How to identify where to use gerund after 'to'? In some cases like "Look forward to" / "Looking forward to", we have to use gerund, which makes the sentence as, "Looking forward to meeting you". However, in almost all the other cases we have to use base form of verb as 'to meet', 'to see', 'to go', etc.

Any specific way / rule to identify this?

  • The structure is verb - intrans prep - transitive PP. The crucial point is that “to” is a preposition here, not a clause subordinator, so its complement can only a noun phrase or as in this case a gerund-participle clause.
    – BillJ
    May 31, 2017 at 7:36

1 Answer 1


The entire phrase, as you observe, is look forward to. That to right there is a preposition, which means it needs a noun phrase complement. And while both to-infinitive clauses and gerund clauses are verb phrases that can be used where the grammar calls for a noun phrase, when using the to-infinitive you cannot drop the to:

  • I’m looking forward to supper.
  • I’m looking forward to whatever you’re planning for me.
  • I’m looking forward to *to meet you.
  • I’m looking forward to meeting you.

That “double to” is what makes it not be grammatical. In general, to-infinitives shouldn’t be used for prepositional objects because it doesn’t sound right. For those, you should use the gerund instead.

  • There seem to be relatively few transitive multi-word verbs with the prepositiony-particle 'to'. This Wiktionary article fails to differentiate particle types. May 31, 2017 at 7:03
  • I thought OP wanted to know whether to use meet or meeting. May 31, 2017 at 23:47

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