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We use ‘look forward to + gerund’. According to Cambridge the use of gerund is due to the fact that ‘to’ is a preposition when following ‘look forward’ (as opposed to an infinitive marker).

At the same time ‘drive somebody to (+ verb)’ requires the verb to be an infinitive. Cambridge itself gives ‘violent behaviour […] drove her to leave home’ as an example.

Whenever ‘drive somebody to’ is followed by a noun, ‘to’ appears to be a preposition. Cambridge on the same page lists ‘love has driven men and women to strange extremes.’ Collins mentions ‘into’ as an alternative preposition, as in ‘The recession […] drove them into bankruptcy.’

  1. Is ‘to’ in ‘drive somebody to (+ verb)’ a preposition or an infinitive marker?

  2. Assuming ‘to’ is a preposition: If the rule were to use gerund whenever ‘to’ is not an infinitive marker, wouldn’t we need to say ‘drive somebody to + gerund’, as for example ‘violent behaviour drove her to leaving home?’ Wouldn’t that be consistent with ‘look forward to + gerund?’

  3. Long story short: Why is ‘drive somebody to’ followed by an infinitive and not a gerund as e.g. ‘look forward to?’

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  • Don't worry so much! It's going to drive you to drink!!
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 3, 2020 at 23:11

2 Answers 2

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First . . . this is not a rule: Use a gerund whenever "to" is not an infinitive marker.

When to is a preposition, it is followed by a noun or something that functions as one (including a gerund):

look forward to dinner
look forward to the meal
look forward to whatever we're having for dinner
look forward to eating

In drive somebody to ___, to is either a preposition or an infinitive marker, depending on what follows it.

When to is a preposition, drive somebody to ___ is followed by a noun or something that functions as one:

drive somebody to the edge of insanity
drive somebody to the store
drive somebody to wherever he or she needs to go
drive somebody to thinking

When drive is used in its sense of compel, drive somebody ___ is followed by a to-infinitive verb phrase—the to infinitive marker + the base form of the verb + whatever else it might need for completion:

drive somebody to leave
drive somebody to finish dinner
drive somebody to stop smoking

Sometimes you have a choice; you just need to decide what you're trying to say:

Preposition + nominal:
Love has driven men and women to strange extremes.
?Love has driven men and women to acting strangely. (somewhat awkward)
*Love has compelled men and women to acting strangely. (incorrect)

Infinitive marker + bare verb etc.:
Love has driven men and women to act strangely.
Love has compelled men and women to act strangely.

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  • The snag is, with drive someone to drink, unless one is privy to something going on deeper than the surface structure 'drink' can be noun OED: '3. ... Indulgence to excess in intoxicating liquor' or verb Longman '2 ... '[to] drink alcohol, especially regularly or too much'. Mar 4, 2020 at 21:31
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    Yes, drink in drive someone to drink — the idiomatic expression — is a noun. If one wishes to argue that he or she means compel someone to drink, then drink is not a noun. Neither is it the idiomatic expression. We also say, idiomatically, drive someone to drinking (gerund/noun). In any case, the OP did not bring up drink, so I chose to not add to the confusion. Mar 4, 2020 at 21:41
  • But you've not given compelling evidence that 'drive someone to drink' must be using the noun intercategorial polyseme. Farlex DoI says it's not. // '[the need for attention] drove her to become an actor' and '[the need for attention] drove her to acting' are both idiomatic; both 'drove her to become an actor' and 'drove her to acting' are evidenced on the Internet.... Mar 5, 2020 at 10:59
  • And, for instance, on this page of Google search results, half the examples are of the 'drive someone to V' form. Mar 5, 2020 at 11:03
  • @EdwinAshworth: I'm not sure why compelling evidence for anything unrelated to the the OP's question should be provided here. We should make Drive [someone] to drink: noun or verb? its own question. As I noted, drive to can be followed by a nominal or a bare verb, depending on the meaning. Drink can be either. I believe etymological arguments for the idiomatic expression point to noun. Meanwhile, let context be the guide: He was driven to drink, then to heroin. (noun) He was driven to drink a glass of milk. (verb) Mar 6, 2020 at 0:22
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Long story short: Why is ‘drive somebody to’ followed by an infinitive and not a gerund as e.g. ‘look forward to?

In to drive someone to drink, "to drink" is not an infinitive; it is a preposition + a noun. Drink(n. uncountable) = alcohol; alcoholic drinks. e.g. "Drink is only sold to adults."

It is no different from "I drove him to school" or "I drove him to distraction."

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  • How about His violent behaviour drove her to leave home and His violent behaviour made her leave home? Infinitives (full and bare, respectively) following causatives? Mar 4, 2020 at 3:47
  • @Tinfoil Hat "To leave home" is an infinitive phrase - these have several functions. In this case, it answers the question "To what state did he drive her?" Compare - "He drove her mad." Have a look at englishsentences.com/infinitive-phrase
    – Greybeard
    Mar 4, 2020 at 8:54
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    My point was that in drive [someone] to ____, to is not always a preposition. Drive someone to drink, where drink is a noun preceded by a preposition, is an idiom. Mar 4, 2020 at 16:46
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    The Farlex Dictionary of Idioms analyses 'to drink' here as a to-infinitive: drive (one) to (do something) ... To motivate, compel, or impel one to do something. ... The desire to set a good example for my kids drove me to finally complete my college degree. / The stress of this job is going to drive me to drink. //// I'm not sure I agree with this, but at least it's an attempt at a supporting reference. Mar 4, 2020 at 17:24
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    Piling up examples showing that 'drink' is also a noun proves nothing. I can add << drink [V] [intransitive] to drink alcohol, especially regularly or too much >> [Longman]. [So far] only the Farlex DoI pronounces on the actual usage involved here, though as I say, I'd like to see an authority stating the opposite. Mar 4, 2020 at 21:24

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