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A simple form of the verb is often used after to, but sometimes the simple form is replaced by a gerund. For example:

He confessed to having a secret admiration for his opponent.
Edwards confessed to being a spy for the KGB.

What is the reason? Could you tell me more examples like confess to?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Confess to is what is variously called a phrasal verb or a preposition verb phrase or a prepositional phrasal verb: a combination VERB + PREPOSITION which acts together as a VERB. It takes a Direct Object, which must be a noun or noun phrase:

He confessed to his admiration for his opponent.
Edwards confessed to espionage on behalf of the KGB.

Accordingly, if you employ a verbal form as the object, it must be a gerund: a verbal form which acts as a noun:

He confessed to having a secret admiration for his opponent.
Edwards confessed to being a spy for the KGB.

When to is used with the plain form or infinitive of a verb it is not acting as a preposition but as an infinitive marker:

He tried very hard to despise his opponent, but could not.
Edwards wanted to advance the cause of international Communism.

Here are some more phrasal verbs with to:

Bill has taken to drink. ... Bill has taken to overindulging in whisky.
Postponing that decision amounts to failure. ... Postponing that decision amounts to admitting defeat.
We look forward to our vacation. ... We look forward to seeing you tomorrow. (this is a three-place phrasal verb)

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Because we confess to things, and we use nouns for things:

He confessed to theft, simony, prostitution and perjury.

He confessed to a secret admiration for his opponent.

Edwards confessed to espionage for the KGB.

Gerunds can be used as nouns, and so we can use gerunds here too.

(Confess can also take a noun directly as an object, but this is more often done of qualities rather than acts, so we can both "confess cowardice" and "confess to cowardice", but we'd more likely "confess to running away" rather than ?"confess running away").

For an example of a verb being used after to, we can look at:

I want to eat something.

*I want to eating something.

I want to be eating something.

I want some food.

Here the meaning of the verb want is such that it can take an object directly (the last example), or use to to link it to a verb describing an act (the other two correct examples), but not to an object (the incorrect example).

It comes down to a difference in the meaning of the two words.

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I can't say why there is a gerund, but in pattern grammar (see the on-line version of the relevant section in the verb-pattern book) it is part of a group of words that take a prepositional phrase as an argument; this can either include a noun or an -ing form: V to n/-ing

II.2 The `admit' group

These verbs are concerned with admitting something. The prepositional phrase indicates what someone admits doing.

Within a week two young men had confessed to the crime and been arrested.
Unfortunately, for obvious reasons officials who are responsible for public safety do not always own up to their shortcomings.

The preposition to is sometimes followed by an `-ing' clause.

The most co-operative men in Europe are to be found in the former East Germany, where only 42.7 per cent admitted to being useless around the house.

In the case of admit-style words it is usually something you have done, hence the gerund I'd say. I hope that also gives you an idea of the kind of words used in that structure. On the page referred to above you will find many more examples sorted into distinct semantic groupings.

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