'Stop Doing' or 'Stop to Do'? What Is the Difference? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 13 May 2024)

Stop Doing or Stop to Do: What Is the Difference?

Stop doing something refers to the act of discontinuing an ongoing action or behaviour. It means that you were engaged in a particular activity, and you are now ending that activity:

I need to stop eating junk food. (= discontinuing the action of eating junk food)

The students stopped talking when their teacher entered the classroom. (= discontinuing the action of talking)

They decided to stop watching TV and go for a walk instead. (= discontinuing the action of watching TV)

Stop to do something suggests that you pause what you are currently doing in order to perform a different action. It implies that you had a specific intention to engage in the new action:

Joan stopped to answer the phone. (= pausing what she was doing in order to answer the phone)

We stopped to admire the beautiful sunset. (= pausing our activities to admire the sunset)

The hiker stopped to take a sip of water and catch his breath. (= pausing his hike in order to take a sip of water and catch his breath)

In summary, stop doing something means 'not continue something', while stop to do something means 'pause something in order to do something else'.

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Examples from the Media

The problem with that, some doctors and pharmacists say, is that Ozempic isn’t intended for patients who want to drop a few pounds of "cosmetic weight." Plus, people who need Ozempic likely need it for life — studies have shown that once they stop taking it, the weight often comes back. Toronto Star (2023)

Many people in China have stopped using cash. They conduct their entire lives on a single app, WeChat. The New York Times (2019)

In January, Mr Turnbull stopped to talk to homeless man Kent Kreswell, 50, further up Collins Street and placed $10 in his tray. —The Sydney Morning Herald (2016)

Nassau County Police will slap grief tourists with a $150 fine if they stop to take photos outside suspected serial killer Rex Heuermann's home. —Daily Mail (2023)


Choose the correct option to complete each sentence.

1. Please stop eating/to eat with your mouth open; it's impolite.

2. The doctor advised him to stop smoking/to smoke for the sake of his health.

3. The athlete stopped tying/to tie her shoelaces before continuing the race.

4. I need to stop procrastinating/to procrastinate and start working on my assignment.

5. Tom stopped helping/to help an elderly woman carry her bags across the street.

6. The cyclist stopped checking/to check the map and confirm the directions.

7. I stopped picking/to pick up some flowers for my mum on my way home.

8. The teacher told the students to stop talking/to talk during the exam.

9. The child was told to stop jumping/to jump on the bed to avoid getting hurt.

10. He stopped reading/to read a sign that caught his attention while walking in the park.

Answer Key

1. eating    2. smoking    3. to tie    4. procrastinating    5. to help    6. to check    7. to pick    8. talking    9. jumping    10. to read

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