Grammar – Can a gerund be used after ‘to’?

by Melanie on March 12, 2010

It’s important to remember this basic grammar rule:

 

HOWEVER, there is always an exception to the rule in English! Normally, ‘to’ goes with a verb (as part of the infinitive form), not a noun. If, however, the ‘to’ is a preposition that is part of a combination, then it is OK to use a gerund after to.

Here are three situations in which you can use a gerund after the preposition to:

 

1) If the to is part of a phrasal verb or verb + preposition combination:

I look forward to meeting your parents tonight!

He confessed to killing his next-door neighbour.

She adjusted to living on her own.

He objects to spending so much money on a T.V.

Mother Theresa devoted her life to helping the poor.

(Remember, not every verb + preposition combination is a phrasal verb! A phrasal verb is when the preposition changes the meaning of the verb.)

 

2) If the to is part of an adjective + preposition combination:

I am addicted to watching soap operas on T.V.!

She is committed to improving the education system.

I am opposed to increasing taxes.

Many of the nurses and doctors in the hospital are truly dedicated to making life better for the patients.

Mother Theresa was devoted to helping the poor throughout her life.

He’s not used to driving on the left-hand side of the road!

 

3) If the to is part of a noun + preposition combination:

His addiction to gambling has caused a lot of stress for his family.

Her great dedication to teaching inspires her students.

Mother Theresa’s devotion to helping the poor brought her worldwide acclaim.

Her reaction to winning the Oscar was priceless!

 

NOTES:

*Remember, you can use to + gerund, but the to MUST be a preposition that is part of a combination. You CANNOT say:

X I want to going shopping.

X I like to listening to music.

 

*Also note that in the above combinations, you could NOT use to + verb. You CAN’T say:

X He objects to spend so much money on a T.V.

X I am opposed to increase taxes

 

*As you may know, gerunds can be use after prepositions. This does NOT mean that gerunds must always be used after prepositions. Verb / adjective / noun combinations could also be followed by any noun or noun phrase:

I’m looking forward to her party tonight!

He confessed to the murder of his next-door neighbour.

I haven’t adjusted to the time change yet.

 

~

 

Now, I’m sure your next question is: how do I know what verb / noun / adjective combinations include to? Unfortunately there is no easy answer. You can memorize lists, or you can do as much reading and listening as possible in English so that you get used to seeing and hearing these combinations! The purpose of the post was just to make you aware that there are certain, specific circumstances when you can use to + gerund.

 


1 Uzair January 15, 2012 at 3:59 am

Dear Melanie ,

Thank you so much. I don't have so much clear ideas about this before as i red it and having a very clear idea about gerund now! :)

2 Miao March 1, 2012 at 5:25 pm

You saved me *__*

3 Otty March 2, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Hello:

Really interesting, I knew there were some uses for to + V ing, but I didn't know about this specific information you posted. Thanks a lot, I'll share it with my students too. Regards from Mexico.

4 Melanie March 3, 2012 at 2:27 am

Hi, Otty!

I'm glad I could help! This is a little-known part of gerunds AND prepositions! Most students learn about phrasal verb, but don't spend a lot of time learning about these combinations.

I hope your students find this useful, too!
Melanie
= )

5 Maria April 12, 2012 at 8:45 am

Dear Melanie,

I’m Brazilian, love to learn English language by myself and your tips are simply great. Although I already have a reasonable knowledge of the language, I still struggle with some details, for I have never taken English classes. So please forgive me if my question is stupid, but I don’t understand the use of the infinitive in VERY simples cases like this: “I just called to say hi”.
In this case, suppose the word “to” is not part of the infinitive but a preposition, right? So if “to” works as a preposition here, why isn’t the verb “say” on the gerund form??
I always think it would be logical this way: “I just called to saying hi”, where “to saying” is “to + to say”.
Could you please help me? Thank you very very much.

6 Maria April 12, 2012 at 9:26 am

Or, asking in another way, why can’t we just say: “I just called IN ORDER TO say hi”??

Melanie 7 Melanie April 12, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Hi, Maria!

Your question is not stupid at all!

In this case we need to focus on the verb ‘call,’ not on the preposition ‘to.’

‘Call + to’ is NOT a verb+preposition combination. You can say “I called him.” or “She called me.” In those sentences, you cannot use ‘to.’ You can’t say “I called TO him.” So, the verb call doesn’t need the preposition ‘to.’

If you are going to use another verb after ‘call,’ then you need to use the infinitive form (to + verb) of the verb:
“I just called to say hi!”
“I just called to tell you I am at work.”
“I just called to let you know that I’m going to be late for dinner.”
“I just called to remind you to pick up the kids at school.”

It’s the rule! Some verbs are followed by a gerund, some verbs are followed by an infinitive, and some verbs can be followed by both. I have no idea why … that’s just the way it is!

