Why the sentences "We look forward to < noun> ..." and "We do not look forward to < verb>..." are both correct ?
A < noun> has to be used in the first and a < verb> has to be used in the second, with no clear cause.
It is not illustrated properly in stack-exchange. Thanks,

  • This seems to be a misunderstanding. Of course you can say "We are not looking forward to swimming" or "We are not looking forward to Sunday". However, when negating a longer sentence it's possible that even a native speaker makes a mistake and says something incorrect like "We are not looking forward to swim all day". – user86291 Oct 18 '15 at 20:48
  • Student - Please say why you think "We do not" is allowed to have a verb in that position. Where have you heard, seen or read this? It is incorrect. – chasly from UK Oct 18 '15 at 20:53
  • @chasly: That was precisely the point of the example. Just read it again under the assumption that I wanted to give two examples for what the OP calls < noun>, and I think it will make sense. – user86291 Oct 18 '15 at 20:58
  • @HansAdler - I simply don't accept that a native speaker would say, "We are not looking forward to swim all day". Not even if they were drunk! Can you find even one example of this by a native speaker? – chasly from UK Oct 18 '15 at 21:03
  • @chasly: I have said much worse things in completely sober state in my native German, and I am sure you have said much worse things in English. It could happen, for example, if, while you are pronouncing "We are not looking forward to", you decide that you really wanted to say "We don't want to". The longer the sentence, the more likely this kind of mistake. We are all used to correcting these mistakes automatically in speech, and we will often deny them if someone notices them. Only in writing they are normally caught and corrected. – user86291 Oct 18 '15 at 21:17

We look forward (in thhe sense of anticipating) to a noun or a noun phrase. We do not in native English look forward to a verb. To say the latter is to make a mistake and, no matter how forgivable that may be, it is still a mistake.

Afterthought: it is possible to write prose such as "We look forward to see where we are going" but the sense of looking forward is in this case physical rather than anticipatory.


It's not strictly speaking a verb in the second case. It's a gerund, which is a noun made by taking a verb and adding -ing to the end of it (e.g. in the sentence "I like tea, scones, and talking with good friends.", "talking with good friends" is treated as a noun, because the verb "talk" has been turned into a gerund. It's no longer "talking" the verb, it's "talking" the noun that describes the act of talking). In all cases, "We look forward to..." should end in a noun, it's just that sometimes that noun is a gerund.

  • Dear @beatniknight . The sentences "I look forward to meeting my teacher." and "I do not look forward to meet my teacher. " , are they both correct? – Student Oct 18 '15 at 21:41
  • @Student: From where are you taking the idea that you can use an infinitive after look forward to when it is negated? Nobody said that in the other question, and nobody said that here. The negation has nothing to do with it. You always need a noun. If you want to use a verb, you must add -ing to turn it into a noun. Negated or not. – user86291 Oct 18 '15 at 22:10
  • No, gerunds are still verbs: I’m looking forward to quickly giving him his reward. If it were a noun, it would not take adverbs and direct and indirect objects. It’s a verb, and the entire verb phrase is functioning as the object of the preposition. But that doesn't make it a noun. If it were a noun, it would take articles and adjectives — this does not. – tchrist Oct 18 '15 at 22:41
  • @tchrist A gerund functions as a noun but can still take a direct object. quickly giving him his reward is a gerund phrase. within the phrase giving functions as a verb but the phrase as a whole functions as a noun. I don't agree with the 0.P's assertion that the two are not entirely interchangeable. I do not look forward to meet my teacher is not correct usage. It should be meeting in both cases. – TomMcW Oct 18 '15 at 22:52
  • @Tom A gerund phrase can be used anywhere a noun phrase can be used, but the gerund itself is still a verb. – tchrist Oct 18 '15 at 22:53

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