3

In my opinion, both sentences are grammatically correct but I'm not too sure how the v+ing can be used in this particular situation:

1. The use of language to establish identity was nicely presented in a recent study led by Andy Baron at Harvard University.

2. The use of language to establishing identity was nicely presented in a recent study led by Andy Baron at Harvard University.

As with the first sentence, I divided the text is this manner to interpret the sentence

[The use of language] [to establish identity] was nicely presented in a recent study led by Andy Baron at Harvard University.

As with the second sentence, I divided the words in this manner to interpret the sentence.

[The use of language] to [establishing identity] was nicely presented in a recent study led by Andy Baron at Harvard University.

How does it look to you? is the 2nd sentence grammatically wrong? if it is right, is there any significant difference in the meaning each sentences convey?

2

The string to establish identity is an infinitival clause. It is being used as an "infinitive of purpose". In other words to establish identity explains the purpose of using the language. So the word to here is part of the infinitival construction, it is not a preposition.

If this was the preposition to then the verb in the second sentence would be a Complement of this preposition and would indeed be required to be an -ing form. However, it isn't and so the second sentence is not grammatical.

The form of the verb after infinitival-to is always in the plain form. Some grammarians think that this is because to is a non-finite modal verb.

  • Thanks for your comment. Your explanation was really easy to follow through. But i have one question concerning the part where you wrote "If this was the preposition to~However, it isn't " I would really appreciate it if you would add further explanation on how you came to a conclusion that the 'to' in the 2nd sentence isn't used as a preposition. – Student in need Apr 22 '16 at 9:52
  • Let me add another example: Whilst researching about the topic I came across this very intriguing sentence: 'Since the 1910s, the US government has devoted significant resources to helping Hollywood succeed as a global industry.' for further information, the text is from the book named Hollywood: A Very Short Introduction (Peter Decherny) unless the book's content is written in ungrammatical manner, the 'to' used in the sentence above is used as the preposition to. – Student in need Apr 22 '16 at 9:54
  • @Studentinneed The verb Devote takes two Complements. The thing being given or used (time, money or energy) and a preposition phrase headed by the preposition to (which looks exactly like infinitival-to) which represents the project or thing which is getting the benefit of the time of energy and so forth. An infinitive of purpose is always an Adjunct. In other words it is never the Complement of a verb or noun. In your second example, we known that the to xyz is the second Complement of the verb. Does that help? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 22 '16 at 10:00
  • @Studentinneed Usually, if it is the preposition to and not the infinitival-to we can use a noun after the preposition instead of a clause. You cannot do that with use for example. "The use of language to persuasion" is ungrammatical. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 22 '16 at 10:02

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