I hope to understand the use of the preposition to gerunds and the overall structure of the following sentence. Normally the use of to is to specify a destination or a purpose but here the way it is used is unfamiliar to me.

The report was relentlessly hostile to the scientist,
interpreting one complex event after
another to his discredit.

I await your answers.

  • 2
    This is the result of merging two clauses: The report was relentlessly hostile to the scientist and The report interpreted one complex event after another to the scientist's discredit. They could be combined in a number of ways, but this particular method makes an adverbial participial phrase out of the second sentence by (1) using a present participle verb form (interpreting) in the second clause, (2) deleting the repeated subject (the report) of that clause, and (3) placing the resulting phrase at the end of the first sentence with a comma splice. May 28, 2014 at 17:51

2 Answers 2


to has multiple meanings when used as a preposition. In my computer's dictionary (Oxford American, I believe), there are 7 definitions. Definition #1 refers to direction (with a number of different senses), definition #2 is:

identifying the person or thing affected

In your example sentence, the second definition applies to both uses. The origin is presumably metaphoric from the first definition: rather than a thing moving in a direction, it refers to the direction of an abstract effect, e.g. hostility flows from the report toward the scientist.


The usage of the preposition "to" begins an adverbial clause describing how (in which manner) the complex events were interpreted. It is similar to the directional use of "to" , if you think of impact or effect as an emotional destination; at the very least it is an effect, and a change.

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