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.

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

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! :)

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2 Miao March 1, 2012 at 5:25 pm

You saved me *__*

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3 Melanie March 2, 2012 at 12:57 am

… and you made me happy with your comment! I'm glad this helped you = )

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4 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.

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5 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
= )

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6 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.

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7 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”??

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Melanie 8 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

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9 Vitalii April 18, 2012 at 7:46 am

It’s simple. In the sentence “I called to say hi” to say is an adverbial modifier of purpose! It’s not an object of the verb “call”. So it just explains why you do something. It is interchangeable with “in order to do smth.”, “so as to do smth.”
I called to say hi
I called in order to say hi
I called so as to say hi

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Melanie 10 Melanie April 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Hi, Vitalii!

You are correct, but Maria’s original question was why can’t a gerund be used in the sentence “I just called to say hi!” Gerunds can also be used as adverbial modifiers of purpose. In this case however, ‘call’ is not followed by a gerund, so the infinitive must be used.

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11 maqsood July 16, 2012 at 12:14 pm

thank u . i am english lecturer from pakistan

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12 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 ;)

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13 jeetu August 20, 2012 at 3:36 am

thanks for detail

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14 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.

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15 suri August 26, 2012 at 7:33 am

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

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16 Francisco September 18, 2012 at 11:25 am

Can I say “we are open to working with you?”

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Melanie 17 Melanie October 1, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Yes, that’s correct! = )

(Just remember to start with a capital letter: “We are …. “)

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18 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.”

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Melanie 19 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.”

= )

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20 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.

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21 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!

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22 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. :-)

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Melanie 23 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!
= )

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24 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 :-)

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Melanie 25 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

= )

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26 Muyleng January 2, 2013 at 9:09 am

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

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27 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?)

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Melanie 28 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.

“I’m addicted to watching cartoons.”

= )

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29 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?

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Melanie 30 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.

=)

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31 Md.Mahmud Afzal January 9, 2013 at 2:52 am

Sir,we do not use gerund after” In order to” but after” With a view to” we use gerund.If, here the” to” is working as a preposition then how I can understand whether it is working as a preposition or not though the meaning of two phrases used above are same.Please Help me.I have been looking forward to finding this answer for a long time.Thank you.

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Melanie 32 Melanie January 9, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Hi!

First of all, I’m not a ‘sir.’ ‘Sir’ is used to address men.

Second, I think this is what you wanted to say:
We do not use a gerund after “in order to,” but we use a gerund after “with a view to.” If the ‘to’ here is working as a preposition, then how can I understand whether it is working as a preposition or not since the meaning of the two phrases are the same? Please help me. I have been looking for the answer to this for a long time. Thank you.

~
You have made two assumptions that are wrong:
1. “in order” and “with a view to” are not the same. They are slightly different.
2. Just because they have a similar but slightly different meaning, this does not mean that they must be used the same grammatically .

A. “In order to” is not a phrase by itself and the ‘to’ is not a preposition. It’s usually ‘in order’ + infinitive
= so that someone can do something or something can happen, to make it possible for something to happen
“In order to finish my report, I need more information.”
The sentence is the same without ‘in order’: “To finish my report, I need more information.”

“They bought the land in order to change it into a working farm.”
= They have a definite plan. The reason they bought that land was to turn it into a farm. Again, the meaning is the same without ‘in order’:
“They bought the land to change it into a working farm.”
“They bought the land because they wanted to change it into a working farm.”

B. “With a view to (doing something) = with the hope of doing something in the future
It is always followed by a gerund.

“They bought the land with a view to turning it into a working farm.”
= In the future, they hope to turn the land into a farm, but there are no definite plans right now. It’s just something they’re thinking of doing.

To be honest, “with a view to” is not commonly used in American English. I can’t remember the last time I heard or read that phrase. Also, how many time are you actually going to use ‘in order’ or ‘with a view to’ in conversation? I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

= )

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33 Muyleng January 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Hi :-) I want to know if this sentence is correct.
* I typed ‘Jane’, but it appeared AS ‘Jone.
I want to know whether we use ‘APPEARD’, ‘APPEAR TO BE’, or ‘APPEARED AS’. Why? What are the differences between 3 of them. Thanks in advance.

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Melanie 34 Melanie January 31, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Hi, Muyleng!

The correct sentence is, “I typed ‘Jane,’ but it appeared as ‘Jone.’”

The base form of the verb is ‘appear,’ and the past tense & past participle of the verb is ‘appeared.’

There are many definitions of the verb ‘appear’:
http://www.learnersdictionary.com/search/appear
http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/american/appear

‘Appear to be’ = to give the impression, to look, to seem

‘Appear as’ = to be seen

=)

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35 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.

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36 Arpana Prakash February 10, 2013 at 2:30 am

Would you please explain whether the following sentences with ‘help/make’ & ‘to’ are correct:

1. He helped his wife to succeed in life.
2. Her lost wallet made her to cry in the shop.
3. Please do not make me to shout!
4. Always help new families to find a good store.

Thank you.

Regards,
Arpana Prakash, Varanasi, India.

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Melanie 37 Melanie February 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm

1. He helped his wife to succeed in life. CORRECT
ALSO: He helped his wife succeed in life.

2. Her lost wallet made her to cry in the shop. INCORRECT
“Her lost wallet made her cry in the shop.”

3. Please do not make me to shout! INCORRECT
“Please do not make me shout!”

4. Always help new families to find a good store. CORRECT
ALSO: Always help new families find a good store.

*’Make’ is not followed by an infinitive or gerund. If you are going to use a verb after ‘make,’ the verb is in the base form.

