Chapter 5-5-4: Challenges with Verbals - Exceptions & Problems

Grammar > Using Verbs > Verbals > Exceptions & Problems

Here are some common problems that come up when writers use verbals:

Three Situations Where Gerunds Are Used After the Preposition "To"

The preposition "to" is normally associated with a verb as part of an infinitive form, not a noun. But, when the preposition "to" is part of a combination, a gerund can appear after the "to."

Here are the three different categories of combination where a gerund can occur after the "to":

When the preposition "to" is part of a [phrasal verb] or [verb + preposition] combination:

I look forward to spending time with you.

She confessed to stealing the ring.

The dog adjusted to sleeping outside.

The prisoner objects to being tortured so often.

My father has devoted his life to loving my mother.

  • TIP: understand that it's not because a [verb + preposition] are combined together that they are automatically phrasal verbs. As Chapter 1-10: What are Phrasal Verbs states, a phrasal verb is when the preposition changes the meaning of the verb.

When the preposition "to" is part of an [adjective + preposition] combination:

I am addicted to drinking coffee every morning now.

The police chief is committed to reducing crime in the city.

The criminals in the city are opposed to improving the city's crime rate.

You are not used to drinking coffee every morning.

The shelter is dedicated to saving stray dogs.

When the preposition "to" is part of a [noun + preposition] combination:

Your addiction to gaming is what is responsible for your carpal tunnel syndrome.

The athlete's dedication to sking has become an inspiration to everyone.

My father's devotion to making my mother happy was never reciprocated.

The prisoner's reaction to receiving a longer sentence was amazing.

Final Clarification on Situations Where Gerunds Are Used After the Preposition "To"

Now that you've read the three combinations that can result in a gerund following the word "to," it's important to emphasize the following points, below.

The word "to" must be used as a preposition for it to work with a gerund. It is incorrect to write:

They want to going vacationing in Cuba.

He likes to eating alone.

Instead, it is correct write:

They want to go vacationing in Cuba. / They want to vacation in Cuba.

He likes eating alone. / He likes to eat alone.

Do not use a ["to" + verb] combination. It is incorrect to write:

He objects to be tortured so often.

The criminals in the city are opposed to improve the city's crime rate.

As you just learned, 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. For instance, take the following correct sentences:

I am looking forward to the end of the school semester.

He is committed to our cause.

You are addicted to that video game.

Fragmentary Sentences

Since verbals look like verbs, they sometimes cause students to write fragmentary sentences:

[WRONG] Oh, to find true love!

[WRONG] Jimmy, swimming the most important race of his life.

Parts of Speech

This problem is a very fine point, which most editors and some teachers no longer enforce. Although they look the same, gerunds and present participles are different parts of speech, and need to be treated differently. For example, consider the following two sentences:

I admire the woman finishing the report.

I admire the woman's finishing the report.

In the first example, "finishing" is a participle modifying the noun "woman": in other words, the writer admires the woman, not what she is doing; in the second example, "finishing" is a participle, modified by the possessive noun "woman's": in other words, the writer admires not the woman herself but the fact that she is finishing the report.

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