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I've read a grammar rule. If you use a preposition and then a verb, it must end with "ing" Is it always true, or there are exceptions?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

This is kind of tricky, let's see if I can explain...

As Claudiu pointed out already, gerund is the term. However, expanding on what he said, "a verb ending in -ing" is not necessarily a gerund; it could be a present participle. A gerund is an -ing form used as a noun (more precisely, as the head of a noun clause; it might still behave as a verb within the clause itself).

Thus, the rule you read is kind of okay, yet it is also kind of backwards. Being able to be preceded by a preposition is a nominal characteristic, not a verbal one. You can't really put a preposition in front of a verb — once you do that it needs to start functioning as a noun, and "normal" verbs can't do that. So you need a verb form that works as a noun. And that would be the gerund.

But what about this, you say:

"Your shipment of fail has arrived"

Well, yeah, the verb fail somehow managed to start working as a noun all by itself. But again, the whole point is that when it acts as a noun it is, well, a noun; it is no longer a verb.

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I like this kind of visual support for an answer –  rem Oct 30 '10 at 17:28
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Thanks, good explanation :) –  vicmp3 Oct 31 '10 at 16:26
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Note that prepositions may also precede words other than nouns, as in "by the river", "with flying colours", if we take "precede" literally. They must govern something noun-ish, though, as Reg has explained. But I think Reg was deliberately trying to keep things simple and avoid linguistic terminology. –  Cerberus Apr 7 '11 at 15:06
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It seems to generally work. Be careful when you use "to". It might be denoting the infinitive:

I'm going to kill him.

or it might be used as a preposition:

I am used to crying all day.

As an aside, the technical term for "a verb ending in -ing" is a gerund.

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Another common mistake is "I am looking forward to do s.th." instead of the correct "I am looking forward to doing s.th." –  vonjd Oct 30 '10 at 7:45
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