I hope this makes sense!
Melanie

8 maqsood July 16, 2012 at 12:14 pm

thank u . i am english lecturer from pakistan

9 Gabriela July 17, 2012 at 7:35 am

I must write this down :) I like it when I finally see a system in grammar. It really bothers me when Im not sure about something. :) thank you ;)

10 jeetu August 20, 2012 at 3:36 am

thanks for detail

11 Masoom Khan August 21, 2012 at 2:44 am

Dear Melanie,
Hope you’re fine and doing very well. I read your explanation regarding to+gerund, which really inhanced my knowledge about it. Your contribution is worth praising…
With best regards and wishes,
Masoom Khan, Quetta, Pakistan.

12 suri August 26, 2012 at 7:33 am

I read you blog. Nice to see everything in correct form.
Thanks.

13 Daniel September 27, 2012 at 10:46 am

Melanie, thanks for this informative post. Is a gerund required or optional in usage number 3? For example, would the following sentence be considered wrong?

“We are dedicated to create and provide excellent products to our customers.”

Melanie 14 Melanie October 1, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Hi, Daniel!

A gerund is required! Your sentence should say:
“We are dedicated to creatING and providING excellent products FOR our customers.”

= )

15 Ron October 18, 2012 at 10:31 am

Thank you so much we teach gerunds to our students though only recently I had noticed that gerunds too can follow a TO I just didn’t find the rule to it.
Much obliged.

16 Abel October 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Thank you for your helpfull information. I was very confused about the use of to before a gerund, but you have clear it to me a lot. God Bless you!

17 Muyleng January 1, 2013 at 4:56 am

I’m a student in Secondary school. I want to know that how to notice the preposition combination. Can you tell me the common ones? Thanks in
advance. :-)

Melanie 18 Melanie January 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Hi, Muyleng!

You can learn the combinations by reading & listening, and noticing which prepositions are used. Eventually, you’ll just get used to & you’ll just know which prepositions go with which words.

Good luck!
= )

19 Muyleng January 1, 2013 at 5:02 am

And one more question. Is it correct to use Verb + Verb? Example: I go take
it. Help comment. Thanks :-)

Melanie 20 Melanie January 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Hi, Muyleng!

No, you cannot use verb+verb in English. Your sentence is not correct.

Most of the time, if a verb follows another verb, the 2nd verb must be a gerund or an infinitive:
verb + gerund = I go skiing every weekend.
verb + infinitive = I need to take my books to school.

This website has a great tutorial on gerunds & infinitives:
http://www.englishpage.com/gerunds/index.htm

= )

21 Muyleng January 2, 2013 at 9:09 am

Oh thanks so much :-) This really helps me, I always get confused with this. :-)

22 Muyleng January 2, 2013 at 9:38 am

As i’ve read your explanation, all the combinations above are used with ‘to+gerund’. I just want to know if some of the combinations above work
with ‘to+verb’? Or is it the rule that all the combinations above must use with ‘to+gerund’?
Ex: I’m addicted to watching cartoons.(like your explanation)
Ex: I’m addicted to watch cartoons.(Is it correct?)

Melanie 23 Melanie January 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Hi, Muyleng!

This post only explains when you can use ‘to + gerund.’ ‘To + verb’ is the infinitive form of a verb. You can read more about gerunds & infinitives in this tutorial:
http://www.englishpage.com/gerunds/index.htm

The adjective ‘addicted to’ is not followed by an infinitive. It is followed by a gerund. All the combinations above are followed by gerunds. They are not followed by infinitives.

“Iā€™m addicted to watching cartoons.”

= )

24 Muyleng January 7, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I’m happy to help you.
I’m happy to helping you.
Which one is correct?

Sorry if I bother you.
Can I have your email?

Melanie 25 Melanie January 8, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Hi, Muyleng! I am not available by email.

This is a great question! There are some exceptions:
http://www.englishpage.com/gerunds/adjective_infinitive_list.htm

For example …
I am surprised to see you.
I’m happy to help you.

… but …
It’s nice to meet you. / It was nice meeting you.

=)

26 Asim February 8, 2013 at 8:59 am

This was really not known to me. I always wondered as to why “to” is sometimes followed by _ing. Now it is quite clear to me why such form is used.

27 Arpana Prakash February 14, 2013 at 10:52 am

Thanks Madam.

This will help me (to) bring accuracy in my language-use and make me study further depths.

Regards,
Arpana Prakash, Varanasi, India

28 Gabriela June 21, 2013 at 2:29 am

Can I for example say, her passion for reading? instead her passion to reading?

Melanie 29 Melanie June 30, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Hi, Gabriela,

The correct combination is “a passion for (something/something).”

You can say, “her passion for reading.”

= )

30 Meisam September 12, 2013 at 12:36 am

What a fantastic grammar lesson!
I thank you On behalf of all Iranian people!

31 Shaan March 11, 2014 at 2:28 am

thank you very much from the bottom of my heart to provide us such a wonderful knowledge

32 Tahina May 14, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Thank you Melanie

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