Normally, 'I want to do something', 'nice to meet you', that the verb always be its normal status. But why 'look forward to doing'?For example, I am looking forward to seeing all of the great ideas that you come up with.

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    Because we "look forward to <noun>"—and the progressive form of the verb becomes the gerund in those constructions, a type of noun phrase. – Robusto Sep 4 '15 at 19:47
  • What is the connection between "I want to do," "nice to meet you," and "look forward to" that makes you want to using the verb's "normal status" (do you mean the present?)? – Azor Ahai Sep 4 '15 at 20:05

The key to understanding this usage is the preposition “to” which comes after the expression “look forward:”

Look forward to something means to be pleased or excited that it is going to happen. The ‘to’ in look forward to is a preposition, so we must follow it by a noun phrase or a verb in the -ing form:

  • I’m looking forward to the holidays.

  • A: Are you excited about your trip to South America?

  • B: Yes, I’m looking forward to it.

  • We’re looking forward to going to Switzerland next month.

If the second verb has a different subject, we use the object form of the pronoun, not the subject form:

  • We’re looking forward to him arriving next week.

Not: We’re looking forward to he arriving next week.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

  • +1 I think you need to be more explicit about the fact that it's not an infinitival to there. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 19 '18 at 23:35
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    Even better: "We're looking forward to his arrival next week" – Ben Voigt Oct 20 '18 at 0:03

"look forward to" takes a noun. "drink" is a verb. So we take gerund "drinking", which acts as a noun.

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    That doesn't explain why it's an -ing form. Why isn't it "looking forward to drink" just like "hoping to drink", for example? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 19 '18 at 23:35
  • @Araucaria you make a good point, that is also grammatical and a perfectly reasonable thing to say after a long day. It's just not idiomatic. – Ben Oct 20 '18 at 0:11
  • @Ben Well, it's not grammatical unless drink is a noun instead of a verb (consider: I was looking forward to eat). The reason is, that in look forward to, the word to is a preposition, not part of to-infinitive. This is what Userbignumber alludes to below/above. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 20 '18 at 0:24
  • Yes, in that sentence "drink" would be a noun. One can look forward to nouns. – Ben Oct 20 '18 at 10:58

We look forward to [noun phrase] or equivalent, e.g.

I always look forward to the weekend.

In your examples, the -ing word is a gerund. A verb form that can be used in place of a noun.

A gerund is a noun made from a verb by adding "-ing." The gerund form of the verb "read" is "reading." You can use a gerund as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence.

English Page


It's the connotation.

Any of these are perfectly fine grammatically:

  • I was looking forward to drink at the new pub, but it was closed.
  • I was looking forward to drinking at the new pub, but it was closed.


  • I was looking forward to a drink at the new pub, but it was closed.
  • I was looking forward to having a drink at the new pub, but it was closed.

The difference is the connotation. The first one emphasises the drink itself, so has a connotation that the drink would somehow be a different drink. In fact what would be different would likely be the company, or the atmosphere. The specific beer type would probably be available in other places.

All the others de-emphasise the drink and focus on the act of drinking as something done probably in company.

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