I saw some scenarios that used the structure "to + V-ing", such as the following:

  • Looking forward to hearing.
  • Disposed to using few words.
  • I would like to apply what I learned in school to helping make more money.
  • This is the closest we have come to winning the league.

When can I use this structure? I'm confused about that.


In English, the form V + -ing is called a gerund if it serves as a noun. For example, the gerund form of "run" is "running". (I like cats, I like dogs, I like running). However, not all V + ing forms are gerunds--in "I am running", "running" is another verb.

This blog post explains that there are a few cases where you use to + V + -ing:

1) If the to is part of a phrasal verb or verb + preposition combination:

A phrasal verb is something like "look forward to", "confess to", etc. In this case, the "to" is part of the verb itself. Some examples are:

  • I am looking forward to attending the party
  • I am committed to supporting the Linguistics proposal on Area51

2) If the to is part of an adjective + preposition combination:

For example:

  • A lot of women aren’t accustomed to being treated so well!
  • I am opposed to increasing taxes.

These look similar to the examples above, but you can tell that a word like accustomed is an adjective in this case because there is a form of the verb to be. That is, you are an adjective.

3) If the to is part of a noun + preposition combination:

For example:

  • His addiction to gambling has caused a lot of stress for his family.
  • Her great dedication to teaching inspires her students.

Going through your examples, "I would like to apply what I learned in school to helping make more money" is incorrect, and doesn't fit into any of these categories (hat tip: Karl Knechtel).

  • 1
    "I would like to apply what I learned in school to helping make more money" sounds wrong to me, and as far as I can tell it doesn't fit in any of those listed categories, either. – Karl Knechtel Aug 23 '11 at 7:56
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    I think this is a bit too complicated as it says the same thing three times over. In short: the gerund is used because to is a preposition in these cases (i.e. you need a noun after it, and out of all verb forms only the gerund can function as a noun). – RegDwigнt Aug 23 '11 at 10:04
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    Oh, and the third example fits just fine into the first category. (It's the "helping make more money" part that is strange, but the "apply X to <gerund>" part is perfectly grammatical.) – RegDwigнt Aug 23 '11 at 10:07
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    @RegDwight: Exactly. There's nothing wrong with the OP's example except for a stylistic flabbiness. – Robusto Aug 23 '11 at 12:37
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    Your examples in 1) don't have the gerunds. Also, what do you mean by "That is, you are an adjective"? – Theta30 Aug 25 '11 at 5:51

It's a bit tricky but you have to learn to tell whether the "To" is being used as (A.) part of an Infinitive or (B.) a Preposition.

Once you develop this skill, you can follow this:

Infinitive "To" = to + base verb

Preposition "To" = to + Noun, Pronoun, V+ing

Examples of Infinitive "To" are:

would like to + base verb

plan to + base verb

decide to + base verb


Examples of Preposition "To" are:

go to + Noun

look forward to + Noun/ V+ing

be used to + Noun/ V+ing

allergic to + Noun


Hope this helped!


protected by Mitch May 28 '12 at 14:06

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