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!
*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 used 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.
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! :)
You saved me *__*
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.
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!
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.
Or, asking in another way, why can’t we just say: “I just called IN ORDER TO say hi”??
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!
thank u . i am english lecturer from pakistan
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 ;)
thanks for detail
Masoom Khan says
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.
I read you blog. Nice to see everything in correct form.
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.”
A gerund is required! Your sentence should say:
“We are dedicated to creatING and providING excellent products FOR our customers.”
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.
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!
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.
Arpana Prakash says
This will help me (to) bring accuracy in my language-use and make me study further depths.
Arpana Prakash, Varanasi, India
Can I for example say, her passion for reading? instead her passion to reading?
The correct combination is “a passion for (something/something).”
You can say, “her passion for reading.”
What a fantastic grammar lesson!
I thank you On behalf of all Iranian people!
thank you very much from the bottom of my heart to provide us such a wonderful knowledge
Thank you Melanie
I’m very pleased about the thing you taught right here, I didn’t even know since a few months “to + verb + ing” was correct until I saw someone using the very common “look forward to seeing”, but I thought it was a exception nothing more.
So I’m glad to have learned something today, yet I have some interrogations flooding my head, I’m a native French speaker, gerund also exists in French but it seems very different from here, so I really don’t get when you should or shouldn’t use it and if you have no alternative at all.
If I take back one of your examples:
“He confessed to killing his next-door neighbour.”
Can I say instead:
“He confessed to have killed his next-door neighbour.”
Translators seem to say both are correct and have the same meaning, but you can’t really trust them in my opinion.
The second one is nearer from my mother tongue so it looks way more natural for me, if the first one is gerund then it would look like the person confessed while killing his neighbour, sorry again, I know it’s certainly not the case but in French gerund (« gérondif ») is used as a complement of an action that happen at the same time as the action of sentence, so it seems different in English.
Same kind of question, I always read and heard:
“I used to do something.”
“I used to doing something.”
So isn’t the first one correct? I’m pretty confused right now…
You should know in my country when I was younger I learned at school that “to” was never ever followed by a verb ending by “ing” and many other little things like this one that I assume to be wrong right now, why do they learn us false rules, that’s ludicrous as possible…
First, I must tell you that I am not a fan of “rules,” and no one becomes fluent in a language by learning “rules”! Instead of focusing on “rules” and why something is correct but something else is not correct, it’s better to focus on collocations: words that go together or combinations of words that native speakers understand as correct.
1. “He confessed to killing his next-door neighbour.” (A)
This sentence sounds correct and natural to me, because the collocation is “confess to doing something.”
From your definition of « gérondif » in French, it sounds like gérondif and gerund are false friends! They look like the same word but they have different meanings! A gerund in English is the noun form a verb. That’s it! It is the noun form of the action.
“He confessed to have killed his next-door neighbour.” (B)
This sounds strange to me. I can’t think of a time where I have heard or used confess to have done something. (A) is the best sentence.
2. “I used to do something” is a collocation that has a specific meaning. Used to is a modal verb, like could, would, or may, and it’s used to talk about things you did in the past but you don’t do now. Don’t think about it the same way as collocations with to that are followed by gerunds. As a modal verb, it is always used before the base form of the verb.
I used to doing something” is not correct because a modal verb is never followed by the -ing form of a verb.
Brijbhan from india says
Thanks a lot I was searching this rules for a long time and today I have got it
thanks for this interesting post, can we use FOR instead of TO in a NOUN + PREP combination ?
His addiction FOR gambling has caused a lot of stress for his family.
Good question, Djalil!
No, you can’t change the preposition in a noun + preposition combination.
You have an addiction to something. No other preposition can be used after addiction.
yeah we have an addiction TO something not FOR something its obvious now that you said it.
and as you mentionned in the post reading and listening are the solution :)
Manindra Murmu says
Thanks a lot mam for such a wonderful lesson. It is very useful to the students. I am from India and I really appreciate your work.
Thanks so much for your answer!