Which is correct? I like buying new gadgets. or I like to buy new gadgets.

If both are correct then what is the difference between them?

  • (a) they're both right. Neither is better than the other. (b) in this case, there is no difference in meaning between them. The reason for all this is that the verb like can take both gerund complements (I like skiing) and infinitive complements (I like to ski). Complement meanings, and potential differences, are determined by the matrix predicate (in this case the verb like). Change the verb and you change the grammar. – John Lawler Nov 15 '15 at 15:04

Grammatically, these are both correct. Adding "ing" turns the verb in the present participle, while "to" is the infinitive form of the verb.

Using the infinitive ("to buy") puts the emphasis of the sentence on what you're buying: the new gadgets. Using the present participle ("buying"), you're putting the emphasis on the action: buying.

In this case, it's entirely your preference.

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  • I'm not convinced the infinitive shifts the emphasis from the act of buying to the things bought. Consider I like to buy new movies, not steal them using Internet torrents. Even if buy isn't italicized there, the buy/steal juxtaposition would normally be understood to be the primary element of the sentence. Some people might see a different nuance if the infinitives in that example are replaced by -ing forms, but I think in both cases the focus would still be on the verb rather than the object. – FumbleFingers Nov 15 '15 at 13:52
  • I agree it's a subtle nuance and in practice (at least in this case), either are acceptable. For what it's worth, I keyed in on new movies (and its difference from movies) in your provided example before the buy/steal juxtaposition. Not sure if it's because of our discussion's context, or if it's just how I'm wired. – Pete Nov 15 '15 at 14:12
  • I never even thought of that interpretation! Although the basic I like X not Y construction strongly implies some "meaningful" distinction between X and Y, it's really a matter of opinion (faced with just the written form, no context or italics) how you interpret it. But I could have not included the word "new", which would exclude your interpretation anyway. And the mere fact of it being a "contrastive" format kinda loads the dice. How about plain I like answering questions, compared to I like to answer questions? I'm not convinced answering there particularly emphasizes questions – FumbleFingers Nov 15 '15 at 15:22
  • I agree with you there; there's no difference in the way I'd interpret the last example. English is wonderful, isn't it? Hah. – Pete Nov 15 '15 at 18:13

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