*’Help’ can be followed by both an infinitive and the base form of a verb.

http://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/gerunds-and-infinitives.html

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38 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

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39 Nixon February 20, 2013 at 6:02 am

Hello Melanie

In cases as “contribute to”? Can I say “He contributes to finding solutions” ?

Thank you!

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Melanie 40 Melanie March 27, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Hi, Nixon,

Yes, that’s fine! ‘Contribute to’ is a verb + preposition combination, and ‘contribution to’ is a noun + preposition combination.

= )

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41 Mims April 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Hello Melanie!

I’m glad that I found your website explaining about gerund. This subject really gets me confused quite a number of times. But your simple and easy explanation offer so much assistance in understanding the principle. I’d like to seek your favor to see whether the following sentence is correct:

“my job scope also extended to executing team projects, researches and other administrative tasks. ”

Thanks!!

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Melanie 42 Melanie May 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Hi, Mims,

Are you writing a resume?

“The scope of my job extended to executing team projects, doing research, and completing other administrative tasks.”

However, the sentence is better this way:
“I was responsible for executing team projects, doing research, and completing other administrative tasks.”

In English you need to use parallel structures. If you are making a list of things, they all need to be in the same form. You used “executing team projects,” so everything after that must be in the same form.

= )

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43 Alexandro June 6, 2013 at 10:30 am

Hi, Melanie

I’m Brazilian, and I ‘m learning English, that idiom that I love.
I’ve a doubt about infinitive or gerund after verb to be.
Help me please!

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Melanie 44 Melanie June 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Hi, Alexandro!

First, you don’t have a doubt – you have a question! “I have a doubt” is a Spanish/Portuguese expression that is not used in English. You can say “I have a question. Are gerunds and infinitives used after ‘be’?”

‘Be’ can be followed by -ing words, but they’re not called gerunds.
1. A continuous tense:
I am eating = present continuous of the verb ‘eat’
This is boring = adjective form of the verb ‘boring’
These -ing words are called the ‘present participle.’

Sometimes an infinitive is used after ‘be,’ but this is very formal & rarely used:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv103.shtml

= )

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45 Alexandro June 6, 2013 at 10:31 am

I sorry, I forgoten my name

Alexandro

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46 Alexandro June 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Thanks Melanie

You ‘re the best!

Alexandro

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47 Gabriela June 21, 2013 at 2:29 am

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

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Melanie 48 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.”

= )

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49 Pratyush Sinha July 10, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Hi
Suggest +to + base form of verb or suggest + gerund
Which one would be correct?
He suggested to write an essay .
He suggested swimming as an alternate exercise .

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Melanie 50 Melanie July 11, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Hi, Pratyush!

You will find the answer to your question here:
http://www.englishteachermelanie.com/grammar-how-to-use-the-verb-suggest/

= )

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51 Meisam September 12, 2013 at 12:36 am

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

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52 .ae September 27, 2013 at 3:41 am

The major rule
deals with the
prepositions place in the
sentence. Prepositions
must be followed by
nouns.after prepositions,the gerund must be used when a verb comes after a preposition:she is good at painting.but teacher i also read somewhere..participial phrases preceded by a preposition as in example: on arriving in chicago,his friends met him at the station.teacher if preposition is always followed by noun(also gerund),how is it possible to use participle “arriving” preceded by preposition “on” in above sentence.please teacher solve this question.thanks in advance teacher.

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Melanie 53 Melanie September 27, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Hello ae,

I don’t quite understand your question. In your example sentence, ‘arriving’ is a gerund.

“On arriving in Chicago, his friends met him at the station”

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54 .ae September 29, 2013 at 9:51 am

teacher u r right.but i am confused that why some grammarian says that it is participle ?why they do not write it is gerund.teacher i give u some example in thease the say ” prep+ ing participle”
not “prep+gerund.
Sudam Panigrahi at 6:49 PM
PREPOSITION AND PRESENT
PARTICIPLE
A verb following a preposition (At, In,
About, with, without) takes the –Ing
form :
At: He is good at
mending
fences.
She is good at
solving sums.
In You are right in
informing the
authority.
They are
interested only
in raking
dollars.
About Students were
excited about
receiving the
prizes.
What is wrong
about your
marrying
beneath you? Teacher i give u one more example:for+ing participle expresses purpose only in general sense.teacher in these above examples i m confused.why they say for +ing participle?why the dont se for +gerund?please clear this confusion

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55 .ae September 29, 2013 at 9:57 am

teacher there are some mistakes in last line in above text ,actully i m saying “why they don’t say” not “why the dont se”.thank u teacher

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56 .ae October 2, 2013 at 12:53 am

teacher i think u did not quite understand my question yet what i want to ask u…teacher again i try…i explain what i want to ask u.teache first of all i give u paragraph where i read this…plese read this.(
Because the -ing noun or adjective is
formed from a verb it can have any of
the patterns which follow a verb, for
example:
… an object:
I like playing tennis.
I saw a dog chasing a cat.
… or an adverbial:
You can earn a lot of money by
working hard.
There were several people waiting for
the bus.
… or a clause:
I heard someone saying that.).teacher in above paragraph..please see the second example:u can earn a lot of money by working hard.and it was said that verb+ing(working) is used as adverbial.as far as i understand adverbial mean here working is used as adverbial participle.so i want to ask u if here “working” is adverbial participle ,why it is preceded by preposition “by”.i m confused because preposition take only noun with it.please teacher help

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57 hasan October 4, 2013 at 5:17 am

best

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58 Anne December 11, 2013 at 10:07 am

Hello Melanie.
Is the sentence “Prigogine opened up vistas for applying hard sciences to explain social processes” correct? To be more precise, is “for applying” correct?
Thank you!
Anne

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59 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

Reply

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