TO followed by -ING


Advanced English Grammar Course

Hello students! I received a great question from a student:

Is it possible to use ‘to’ followed by the ‘ing’ form?

For example, “I’m looking forward to seeing you.”

This is an excellent question, because normally, ‘to’ is followed by the base form. For example, “I want to order pizza,” or “He’s hoping to find a new job soon.” But there are some exceptions with specific words, and I’m going to tell you about them in today’s video.

Two such exceptions are the words confess or admit to doing something. For example, “He confessed to stealing the money.” We say “confessed to stealing,” not “he confessed to steal.”

In this sentence, the word stealing is a gerund. A gerund is the ‘ing’ form which functions as a noun in the sentence. For example, we could also say, “He confessed to the crime.” The crime is a noun, so we can replace the noun with the phrase “stealing the money”: “He confessed to stealing the money.”

Here’s an example with the word “admit:” “She won’t admit to cheating on the test.” Another way to say this is: “She won’t admit that she cheated on the test.” These two sentences are the same. It’s just phrased a little bit differently.

The next group of words that can be followed by ‘to’ plus the ‘ing’ form are: devoted, dedicated and committed to doing something. For example, “She’s dedicated to helping the poor.”

“Dedicated to” is followed by the gerund; “helping.” “She’s dedicated to helping the poor.” This also applies to the noun form, dedication. For example, “I’m impressed by her dedication to helping the poor.”

Devoted is similar to dedicated. We could also say, “She’s devoted to helping the poor” and “I’m impressed by her devotion to helping the poor.”

Here’s an example with “committed”: “We’re committed to improving the community.” And again, it works the same way with the noun form, “commitment.” For example, “We talked about our commitment to improving the community.”

So, ‘dedicated to,’ ‘devoted to,’ ‘committed to,’ and their noun forms; ‘dedication to,’ ‘devotion to,’ and ‘commitment to’ can all be followed by the -ING form of the verb.

Two more words like this are opposed to and object to. For example, “I’m opposed to changing the laws.” We could also say, “I’m opposed to a change in the laws.” ‘A change’ is a noun. Or, “I’m opposed to changing the laws.” In this sentence, again, ‘changing’ is the gerund. It’s the ‘ing’ form of the verb which is functioning as a noun in the sentence.

And this also works with the noun form of oppose: opposition. For example, “There’s a lot of opposition to changing the laws.”

The same applies to ‘object to’ and ‘objection to.’ For example, “We object to allowing smoking inside the building,” and “I don’t understand your objection to allowing smoking inside the building.”

A fourth group of words which is followed by ‘to’ plus the -ING form is: be used to or be accustomed to and adjust to. For example, “I’m not used to waking up so early.” Or, “I’m not accustomed to waking up so early.”

If you take a plane trip to a different time zone, then you might need to adjust to waking up earlier. So, these three expressions; ‘be used to,’ ‘be accustomed to,’ and ‘adjust to’ are also followed by the -ING form of the verb.

Finally, we have some phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs that end in ‘to’ can also be followed by the -ING form. The two most common ones are probably look forward to and get around to.

With “look forward to,” I gave an example in the beginning of this video: “I’m looking forward to seeing you.” Don’t make the common mistake of saying, “I’m looking forward to see you.” It’s just not correct. Look forward to is a phrasal verb; it’s considered a unit, and after this phrasal verb we always use the -ING form.

Get around to means to manage to do something after some delays or despite not having a lot of time. For example, “I never got around to calling her back.” This means I didn’t have a lot of time and I had other things going on, so I didn’t manage to call her back. You can say, “I never got around to calling her back.”

You can also use “get around to” for the future: “I’ll get around to doing this project sometime next week.” This means I don’t know exactly when because I have a lot of other commitments, but I will manage to do it. I will get around to doing it sometime next week.

So, just to review: normally, after the word ‘to’ we use the base form of the verb, but there are some exceptions, such as:

  • confess or admit to doing something
  • oppose or object to doing something
  • be dedicated / devoted / committed to doing something;
  • be used to / be accustomed to / adjust to doing something.
  • phrasal verbs, like look forward to doing something or get around to doing something.

Using ‘to’ plus the ‘ing’ form is unusual in English, but there are a few cases, as you’ve seen in the examples in this video. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next lesson.

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