Posted by Grant Richardson, 20th November, 2015
During one of my group classes, I overheard one student, while talking with her classmate about her love of chocolate, say:
I can’t stop to eat it!
Later, during the lesson break, I explained to the student that she should have said:
I can’t stop eating it!
Actually, this is quite a common mistake.
The two sentences above are both grammatically correct, but they do not mean the same thing.
“Stop to do something” means that you end the activity you are doing now for a short time to do something else. So, you would say “I can’t stop to eat” if you are doing some activity such as working or driving, and you cannot eat because you must continue the activity.
You can replace ‘eat’ in the two sentences above with another verb. For example:
“stop doing it” versus “stop to do it”
“stop sleeping” versus “stop to sleep”
“stop drinking” versus “stop to drink”
“stop working” versus “stop to work“