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I was writing a letter of application for a university. I wanted to start my letter by writing:

I am writing this letter to express my interest in becoming part...

and then I got confused. I am not sure how the last part of that sentence should be.

  • ...in becoming part...
  • ...to become part...

What is the semantic difference between the two variants?

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    Becoming part is better. It is the present progressive tense vs the infinitive.
    – David M
    Mar 7, 2014 at 17:28
  • Perhaps you'd be better off using simpler sentences, and not trying to show your English off in an application letter. You get no difficulty points for attempting complex phraseology, nor for stating the obvious. There's enough of that already in academic life. How about I wish to apply for admission to your X degree program in Y? Mar 7, 2014 at 17:31
  • @JohnLawler sure, I am always a fan of simplicity over complexity, but still I wonder what is the correct form here... Mar 7, 2014 at 17:41
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    Interest(ed) takes prepositional phrases with in, which can have gerund clauses as objects (He's interested in logographic pyrology, his interest in pyrographic logology), but they don't take infinitive clauses (*He's interested to leave now, *his interest to leave now) Mar 7, 2014 at 18:00
  • Not enough context.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 21, 2015 at 12:48

2 Answers 2

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As John Lawler notes in a comment,

Interest(ed) takes prepositional phrases with in, which can have gerund clauses as objects (He's interested in logographic pyrology, his interest in pyrographic logology), but they don't take infinitive clauses (*He's interested to leave now, *his interest to leave now)

This means "interest in becoming" is the appropriate choice. Similar examples:

I am interested in becoming part of...

Allow me to express my interest in becoming part of...

I am interested in leaving at 5 o' clock.

More information on gerunds can be found at Wikipedia.

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  • Though of course It is in his interest to leave now is perfectly normal. Jun 23, 2014 at 17:49
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Often, the K.I.S.S. principle is useful, and you could go with simple present and infinitives:

I write this letter to express my interest to become part of ...

However, the use of simple-present tense - although technically correct - is fast fading. Best to retain the present perfect:

I am writing this letter to express my interest in becoming part of ...

But if this is the problem you are having in writing your application letter, perhaps first put a mind to issues of tone.

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  • -1: First, nobody uses "express my interest to become ... ". Evidence. Second, there is no need for these verb tenses to agree. You would say "expressing my desire to become ..." and "expressing my interest in becoming ...", no matter what verb tenses were used earlier. Mar 7, 2014 at 17:48
  • I wouldn't have said, "nobody uses"; the use of the present progressive over the simple present tense is definitely far more common, but is it not incorrect. It is, without a doubt, dated and not in common use, but it is correct if fading.
    – SNLacy
    Mar 7, 2014 at 17:59
  • You are misunderstanding me completely. The distinction in question is between "interest to become" and "interest in becoming". That is, whether you use the infinitive or the present progressive after "interest". Mar 7, 2014 at 18:09
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    I'd also ditch "I write this letter" or "I am writing this letter" since that part is obvious and does not apply the K.I.S.S. principle. Mar 7, 2014 at 18:54
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    @WolfgangKuehne Nothing at all. "Dear Sir or Madam: I am interested in becoming ..." That's all you need. Jul 23, 2014 at 19:03

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