From what I learned, we could use imperative to [verb]ing, but when I read my book, I see this sentence:

An accurate analysis of surveys is imperative to building a good understanding of customer needs.

Why do we use building here?

Please help :)

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    It is imperative to [the process of] building a good understanding. Sep 19, 2015 at 5:42
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    Whoever has edited this question, correcting the grammar, has made it a non-question. Nov 20, 2015 at 21:23

1 Answer 1


A brief look in via the google-books, finds that "imperative" (meaning a requirement) appears in two locutions. The first is "X is imperative"+verb form. This is your example. From Physical Abusers and Sexual Offenders: Forensic and Clinical Strategies by S. A. Johnson

... I believe that reading the following authors' works is imperative to understanding the sexual offender....

The "to" here means "for [the purpose of]", and it would be just as acceptable to say "for understanding." However, the infinitive: "reading is imperative to understand" is much more common.

The second locution is "the imperative is"+verb form. From Becoming Canonical in American Poetry by T. Morris:

If in imagining the future we are constrained by our past, one imperative is to understand that past ....

In this case when the complement is a verb form, it's the infinitive. I was unable to find a gerund to take that role.

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    In these usages, imperative seems to me like the second cousin of the right word, as Mark Twain put it when he raked Cooper over the coals. The right word is probably essential here. They're both Latin and formal and mean more or less the same thing, but imperative is deontic and involves ordering and obeying -- and makes one wonder who's ordering whom to do what -- whereas essential is epistemic and involves only observation, understanding, and logical conclusion. Sep 19, 2015 at 14:37
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    I think "imperative" here is used to give weight to an argument from authority. But an uptick on your comment for mentioning the "The Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper," possibly the funniest thing ever written in the English language.
    – deadrat
    Sep 19, 2015 at 20:14

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