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At a further education course for teachers, in Switzerland, (given by two native speakers of English), someone came up with the question of whether you could say "dislike doing something" and "dislike to do something", just as you can say "like doing something" and "like to do somehting".

The answer was you could not, and that it was a question of usage. Period!/Full stop!

Just learn this by heart and stop asking silly questions!

Will keeping your whys to yourself make you… wise?!

  • 2
    Teachers still do that 'just because' thing, even when teaching teachers? Did they also say 'the bell is for me, not for you'? ;) – Frank May 26 '14 at 7:06
  • How rule-o-phobic native speakers of English can be always gets me! – user58319 May 26 '14 at 10:05
  • @Frank: from "something rings a bell"? You are right, the bell was not for Pavlov's dog either: but when properly taught, when the conditioned reflex linking the bell and the presentation of dog food had been wired into place, the dog dribbled alright. – user58319 May 26 '14 at 10:18
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    @Frank: from "stay behind" (browsed the Internet). I was way off the mark. Still, I believe that telling people studying a foreign language, that one structure feels better than the other is of no help, if you do not say what this feeling is based on, the subconscious reasoning that makes you lean one way or the other. – user58319 May 26 '14 at 11:45
  • Sadly, very often, there is no answer to questions like this. I doubt anyone knows (or really noticed, as it was happening) why dislike to do fell out of favour 100 years ago. It just happened. People gradually stopped using that construction, for no particular reason. There's nothing whatsoever in grammar, semantics, morphology, phonology, or any other formal aspect of the English language that gives any support for dislike to being disallowed… only the actual practice of the speakers prove that it just simply isn't used. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 26 '14 at 18:13
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"'to do' something" and "doing something" are functionally equivalent in this case. The former is the infinitive, and the latter is the gerund form. Both work, whether preceded by "like" or "dislike".

1) I like doing something.

2) I like to do something.

3) I dislike doing something.

4) I dislike to do something.

The last example (dislike +inf.) is awkward and rarely used, but still grammatically correct.

Just don't say:

I like to doing something

  • Can you please cite a source for I dislike to do? I believe you are incorrect here. – anongoodnurse May 26 '14 at 7:23
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    I want to do something ==structurally equiv== I dislike to do something. "I want eating durian" is an unusual but not impossible situation. Similarly, "I dislike to eat durian" may be an unusual but not impossible occurrence. – Blessed Geek May 26 '14 at 7:34
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    @medica This Ngram shows that dislike to, while currently vanishingly rare (and I would add ungrammatical to most), used to have at least some currency up until the beginning of the 20th century. For current English, though, I quite agree that dislike with an infinitive is highly unidiomatic, and using it will mark you as a non-native speaker. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 26 '14 at 7:45
  • "Brand" you as a non-native speaker would be more adequate! – user58319 May 26 '14 at 11:13
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To me it is related to a notion of frequency. "I like to do sports" is something I like to do on a regular basis. Obviously, if I dislike doing something (in general), I am not about to repeat the occurrence of it.

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There is a specific rule that differentiates the meaning of the two versions. I have the feeling I remember (sorry, my grammar lessons in London were more than 30 years ago) that it depends on what in the sentence we give more importance to. So, if 'I like gardening', to me it's 'gardening' the part of the sentence I want to stress the importance of. if 'I like to swim', I give more importance to myself, that is to 'I like'.

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Of course, I don't think it will!

The difference of meaning between "to like doing something" and "to like to do something" is that the infinitive structure adds the idea of choice to the one of simply liking something. "I like skiing." versus "I like to ski in powder snow in the early morning.": the second sentence means that I like skiing and that, for my greater enjoyment, I choose to go and ski in the early morning when it has just snowed.

So, of course, if you dislike something, then you are not going to choose when or how you are going to do it for your greater enjoyment… that would be absurd!

There IS an explanation, see…

  • 'I like skiing in powder snow in the early morning' and 'I like to ski in powder snow in the early morning' are the same. – njboot May 26 '14 at 7:05

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