Can to-infinitives follow the verb dislike? I know they can follow the verb like that way, but what about dislike? I ask because my school grammar textbook says the following:

The verb dislike takes only the gerund form of verbs after it.

There is something amiss about that statement. As far as I know (mind you, my knowledge may not go too far), dislike can be followed by both to-infinitives and gerunds. I have read some writings where the to-infinitive construction has been used (giving specific instances isn't quite possible at the moment). I simply can’t convince myself to agree with what my school textbook says.

Is this a wrong sentence then? (To me, it doesn’t seem so.)

I dislike to go there.

And this the correct one?

I dislike going there.

My question is: Can to-infinitives ever be used after dislike?

  • 1
    Both the to-infinitive and the gerund are commonly used with both like and dislike. For the verb to go, the Ngram viewer finds that the infinitive is preferred with like; the gerund, with dislike. Go figure.
    – deadrat
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 8:21
  • 1
    Thanks a bunch for the info! It's finally a relief. I'm so glad to learn that my suspicion turned out to be right. Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 8:26
  • 6
    @deadrat I'd question the first part of your comment. In my experience, like is commonly used with both gerunds and infinitives (Ngrams bears this out), but dislike is only commonly used with gerunds. Dislike to do is borderline ungrammatical to me, and the gerund construction is more than seven times as frequent in Ngrams as well. Of course, dislike is on the decline in general—_don’t like_ is much more common. Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 8:34
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJaquet you're probably correct. Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 8:56
  • 2
    As a catenative verb, "dislike" licenses gerund-participial complements only.
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 9:06

2 Answers 2


Is “I dislike to go there” a wrong sentence?

ᴛʟᴅʀ: Like like, historically dislike took a ᴛᴏ-infinitive not an -ɪɴɢ verb, but over the last century common usage has swapped those two preferences and now the ᴛᴏ-infinitive sounds distinctly odd to the modern ear. At the same time, dislike has also been replaced by don’t like, so even dislike seems old.

Your question is more interesting than those who have so far answered or commented upon it seem to credit. That’s because this is one of those many areas where English has changed notably within a comparatively short time.

Specifically, the dominant sort of (non-finite) clause complement following dislike before the Twentieth Century was of the same sort as the one following like: both habitually took a verb in the ᴛᴏ-infinitive not in its -ɪɴɢ form.

Although if one tries hard enough, one can find a few dislike ᴠᴇʀʙing examples from before the American Civil War, these are scarce in comparison with how easy it is to find cases of dislike + ᴛᴏ-infinitive.

The Plot Thickens

Here’s a plot of dislike to have against dislike having:

Google N-Gram plotting dislike to have, dislike having

And here a plot dislike to be against dislike being:

enter image description here

Older Examples

Here are some older examples from back when it was common:

  • Some dislike to have it in the house anywhere. All salted provision must be watched, and kept under the brine. (Simmons, 1796)
  • Sinners dislike to go and work in God's vineyard, because of their prevailing love to carnal ease. Spiritual sloth is so sweet a sin, that the carnal heart is always in love with it. (1843)
  • I very much wish to walk there, and particularly dislike to go in quite by myself. (1845)
  • I certainly should dislike to go into another Regt. To be sure I could worry through 11 months most any way but I would rather go with the Boys. (Civil War Journal of William Ray)
  • I dislike to go up there very much, the place is so lonely but I feel that duty demands of me to go even at the sacrifice of my own feelings. (Diary of Henrietta Baker Embree, 1856–1861)
  • My old master and mistress to Virginia, had often threatened to sell me to the negro buyer from Georgia, for any trifling offence, and in order to make me dislike to go there, they would tell me I should have to eat cotton seed, and make indigo, ... (William Grimes, Civil War period)
  • It has pleased those philosophers who dislike to have an effect presented to their consideration without a cause duly assigned and certified, to ascribe my fragile health to a consumptive habit, and, having afflicted me with a ‘pulmonary disease ... (Gillies, 1829)
  • I hope to be able to see you again, but fear not as I dislike to be asking for leave while here, and when I get orders it will be necessary to obey them at once. If I can go to see you without any neglect of duty, I will. (Pender, Civil War Letters)
  • A novel would scarcely be distinguished from a book of travels, if loaded with a heavy commentary; and many readers not only dislike to have their attention called to the bottom of the page, but care little for the explanation thus offered them. (Rémusat, 1827)
  • How I disliked to go and leave Julian but I must not seem negligent of Mr Thomas now when he is so much troubled. (Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848–1889)

As you see, dislike to isn’t the only thing that reads a bid odd in those Nineteenth Century examples.

Newer Examples

Here are a couple from only a century ago, by which time it was already rare:

  • Primarily because they instinctively dislike to be bossed. All men dislike to be bossed, employer and employee alike. (Filene, 1922)
  • Much of the Great Ones might be learnt in such regions, and those with their blood might inherit little memories very useful to a seeker. They might not know their parentage, for the gods so dislike to be known among men that none can be found who has seen their faces wittingly; a thing which Carter realised even as he sought to scale Kadath. (Lovecraft, 1920)

In contrast, the examples from the past fifty years of dislike + ᴛᴏ-infinitive are quite uncommon. Most that I could come up with have mitigating factors such as parallelism or established idioms which may have overridden the current instinct to use an -ɪɴɢ complement.

