Now and then I come across the constructions indicated in the heading. I'm a bit puzzled regarding their usage as a complement:

I don't want there to be any more trouble. I'd like there to be more time to think. What's the chance of there being an election this year? What is the current thinking about there being more than one Universe?

Are they entirely interchangeable or is there some difference in the meaning? Apparently, it ought to be because sometimes it seems that one fits the context better than the other. For example:

So your experiences, which represent there to be an external world of physical objects (including your body), give rise to systematically mistaken beliefs about your world (such as that you are now sitting at a computer).

If I were the one who wrote this sentence, I would definitely have used there being, but the real author chose the other variant. So, what is the difference (if any)?

1 Answer 1


The difference is entirely in the requirements of the matrix clause. "Want" and "like" take an infinitive clause, while "The chances of" and "thinking about" take gerunds. There is no discernable explanation for these preferences: they're simply arbitrary facts about present day English.

  • Hmm...What's wrong with these sentences? I like there being a special charm about this place. The chances of there to be a gun on him are fairly high. Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 17:57
  • What's wrong is that they are not idiomatic English. Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 18:08
  • @Kate Bunting Would they be if put as "there to be a special charm" and "there being a gun" respectively? Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 18:23
  • @MvLog: No; the to-infinitive is mainly used in the expression "would like X to be Y", which implies that X is not currently Y. You could use a subordinate clause: "I like that there is a special charm about this place." However, it might sound best to rephrase to use a noun ("I like the special charm about this place") or to split the sentence in two ("I like this place. It has a special charm.").
    – herisson
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 19:25

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