A piece of news from the BBC reads as follows [emphasis in the original]:

The UN has said very little on the matter, apart from to insist it is immune from legal proceedings.

Now, I knew that any prepositional phrase must be followed by the -ing form of the verb, so I’d have expected the reporter to use “insisting”. Is it a correct usage? If it is, are there any other prepositional phrases that can be followed by the infinitive form?

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    I think a clever newsreader might manage to get through this without gagging or correcting on the fly, but I can't. You're entirely correct; this is ungrammatical, and the infinitive is the reason. – John Lawler May 15 '13 at 13:33
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    I agree with John Lawler. Keeping the infinitive, the reader could have said, "The UN have said very little on the matter. They did, however, continue to insist they are immune from legal proceedings." (We yanks would say, "The UN has said . . .. It did, however, continue to insist it . . .."). Actually, I kind of prefer the British version! – rhetorician May 15 '13 at 13:45
  • What startles me is that the reporter read and recorded a text he had prepared before. Didn’t he realize that he had made such a howler? – Giorgiomastrò May 15 '13 at 14:05
  • @rhetorician I'm a Brit, and I would have said "The UN has said ...". (I don't like the implication that I might be using an Americanism!! ;-) ) – TrevorD May 15 '13 at 16:36
  • @TrevorD: No need to allow your hackles to be raised (I assume--perhaps incorrectly--you've taken at least mild umbrage at my implication). There was no offense intended on my part. Why don't all we English speakers agree on using some sort of punctuation (besides exclamation points) to indicate we have our tongues planted firmly in our cheeks. Your use of two !!s was a bit of a question mark (pun intended) to me. What happened to the interrobang? Do Brits still say, for example, "The Chrysler Corporation have moved their headquarters to Timbukto?" – rhetorician May 15 '13 at 21:10

The object of a prepositional phrase is almost always a noun or functions as a noun (e.g. a gerund). You can see, then that the prepositional phrase from to insist... breaks this rule of thumb. From insisting... would be better.

  • Thanks. To your knowledge, is it a common mistake or just an occasional one? – Giorgiomastrò May 15 '13 at 17:26
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    You might occasionally see this in some complex constructions, but in general this type of prepositional phrase would be edited to a more pleasing form in any formal text. – Ben Reich May 15 '13 at 17:36

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