Grammar Spotlight

GrammarThe English Grammar Profile (EGP) is a sister resource to the English Vocabulary Profile, and has been put together by Anne O'Keeffe (Limerick University) and Geraldine Mark, the co-authors, along with Ron Carter and Mike McCarthy, of English Grammar Today (Cambridge University Press). Mark and O'Keeffe investigated the extensive data in the Cambridge Learner Corpus to establish when learners begin to get to grips with different linguistic structures. 

A series of insights from their research will be posted on this page, each one putting the spotlight on an interesting aspect of learner grammar development. Please note that all of the learner examples come from the Cambridge Learner Corpus, a 55-million word electronic collection of written learner data. The examination and the candidate’s first language are given in brackets after each learner example.

See the latest Grammar Spotlight entry below. Scroll right down to the bottom of this page to browse through previous entries.


Once the B2 level is achieved, learners are able to use an increasing range of verbs followed by an -ing form. The verbs in the examples below are the ones used most frequently with this pattern at B2.

B2 50x33   [talking about cars] ... we can’t avoid using them because we are used to them. (Cambridge English: First; Turkish)

B2 50x33   I couldn’t stand being there. (Cambridge English: First; Japanese)

B2 50x33   Moreover, we may consider offering bonus schemes to increase the staff’s loyalty to our company. (Cambridge English: Business Vantage; Russian)

Learners at this level can follow some verbs with a to-infinitive or an -ing form with a change in meaning.

B2 50x33   He said if you need to change the time, remember to contact him to make a new appointment. (Cambridge English: First; Chinese)

B2 50x33   I know it is difficult to get by with such a low salary but I am sure you have not stopped to think twice about your life. (Cambridge English: First; Spanish - European)

B2 50x33   I remember feeling very unhappy and confused all day long. (Cambridge English: First; Portuguese)

B2 level learners can introduce a new subject before the -ing form, using a noun or object pronoun.

B2 50x33   If your boss doesn’t mind you delaying, it could be a possible solution. (Cambridge English: First; German)

B2 50x33   Oh, just one more thing: would you mind me staying in your flat again? (Cambridge English: First; Polish)

B2 50x33   We imagine it being a frozen land, where the people are ‘frozen’ too – both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. (Cambridge English: First; Russian)

Learners can also use some verbs connected with the senses + direct object + an -ing form in order to give emphasis to an ongoing activity.

B2 50x33   Then I heard someone screaming, I was afraid and I said to the others: “Let’s go out, something is happening”. (Cambridge English: First; Greek)

B2 50x33   I think we can learn nothing by seeing animals out of their habitat: we cannot see them running or eating or hunting. (Cambridge English: First; Italian)

At the C1 level, learners can use some verbs connected with the senses + direct object + infinitive without to in order to emphasise a complete action. Where the -ing form places the speaker or writer ‘inside’ the action in a more involved way, the infinitive form places the speaker or writer ‘outside’ the action, which is the difference in statements such as I heard someone screaming and I heard someone scream.

C1 50x33   I would like to see it develop without any pollution and without destroying the environment. (Cambridge English: Advanced; Greek)

C1 50x33   Nowadays, it is very common in Argentina to hear people talk about the economic depression. (CAE; Spanish - Latin American)

At the C2 level, learners can use would hate + to-infinitive for emphasis. This usage has the function of strengthening what is said and creating a more formal, authoritative voice.

C2 50x33   We in the student committee would hate to see all that space go to waste. (Cambridge English: Advanced; Swedish)

C2 50x33   I am very much aware of my parents’ mistakes and would hate to make the same ones. (Cambridge English: Proficiency; French)

Once the B2 level is achieved, learners are able to use the gerund form beyond its use with verbs that express likes. Learners are able to use both the infinitive and the –ing form in a variety of structures that support a variety of functions. At the most advanced level, learners show skill in using the infinitive to create a sense of formality.

Cambridge University Press