Are you mixing up stopped doing vs stopped to do?

What’s the difference between “he stopped smoking” and “he stopped to smoke”?


You can crack this common confusion by checking if you’re looking backwards or forwards.

The -ing form He stopped smoking looks backwards to the activity of smoking, which he no longer does. He doesn’t smoke anymore.

The to form He stopped to smoke looks forwards and asks why did he stop whatever he was doing? He stopped so he could smoke.

Here are some more examples:

I’ve stopped eating chocolate.
I no longer eat chocolate.
I stopped to eat some chocolate.
I stopped what I was doing so I could eat some chocolate.

He stopped drinking coffee in the afternoon and now sleeps better.
He no longer drinks coffee in the afternoon.
He stopped to drink a coffee at 3pm.
At 3pm he took a break so he could drink a cup of coffee.

She stopped taking her medication due the side effects.
She doesn’t take her medication anymore.
She stopped to take her medication.
She stopped what she was doing in order to take her medication.

And at work:

He stopped answering the telephone because he was too busy.
He didn’t answer the telephone anymore.
He stopped to answer the telephone.
He stopped writing emails so he could take the telephone call.

She stopped talking to her colleague who always criticised her.
She no longer speaks with her critical colleague.
She stopped to talk to her colleague.
She was walking to the photocopier and paused so she could chat with her colleague.

He stopped going to meetings that were wasting his time.
He no longer goes to unnecessary meetings.
He stopped to go to the meeting.
He finished working on his report so he could go to the planning meeting.

So the trick is oo: if you’re looking forwards, you want to use to.

Now make your own model sentences to help you remember the difference and you’ll stop confusing stopped doing vs stop to do.

For other common confusions, see here, here, here, here and here.

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© Christina Wielgolawski




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