Free dictionary as To keep on doing (something): "Don't go on talking."

Continue TFD v.t. to go on with or persist in: "to continue reading".

Mari-Lou A

Posted 2013-11-14T19:03:52.820

Reputation: 19 962

@snailboat I had a different link (OWL purdue) then I changed my mind when I realized the list included verbs whose meanings changed. I forgot to edit the title. Will change it, thank you for pointing it out. As for VDO I imagine it means verbs acting as direct objects.

– Mari-Lou A – 2013-11-19T23:19:59.103

"Love" doesn't truly belong in the list. "I love skating" could mean as a spectator, whereas the wording "I love to skate" rules that out. – Kaz – 2013-11-20T02:17:28.853

@Kaz I disagree with you there. If you're a spectator you'd say: "I love watching football matches" If you enjoy playing the game, then "I love playing football" and "I love to play football" are both fine and mean virtually the same thing. You could argue that "I love to play football in the summer" fits better than "loving" but in speech the difference is negligible. – Mari-Lou A – 2013-11-20T09:00:10.390

1"I love watching" changes the verb to "to watch"; my comments are about "I love skating" and "I love to skate". If you love watching skating, you certainly have the option to express using nothing but "I love skating". It is ambiguous, requiring context. And that ambiguity is what makes it not have the same meaning as "I love to skate" which is not ambiguous. Based on this, I cannot conclude that "to love" belongs to the list verbs which give the same meaning to the forms "love to [verb]" and "love [verbing]". It belongs to a list of verbs which give different meanings, with overlap. – Kaz – 2013-11-20T17:03:02.373

1So only if I say: I love skating then it possibly means I watch it being performed? You can love a sport without necessarily having to do it. What about I love reading, and dancing, and painting, and drinking etc.? All those verbs can be used in the infinitive form after love with no change in meaning. "I love skating" in isolation is no different from "I love to skate", it is the context which determines whether it is a sport I do myself or if I limit myself to watching it. – Mari-Lou A – 2013-11-20T21:54:59.093


In this example, they mean the same thing. I'm hard pressed to think of a sentence where both are valid and where they mean different things, but I'm reluctant to say that as a 100% rule as I'm sure I can't think of every possible sentence.


Posted 2013-11-14T19:03:52.820

Reputation: 51 729

2I thought that they were something like "He stopped smoking" and "He stopped to smoke". Thanks. – jeysmith – 2013-11-14T21:19:24.880

“He isn't talking” and “he isn't to talk” also have different meanings. – Tyler James Young – 2013-11-14T21:53:11.447

2@jeysmith Hmm. Well, I suppose that it depends, then, on whether to can reasonably interpreted as in order to. Because that's the difference in your smoking example: "He stopped smoking" = "he no longer smoked." "He stopped to smoke" = "he stopped in order to/so that he could smoke". But in your talking example "He continued in order to/so that he could talk" doesn't really make sense. (For all I know I'm not making sense, but I'm trying to! :)) – WendiKidd – 2013-11-14T22:38:41.330

1@WendiKidd :-) Yes, I presume that "He continued in order to/so that he could talk" doesn't really make sense. I wrote that "unhealthy" example just because I know what is the actual difference between those two sentences, and I thought that there could be a subtle difference in meaning between "He continued to talk" and "He continued talking" that an English learner, as I am, couldn't get "at first sight". – jeysmith – 2013-11-14T23:21:25.600

1It's interesting how "He stopped to smoke" is ungrammatical if the intent is "he stopped smoking". It really looks as if this simply has to do with a restriction which is built into the verb "to stop". It doesn't have to do with the possibility that "to stop" can be intransitive, because "to continue" can also be intransitive. It also doesn't have to do with the semantics of "to stop" denoting a discontinuation of activity, because the grammar "he ceased to smoke" is permissible. – Kaz – 2013-11-15T02:05:11.870

2Basically the pattern "to stop to [verb]" is specially reserved to mean to stop (intransitively) so that to be able to [verb]. It applies to some other words, like "to pause": to pause thinking versus to pause to think. – Kaz – 2013-11-15T02:08:43.277

Yes, what Kaz says is right. Complements are licensed by their head, and stop licenses smoking but not to smoke. You can use to smoke, but as an adjunct rather than a complement. Unfortunately, you have to memorize which verbs license which kinds of complements. – snailplane – 2013-11-15T14:41:38.187

When I said I couldn't think of counter-examples, perhaps I should have been more clear. I was thinking of constructions using "continued" or other words indicating "doing this in some manner", like "tried" or "enjoyed", maybe "feigned". But yeah, with "stopped" they have totally different meanings, arguably an idiom. – Jay – 2013-11-15T18:41:02.730

There are many verbs where one or the other form would not be valid. Like, "He denied cheating", but "He denied to cheat"? not grammatical. "He pretended to care", yes, but "He pretended caring", no. – Jay – 2013-11-15T18:44:50.963

2And it occurs to me, there are cases where the meaning could be opposite. Like, "He deserved to kill": he had the right to kill others. "He deserved killing": his crimes called for the death penalty. – Jay – 2013-11-15T18:47:08.173

1@jeysmith Ooh, good point. In, "He loved to smoke", "to smoke" is an infinitive. But in, "He stopped to smoke", "to smoke" is a prepositional phrase. The two sentences look alike but really we're using the word "to" with two completely different meanings. In another language which does not use the same word both as the infinitive indicator and as a preposition, this issue would not exist. – Jay – 2013-11-15T18:51:48.877

@Jay Yes, I've understood. It's just this kind of issues (as well as all that concerning phrasal verbs and prepositions) that freaks an English learner out :-) – jeysmith – 2013-11-15T21:56:31.767

1In "He stopped to smoke", "to smoke" is an infinitive. The difference is not in the meaning of to, but whether the phrase is an adjunct or a complement. – snailplane – 2013-11-19T22:22:38.307


I agree with Jay. Deciding whether to use talk or talking in this sentence has more to do with the flow or sound of the statement. Talk sounds more abrupt,then,"He continued talking". You may not like it when, He continued to talk. He continued talking, sounds friendlier.


Posted 2013-11-14T19:03:52.820

Reputation: 9


He continued talking could mean he never stopped. He continued to talk implies to me there was a pause, and then he started talking again.


Posted 2013-11-14T19:03:52.820

Reputation: 113

Hmm. Interesting thought, but I think either could be used either way. He took a drink of water, then continued to talk is just as acceptable as He took a drink of water, then continued talking ("there was a pause, and then he started talking again"). Similarly, Without so much as taking a breath, he continued talking is no different than Without so much as taking a breath, he continued to talk ("he kept talking without stopping"). So I don't think there's really a distinction between the two; either meaning could be inferred from context for either talking or to talk. – WendiKidd – 2013-11-15T22:49:41.900