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English translation: British/US difference

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12:41 Apr 9, 2008
English to English translations [Non-PRO]
Other / grammar
English term or phrase: question
Could native speakers tell me the difference they make between "I love swimming" and "I love to swim" ?

Thanks
Jeannot
English translation:British/US difference
Explanation:
In British English we're more likely to say "I love swimming", wheras Americans would say "I love to swim". The meaning is the same.
Selected response from:

Marie-Hélène Hayles
Local time: 18:39
Grading comment
Selected automatically based on peer agreement.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +3British/US difference
Marie-Hélène Hayles
4 +2See answer belowBrettMN
4 +2See comments below
Tony M


  

Answers


2 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
British/US difference


Explanation:
In British English we're more likely to say "I love swimming", wheras Americans would say "I love to swim". The meaning is the same.

Marie-Hélène Hayles
Local time: 18:39
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 20
Grading comment
Selected automatically based on peer agreement.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Jack Doughty
6 mins

neutral  writeaway: I love swimming can also include watching others swim (ie spectator sport) whereas I love to swim means I actually enjoy going swimming. Was unaware there was any UK/US divide on this
14 mins
  -> As a born-and-bred Brit, I would *never* say "I love to swim". I'd automatically assume that if you told me you loved swimming, you meant you enjoyed going swimming yourself, unless you clarified. I'll be interested to see what others have to say on this!

agree  Angela Dickson: I'm with you - I'm British and would never say 'I love to swim'.
27 mins

agree  V_N: I agree with the BE expression. But also w the different meaning mentioned by BrettMN
5 days
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54 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +2
I love swimming / to swim
See comments below


Explanation:
Like Writeaway, I'm far from convinced this is a BE / AE issue.

As a native Brit, 'swimming' sounds most natural to my ears (though does, of course, imply the potential ambiguity also highlighted by W/A)

But 'to swim' (apart from sounding like a too-literal translation from French!) has a very dated ring about it; I suspect this is the sort of language that might have been used 80 years ago — and sometimes, AE retains usages that have gone out of fashion in the UK.

Do note, too, that if the sentence continues, other factors may need to be taken into account, and certain combinations may sound more natural than others. Here are just a few examples:

I love swimming in the sea
I love to swim at dusk, just as the sun is setting.
I love swimming naked
I love to swim as far out to sea as I can

and so on...

Tony M
France
Local time: 18:39
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 148

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Marie-Hélène Hayles: I'd probably use "I love swimming" in all those cases! As for AE, I'm judging by what I see in US novels, where "I love to" seems to be standard: "I love to cook, I love to read..." Whereas I'd only use it for "I love to boogie" - blame T-Rex ;-)
1 hr
  -> Thanks, M-H! I just wanted to highlight that in certain contexts, 'to swim' doesn't sound out of place even in BE.

agree  kmtext
21 hrs
  -> Thanks, KMT!

agree  Phong Le
21 hrs
  -> Thanks, Phong Le!
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2 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +2
See answer below


Explanation:
It has nothing, or at least very little, to do with a US/UK divide.

"I love swimming" CAN mean "I love to [go] swimming [myself]," but just as often if not more often it means "I love the sport of swimming" or "I love to watch other people swim" or "I love swimming, and I can't wait to watch the swimming competition at the Olympics". You get the idea. Someone with no legs who has never been in a swimming pool can love swimming, because they like to watch others swim.

"I love to swim" means exclusively that the person speaking loves to go swimming themselves. They may or may not like to watch other people swim.

I'm an American. I invite British/Commonwealth readers to see if the above is not accurate for them, too.

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Note added at 2 hrs (2008-04-09 15:20:35 GMT)
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The reason for the above is pretty simple: "swimming" is a noun/gerund. "To swim" is a verb/infinitive. As such, you can like swimming as a concept, but using "to swim" means you like to do the action yourself.

If "I like to swim" really does sound dated to UK ears, well then OK. But the larger concept of parts of speech is the same in both varieties of English.

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Note added at 4 hrs (2008-04-09 17:12:10 GMT)
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Please also reread the question, which was "Could native speakers tell me the difference they make between "I love swimming" and "I love to swim" ?

My point is that there is a linguistic, structural difference between the two that is not related to regional variations (this isn't a "garbage can" vs. "rubbish bin" situation). In truth, I would say "I like to go swimming" rather than "I like to swim" (which does sound a bit stilted to these American ears), but the question wasn't "Which is most common?" or even "Which would you use?" but rather "What is the difference between these two phrases I'm providing?"

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Note added at 9 hrs (2008-04-09 22:18:42 GMT)
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I want to make one revision to my original post. "...but just as often if not more often it means...." should be changed to just "... but it can also mean..."

I don't want to try and weigh the frequency of usage. My only point is that "I love to swim" CAN be used to mean something different from "I love swimming," if the user so intends.

BrettMN
Local time: 11:39
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Ken Cox: a large part of grammar is logic, but usage is not always logical. If UK speakers say that they would never use 'I love to swim', why try to tell them that they're wriong?
17 mins
  -> I don't know that anyone UK speakers say they "never" use it. http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2007/jul/14/beach2?page=2 is one of many examples of it being used in the UK.The crux of the answer is not due to regional English differences is my point.

agree  Sinead --
3 hrs
  -> Thanks, Sinead!

agree  V_N: I agree w the different meanings
4 days
  -> Thanks, V_N!
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