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

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.

 


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

  1. Uzair
    January 15, 2012 at 3:59 am (3 years ago)

    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 (3 years ago)

    You saved me *__*

  3. Otty
    March 2, 2012 at 10:00 pm (3 years ago)

    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 (3 years ago)

    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 (3 years ago)

    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.

    • Maria
      April 12, 2012 at 9:26 am (3 years ago)

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

      • Melanie
        April 12, 2012 at 7:32 pm (3 years ago)

        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

  6. maqsood
    July 16, 2012 at 12:14 pm (2 years ago)

    thank u . i am english lecturer from pakistan

  7. Gabriela
    July 17, 2012 at 7:35 am (2 years ago)

    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 ;)

  8. jeetu
    August 20, 2012 at 3:36 am (2 years ago)

    thanks for detail

  9. Masoom Khan
    August 21, 2012 at 2:44 am (2 years ago)

    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.

  10. suri
    August 26, 2012 at 7:33 am (2 years ago)

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

  11. Daniel
    September 27, 2012 at 10:46 am (2 years ago)

    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
      October 1, 2012 at 8:32 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi, Daniel!

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

      = )

  12. Ron
    October 18, 2012 at 10:31 am (2 years ago)

    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.

  13. Abel
    October 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm (2 years ago)

    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!

  14. Muyleng
    January 1, 2013 at 4:56 am (2 years ago)

    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
      January 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm (2 years ago)

      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!
      = )

  15. Muyleng
    January 1, 2013 at 5:02 am (2 years ago)

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

    • Melanie
      January 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm (2 years ago)

      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

      = )

  16. Muyleng
    January 2, 2013 at 9:09 am (2 years ago)

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

  17. Muyleng
    January 2, 2013 at 9:38 am (2 years ago)

    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
      January 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm (2 years ago)

      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.”

      = )

  18. Muyleng
    January 7, 2013 at 9:24 pm (2 years ago)

    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
      January 8, 2013 at 6:40 pm (2 years ago)

      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.

      =)

  19. Asim
    February 8, 2013 at 8:59 am (2 years ago)

    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.

  20. Arpana Prakash
    February 14, 2013 at 10:52 am (2 years ago)

    Thanks Madam.

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

    Regards,
    Arpana Prakash, Varanasi, India

  21. Gabriela
    June 21, 2013 at 2:29 am (1 year ago)

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

    • Melanie
      June 30, 2013 at 4:59 pm (1 year ago)

      Hi, Gabriela,

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

      You can say, “her passion for reading.”

      = )

  22. Meisam
    September 12, 2013 at 12:36 am (1 year ago)

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

  23. Shaan
    March 11, 2014 at 2:28 am (9 months ago)

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

  24. Tahina
    May 14, 2014 at 1:15 pm (7 months ago)

    Thank you Melanie

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  1. […] Grammar – Can a gerund be used after ‘to’? In a previous post, I explained when you can and can’t use for + gerund , and I noted a 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 . 1) If the to is part of a phrasal verb or verb + preposition combination : […]