  • For their own use when travelling they make simple shelters as night approaches, because they dislike to get wet. (Lumholtz, 2012)
  • Quaint is a word that I dislike to hear in descriptions of flowers, but this yellow torenia is quaint. (Elizabeth Lawrence, 1997)
  • Why do we so dislike to be told that the Jews are the chosen people? (Badham, 1998)
  • As much as I dislike to have the jury running in and out I think this is important. It ought to be given a full airing in open court. (McDonald 1970)
  • We read in Ovid and elsewhere how much the gods dislike to hear men boasting of their merits: they react as a human aristocracy would do, with resent and fear for their privileges. (Northrup Frye, 1970)
  • In the first place, one would dislike to have other persons break the promises which they had made to oneself whenever they found it inconvenient to fulfil them. But this presupposes a certain aversion in oneself, which one no doubt correctly ... (Broad, 1985)
  • We like to see a lady like a town-clock regulating her motions by the progress of the sun; but we dislike to see a lady like a town-clock, governing the movements of the whole neighborhood. (Sam Atkinson,1968)
  • If asked why, in that case, we do not emigrate to Portugal, he replies that capitalists fear to send their capital into countries in which they are not resident, and dislike to go and settle in foreign countries themselves. (Cannan, 1964)
  • They speak jeeringly of our wilderness of deceased elms, and sneer at our defunct magnolias. We hate to cast a reflection on the house, but we also dislike to be played for Chinamen when we are no such thing. (Nye & Halsey, 1972)
  • I dislike to think that it must take place before your return, but I suppose it must, if you are not coming for so long. (Heffernan & Stecker, 1993)
  • He assumes people like to be better paid than others, and dislike to be paid worse. (2007)

So how come anybody ever still uses this?

I suspect that the recent examples using the infinitive owe their existence to such factors as:

  • idioms like to come/go/try and do something
  • avoidance of having multiple stacked -ɪɴɢ forms in the complement of dislike
  • desired parallelism with other verbs elsewhere in the sentence

For example, this rewrite breaks the parallelism between like and dislike:

  • He assumes people like to be paid better than others, and dislike being paid worse.

This rewrite becomes clumsy with two -ɪɴɢ forms fighting with each other:

  • We read in Ovid and elsewhere how much the gods dislike hearing men boasting of their merits....

Which would be better written dislike hearing men boast.

Here again the twinned -ɪɴɢ verbs seem awkward in a putative rewrite:

  • ... and dislike going and settling in foreign countries themselves.
  • How I disliked going and leaving Julian but I must not seem negligent of Mr Thomas now when he is so much troubled.

The combined to X and Y verbs may not fare so well upon rewrite. For example, consider:

  • If you truly dislike to even try and make yourself a sandcastle, you haven’t lived yet.

The rewrite may not even be grammatical:

  • If you truly dislike even ?trying and making yourself a sandcastle, you haven’t lived yet.

These would likely be better:

  • If you wouldn’t even like to try and make yourself a sandcastle, you haven’t lived yet.

  • If you truly don’t even like trying to make yourself a sandcastle, you haven’t lived yet.

Disliking dislike

Which brings us around to one more factor in play here. Usage of the verb dislike has seriously declined in just the past few decades:

plot of disliked agains did not like

That means that you will naturally find fewer instances of dislike since it is being replaced by don’t like.

But wait! What’s the answer to my question?

The broad but not especially useful answer to your question is that one cannot say that your original sentence is categorically wrong, given that it was once common:

  1. I dislike to go there.

However, people who don’t read much might erroneously think it wrong, since its form is one virtually unseen in this millennium save under extenuating literary circumstances, ones you would never expect to encounter scattered amongst the post-literate Post-It™ notes of today’s Internet chatter.

So while it is not “technically” wrong, given that your sentence uses a grammatical construction so rarely seen in present day writing, you would therefore do well to avoid the verb’s ᴛᴏ-infinitive here in favor of its -ɪɴɢ form:

  1. I dislike going there.

But even that seems rather stiff and formal for casual use. In normal conversation you would simply say either of these:

  1. I don’t like to go there.
  2. I don’t like going there.

There is no notable difference in meaning between three and four. Three is more common than four, but this trend is falling:

ngram of do not like to go,do not like going

  • 2
    ooh! It's really helpful. So well-researched, precise, and detailed. I really loved all the explanations. After reading the comments, I felt that things have changed over time. to dislike must have become obsolete. No wonder people think of it as "wrong" altogether! In modern times, it is used very sparingly. Thanks for all the information! I am very inquisitive (sometimes overly curious about small things which most people would never have thoughts upon) and this answer satisfies my curiosity fully. Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 14:06

The amusing situation is that this brings up a category of verbs that are sometimes discussed separately in schools as "preference" verbs. The instruction tends to be that verbs of preference are followed by -ing verbs. As was rightly pointed out, "like" is a preference, and yet it does not follow that rule.

In truth, like so many things in English, the rules are always made to be broken. What is certainly fact at the moment is that "dislike" is only followed by -ing constructions. (It can, as the Cambrdige dictionary site notes, have another subject introduced before the -ing verb.)

I hope you don't dislike finding this out!

  • 1
    While the infinitive does sound odd to me in almost all circumstances, there nonetheless do exist recent examples that work the other way. I’ve tried to explain why I think they might be happening based on this question having been asked on English Language & Usage not on English Language Learners.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 21:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.