Blog Grammar Rules Started to Work vs Started Working: Which Is Correct?

Started to Work vs Started Working: Which Is Correct?

Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

Published Nov 09, 2022

started to work vs started working

If you’re wondering whether to use the phrase started to work or started working, you’re not alone. Many people wonder if there’s a difference in meaning between the two.

So which phrase is grammatically correct?

The short answer is that one phrase uses a gerund (working), while the other uses an infinitive (to work). However, there’s no significant difference in meaning between the two phrases, and most native English speakers use them interchangeably.

Read on to learn more about started to work vs started working and how to use these phrases in a sentence.

Contents:
  1. Definition of Started to Work and Started Working
  2. Difference Between Started to Work and Started Working
  3. Examples of Started to Work in Sentences
  4. Examples of Started Working in Sentences
  5. Conclusion on Started to Work or Started Working

Definition of Started to Work and Started Working

The phrases started to work and started working are acceptable past tense forms of “start work.” You can use these phrases to mean “began to labor” or “began to function.”

For example, you might say you started to work at a new company if you recently began a new job. It would also be correct to say that you started working at a new company—these two sentences both mean the same thing.

start to work past tense

Difference Between Started to Work and Started Working

The only difference between started to work and started working is the verb form of work that each phrase uses.

The phrase started to work has an infinitive complement clause. This means it includes the infinitive verb form of work, which is to work.

The phrase working has a gerund complement clause. This means it includes the gerund form of the verb work, which is working with an -ing.

So why does it matter whether you’re using an infinitive or a gerund?

There are some verbs for which it’s important to remember the difference between an infinitive and a gerund because the resulting phrases mean different things.

For example, consider the two sentences “Randy stopped working” and “Randy stopped to work.” The first sentence means Randy ceased to work, while the second sentence means that Randy paused his other activities so he could start working.

If you mix up these two phrases, you might accidentally convey the opposite of what you intended.

Luckily, started doesn’t work the same way as stopped. You can follow it with either an infinitive or a gerund without significantly changing its meaning.

As a result, started working and started to work can be used interchangeably.

Examples of Started to Work in Sentences

The best way to learn English grammar is to see it in action. Here are some examples of started to work in a sentence:

  • He started to work as a barista when he was only sixteen.
  • Their marriage started to work again after they agreed to go to couples’ therapy.
  • I started to work at 9am this morning, and I haven’t taken a break since then.
  • Susan started to work at her new job in January.
  • We started to work together as a team about five years ago.
  • Have you started to work again after your paternity leave?
  • I thought my laptop was broken, but it started to work after I turned it off and back on again.

Examples of Started Working in Sentences

Because started working is interchangeable with started to work, you can use it in all the same sentences. Here are some examples:

  • He started working as a barista when he was only sixteen.
  • Their marriage started working again after they agreed to go to couples’ therapy.
  • I started working at 9am this morning, and I haven’t taken a break since then.
  • Susan started working at her new job in January.
  • We started working together as a team about five years ago.
  • Have you started working again after your paternity leave?
  • I thought my laptop was broken, but it started working after I turned it off and back on again.

Conclusion on Started to Work or Started Working

There you have it—a complete guide to using started to work vs started working. It’s good to understand the grammatical difference between these two verb forms, but in this particular case, both phrases are acceptable.

If you’re worried about using the wrong verb form in a phrase, ProWritingAid will highlight incorrect phrases in your writing and help you fix them with one click. Run your writing through our free grammar checker to find any misused words.

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Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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