I have the following sentence and I need your help:

"Renewable energy sources can contribute to achieving the climate goals" Is this correct or do I have to write: "Renewable energy sources can contribute to achieve the climate goals"

I'd appreciate every comment.

  • 3
    Does this answer your question? "contribute to investigating" or "contribute to investigate". As @Colin Fine says there, 'contribute' does not catenate with a to-infinitive. The 'to = in order to' reading here would be unidiomatic and very awkward. Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 10:40
  • ... On reading some of the examples @LPH points to, I'd say that there are perhaps acceptable examples of this string not involving 'in order to', but this example certainly sounds unnatural. 'Man's social participation and teamwork contribute to achieve his goal.' where 'contribute' = 'chip in' and 'to' is not the (reason) 'in order to' but the (resultative) 'so as to' sounds better. But again, not a true catenation. Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 11:09

3 Answers 3


Extract from https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/contribute

Don’t use a verb in the infinitive after contribute. Use the pattern contribute to doing something:

  • ✗ Technology has contributed to improve our lives.
  • ✓ Technology has contributed to improving our lives.
  • ✗ A positive aspect of education is that it contributes to confirm one’s identity.
  • ✓ A positive aspect of education is that it contributes to confirming one’s identity.

You can also use the pattern contribute to something: Technology has contributed to improvements in our lives.

  • 1
    Although this question is an obvious duplicate, I'm going to upvote here because you've taken the effort to give an answer with a linked, attributed quote, which (while not necessarily telling the whole story, and to my mind not 'entirely correct') doesn't compel readers to go to the link to see exactly what it says. Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 11:01

I read these differently:

  1. "Renewable energy sources can contribute to (= towards [someone's]) achieving the climate goals"

  2. "Renewable energy sources can contribute to (=in order to) achieve the climate goals"

The second sounds awkward.

  • Yes, I think this is the issue. "contribute towards achieving" makes sense but "contribute towards achieve" would not. The second meaning would be more natural as "combine (in order) to achieve". Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 8:02

You find both forms, both are correct; however, the participial phrase is much more common (ngram). It might be said that it is found to be more expressive. Nevertheless, there is no difference in meaning, as far as I can tell.

  • Can you show me an instance of Contribute to + infinitive. It sounds wrong intuitively. I've only ever seen it used with nouns and gerunds
    – Arunkgp
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 10:29
  • @Arunkgp You can get plenty of examples from the ngram I provide; it's only needed to click the underlined "contibute to achieve" below the graph: that will introduce on your screen the list of books with the examples.
    – LPH
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 10:38
  • 1
    The examples I've checked as you suggest are often of the 'to = in order to' kind, and this, being different from a catenation, surely needs pointing out on a site like ELU. Of the ones where true catenation is involved, the actual noun groups involved inform idiomaticity to quite a degree. I'd say OP's example sounds at least close to unacceptable. Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 10:50
  • Grammatically, all the four examples are correct. "contribute to improve, contribute to improving; contribute to confirm, contribute to confirming" How's it that contribute to improve, and contribute to confirm are wrong? The difference I see is that two of them denote infinitive verbs, and the other two to+ing form.
    – Ram Pillai
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 14:41
  • @RamPillai This answer (english.stackexchange.com/a/530924/349876) provides a clear prescription. Moreover, this can be said: if you check the entry for "contribute" in OALD and in it the constructions that are recognized as meaningful for this verb, you notice that the construction "[V to inf]" does not figure in the list; this is another prescriptive clue telling us that this construction has no well acknowledged meaning.
    – LPH
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 14:56

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