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Can anyone tell me why a V-ing is used after the infinitive 'to'?

  1. There are four stages on the road to becoming a scientist, and I remember them all. (to become?)
  2. There are now a number of routes to becoming a Member of the House of Lords. (to become?)
  3. They were supposed to be ordinary people who gave some of their time to keeping an eye on the government and representing the people. (to keep?)

Your reply will be greatly appreciated! Daisy Lee

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  • "to" is not an infinitive: do you mean: why is ing being used after to? Think of it this way: "Becoming a scientist" is a noun phrase. To become a scientist is not.
    – Lambie
    Apr 7, 2018 at 21:15
  • @Lambie “To become a scientist was my only goal is life” shows that “to become a scientist” can certainly be a noun phrase, considering it’s the subject of the verb was there.
    – tchrist
    Apr 7, 2018 at 21:37
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    I meant to say: "becoming a scientist" is a gerund noun phrase. "to become a doctor" is not a gerund noun phrase.
    – Lambie
    Apr 7, 2018 at 21:52
  • The "becoming" and "keeping" elements are not noun phrases, but non-finite clauses functioning as complement of the preposition "to". Prepositions take a wide range of complements including clauses, not just noun phrases.
    – BillJ
    Apr 8, 2018 at 7:59
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    Yes, "of" is also a preposition in this example with the clause "encouraging appropriate learning activities" as its complement. But "ways" normally selects the preposition "of", not "to", so "of" is not a 'natural' replacement for "to" in your example. Note that you could say "There are many other ways [to encourage appropriate learning activities]", where the bracketed element is an infinitival clause and "to" is a subordinator, not a preposition.
    – BillJ
    Apr 8, 2018 at 12:23

3 Answers 3

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  • becoming a member of the House of Lords
  • becoming a scientist
  • keeping an eye on the government and representing the people

The foregoing phrases are all gerund noun phrases. They are not part of a to-infinitive:

Infinitives can be used as nouns just as gerunds are used as nouns. However, it is important to remember that the word "to" is included in the infinitive, whereas "to" is not part of the gerund, but is a preposition that comes before the gerund as a separate grammatical element.

preposition before gerund phrase or noun versus to-infinitive

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1.There are four stages on the road [to becoming a scientist], and I remember them all.

2.There are now a number of routes [to becoming a Member of the House of Lords].

3.They were supposed to be ordinary people who gave some of their time [to keeping an eye on the government and representing the people].

In these examples, "to" is not a subordinator but a preposition and thus the bracketed elements are preposition phrases with "to" as head and the subordinate "becoming" and "keeping/representing" clauses as its complement.

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Here are three situations in which you can use a gerund after the preposition to.

1.If the to is part of a phrasal verb or verb + preposition combination: I look forward to meeting your parents tonight!

2.If the to is part of an adjective + preposition combination: I am addicted to watching soap operas on TV.

  1. If the to is part of a noun + preposition combination: His addiction to gambling has caused a lot of stress for his family.
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  • I agree with you but in 3. would describe it differently. But the OP's question does not tally with any of them.
    – Lambie
    Apr 7, 2018 at 21:31

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