English Grammar Made Easy: How to Use Verb Patterns

grammar made easyWhen learning a language everybody goes through many highs and lows (positive and negative situations).

At some stages of the process, generally when you’ve just learned something new, you feel on top of the world and very confident.

Other times, often when you get surprised by some unexpected grammar rule, you feel like it’s impossible and want to give up.

Most of the time when you feel like throwing in the towel (giving up – boxing term) it’s because you are confronted with something that you don’t understand. All of these things you don’t understand can be easily cleared up (clarified) if you can calm down, take a deep breath and try to open your mind to a new way of understanding the problem.

In this article I’m going to simplify one of these common “lows” that make all of my students feel very overwhelmed, and lose motivation to learn when I approach this subject.

It’s time to pick up that towel and start boxing the shit out of English!

What the hell are verb patterns?

In English we have many rules when it comes to using two verbs together in the same phrase. Verb patterns are the way you are going to use the second verb when it is dependent on the first verb. For example:

I like drinking green tea after dinner or I like to drink green tea after dinner

In this example you’ll see that in one of them I am using the “ing form” and in the other I’m using the “to infinitive.” In this example both forms are correct and both forms mean the exact same thing.

What’s so difficult about that???

Sure, it seems quite easy so far, but the verb “like” is an example of a verb that can be used with either form and the meaning doesn’t change. If I was to change the first verb from “like” and use the verb “stop,” this same rule, or pattern,  would not be the same and the meaning would change. For example:

I stopped drinking water when exercising or I stopped to drink water when exercising

In this example, both phrases are correct but they have different meanings. In the first, I have stopped the activity of “drinking water,” and in the second, I have stopped what I was doing (exercising) to drink water.

So, now you can see that depending on the first verb that I use, I have to know what form I will use with the verb that follows.

Now let’s take a look at all the possibilities.

Learn more about verb pronunciation

Verbs that are always followed by the ING (gerund)

Now that we know that these rules exist, let’s categorize them and explore all of our options when making verb patterns.

The first category is we are going to look at are all the verbs that are followed by the second verb being in the “ing form.” The first verb can be conjugated however you like, as long as the second verb is in the ing form.

Miss- I miss playing guitar on the weekend
I appreciated playing the guitar on the weekend
I’m going to practice playing the guitar on the weekend
I have considered playing the guitar on the weekend
I admitted playing the guitar on the weekend
I can’t stand playing the guitar on the weekend

As you can see, all of these verbs when followed by another verb, independent of how you conjugate them, will always have the “ing” conjugation in the second verb.

Get great tips to help you memorize the irregular verbs in English

Verbs that are always followed by the (to) infinitive

As you saw above, verbs always followed with the ing form, we also have verbs that are always followed by the (to) infinitive.

Exaclty the same as above, these verbs can be conjugated however you like as long as the second verb is in the (to ) infinitive form. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.bill

Demand- I demanded to pay the bill
I’m going to offer to pay the bill
I was waiting to pay the bill
I have decided to pay the bill
I hope to pay the bill (I have never said this)
I didn’t plan to pay the bill

As you can see, these verbs will always be followed by a verb in the (to) infinitive form. Just like the verbs followed by ing, it doesn’t matter how we conjugate the first verb as long as you follow the pattern of that first verb, whether it’s the “ing form” or the “(to) infinitive.”

Other Patterns

Some verbs can be used with both form and it doesn’t change meaning. Some of these verbs include:

Like- I like to eat / I like eating
I continued to eat / I continued eating
I started to eat / I started eating

And like I showed you with the verb “stop,” some verbs can use both pattern but the meaning changes. For example:

Remember- I remembered to lock the door (I didn’t forget)
I remember locking the door (I have that memory in my mind)

Forget- I forgot to lock the door (I didn’t remember)
I forget telling you to lock the door (I don’t have that memory)

Try- I tried to tell you what happened (a failed attempt at something)
Have you tried telling her (a suggested way fix a problem)

These ones tend to be the most difficult to understand, but it’s very important not to get too stressed out about memorizing all of them because this is something that tends to happen naturally with the more exposure to English you have.

One of the best ways to start understanding these terms in a natural ways is by having more exposure to the language. Start Listening to RealLife Radio and maximize your learning with our podcasts.

Like what you read? I’m sure you will enjoy many of our other articles that aim to simplify boring grammar. Check some of them out below:

  • Awsome article!
    Thanks for the tips, pal ;).

    • Chad Fishwick says:

      Cheers William!

  • Chad Fishwick says:

    Cheers William!

  • Chad Fishwick says:

    Cheers William!

  • Manuel Mbavu says:

    Thanks for the tips.

    • Thank you very much Teacher,do,u know me? No,u dont,l,was 1,of your Student,thank u and Good bye

  • Max Ahumada says:

    2 years ago or so I was at this stage in which I would stop to try to recall what the appropriate form was. I just moved passed this phase really quickly without having to study or learn them by heart. Maybe if learners just stick watching movies, listening to music, reading and so forth, you'll get to a point where they will start "feeling" the language rather than just having to subordinate to its grammar. Needless to say, go over these rules never hurt anybody 🙂

  • Nico Prinzio says:

    I've just had tests on ptterns following the book Guide to Patterns And Usage In English, by Hornby. your version is very much simpler than the book I had o study (Y).

  • Thanks a lot!

  • Great tips! I'm going to publish them. Tks

  • saad says:

    Thanks alot for these value tips and I hope to see more

  • So can I say; what does he like doing/to do In his spare time?

  • Oscar Esteban Cazares says:

    Yes, it's correct.

  • Karynne Lins de Brito says:

    Hey! I was studing this today and I still don’t getting it. My teacher told me that we use the present participle when there is the idea of continuity, and the infinitive when the idea is to start something… of course looking to these rules. But my problem is to understand the phrase when the verb is in present participle. I always understand it wrong. Do you have some good advice about it? Thanks

  • mahrijemal says:

    thanks 👍

  • elroi says:


  • Granwell Meyer says:

    Yeah, English teaching is confusing not just as a second language student but also as a teacher. What do you focus on?