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Which of these sentences is grammatically correct?

  1. Imagining the ill effects of smoking led him to ultimately break the habit.

  2. Imagining the ill effects of smoking led him to ultimately breaking the habit.

The problem I faced while framing this sentence was selecting the correct tense for the verb break.

I think it should be the first one as only after “imagining” the effects, the habit was broken. On the other hand, the present continuous tense implies that the process is ongoing, which I think I didn’t intend to convey. Does this seem plausible?

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Which one do you think it should be? If you can tell us that, and why, we can tell you whether you are correct or not. As it stands now, this question (IMO) is not worth a full answer. –  Roaring Fish Sep 2 '12 at 10:02
    
@user85030: that's a good clarifying comment; you should probably edit your question, and include that information in the question itself. –  J.R. Sep 2 '12 at 11:40
    
@J.R. Alright, done! Thanks! –  Karan Sep 2 '12 at 11:42
    
Please show research results. See the FAQ, and the article on asking a good question that it links to. –  MετάEd Sep 2 '12 at 13:01
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3 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The first, because the habit is presumably broken once and not continuously.

I would also rephrase slightly: "Imagining the ill effects of smoking ultimately led him to break the habit."

Out of interest, using a gerund like this also sounds okay: "Imagining the ill effects of smoking ultimately led to his breaking the habit."

But I would prefer the first.

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Yes, that's what i thought. Also see english.stackexchange.com/a/80381/22887 –  Karan Sep 2 '12 at 11:40
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I think that it could be legitimately worded two ways depending on usage of "led".

You could use "led" in the transitive, more active sense. Per M-W: "to direct on a course or in a direction."

"(It) led him to quit ..."

You can also use "led" in the intransitive, more passive sense. Again per M-W: "to tend toward or have a result."

"(It) led to him quitting ..."

or alternately "(It) led to his quitting..."

Since the "It" in this sense is some abstract imagining, I think the intransitive use fits a little better, but either would be grammatically correct.

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-1 for "led to him quitting" instead of "led to his quitting." It doesn't get more awkward than this. –  RiMMER Sep 2 '12 at 11:45
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@FrantišekStanko That just isn’t true. People speak like that all the time. –  tchrist Sep 2 '12 at 11:58
    
@FrantišekStanko: "Led to his quitting" would also be valid, but that doesn't mean that "Led to him quitting" is wrong. As tchrist said, lots of people say it that way. –  Lynn Sep 2 '12 at 13:31
    
I know lots of people say it that way, but the validity of the form is questioned. Either way, my problem was that it may confuse OP even more, since wobytides used the "led to his breaking" form and considered OP may not understand the difference between those two, or its lack, thereof. I stand with my vote. This answer simply repeats what the first answer says, plus adds confusion. –  RiMMER Sep 2 '12 at 15:29
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@FrantišekStanko - I respect your vote. However, I also stand by my answer. I feel it explains the rationale different than the other question, and I maintain that "led to him breaking..." is valid. This question includes a citation from Cambridge Grammar of the English Language that marks the use of the accusative case acceptable (albeit less formal) in such instances. –  Lynn Sep 3 '12 at 3:11
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An interesting way of viewing simple -v- continuous is neatly phrased by Edward Calver:

"The basic meaning of the simple present tense is the constitution of things, logical, physical, psychological, essential, etc.; of the present progressive, mere occurrence. The distinction between them is not a time-distinction."

Simple, if you want to talk about the way something is, you use simple present. If you want to talk about an occurrence, you use present progressive/continuous.

Applying this to the OP, if you want to talk about the 'constitution' of the anonymous 'him', you would go with sentence 1.

"Imagining the ill effects of smoking led him to ultimately break the habit. Now he is much healthier and is even thinking of taking up a sport"

If you want to talk about the 'occurrence', the ordeal for example, you would go with sentence 2.

"Imagining the ill effects of smoking led to him ultimately breaking the habit. It took him ovder a year, and he went through hell, but he finally made it."

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