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Would this sentence be correct?

Being scared is the first step to becoming free.

The more I look at it, the less clear it becomes.

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    You're looking at two words that aren't a unit. "To becoming" is not a constituent by itself. Becoming free is a gerund clause that functions as the object of the preposition to. What makes it look odd is that to is also used as a marker for an infinitive clause, and becoming isn't an infinitive. But to doesn't mark the verb here -- it's not an infinitive complementizer; it's just a preposition and its object is becoming free. Moral: look for constituents, not for strings of words. Strings are mostly accidental. – John Lawler Jul 9 '14 at 15:20
  • Maybe this question is more suitable for English Language Learners. Or did you mean if the meaning of the sentence is correct? In that case, I'd say hardly. – Mr Lister Jul 9 '14 at 15:20
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    @MrLister: whether the meaning is correct is off-topic here; that's a philosophical question. – John Lawler Jul 9 '14 at 15:21
  • I've been around for a short while but I have seen several English Grammar questions be closed for being off-topic. For this reason I would say this one is off-topic too, so I've been led to believe. Unless there are double standards. – Centaurus Jul 9 '14 at 16:01
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    @Lukeish: Don't worry about it. Nobody knows what "off-topic" means, because everybody has a different sense of what the "topic" is, or should be. Just like everybody has their own sense of what terms like adjective, adverb, and correct mean, among others. It's not easy to find information here. – John Lawler Jul 9 '14 at 17:41
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In an unsearchable and potentially ephemeral comment to the original posting, Professor Lawler kindly presented the following answer: ¹

You’re looking at two words that aren’t a unit. “To becoming” is not a constituent by itself.  Becoming free is a gerund clause that functions as the object of the preposition to.

What makes it look odd is that to is also used as a marker for an infinitive clause, and becoming isn’t an infinitive. But to doesn’t mark the verb here — it’s not an infinitive complementizer; it’s just a preposition and its object is becoming free.

Moral:  look for constituents, not for strings of words. Strings are mostly accidental.

I’ve marked this posting Community Wiki because it is John’s answer not my own, and so I deserve no reputation from it.


1. With paragraph breaks inserted for ease of reading where I thought they would most naturally fall. ―tchrist

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