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With all that's going on right now (i.e. the COVID-19 pandemic), Instagram has decided to promote a few accounts whose information it deems factual. One such account is that of the World Health Organization. Such a large and pertinent organization could be reasonably expected to ensure that their social media content is grammatically sound, right?

Here is their bio:

We are the #UnitedNations' health agency. We are committed to achieve better health for everyone, everywhere.

My ears, my mother, and Grammarly all tell me it should read:

We are the #UnitedNations' health agency. We are committed to achieving better health for everyone, everywhere.

Is it possible that both are correct, or do the social media managers for the WHO need some English lessons?

Relevant Ngram

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I think that the answer is that at the moment, the passive form of commit followed by the infinitive form of a verb in not an established usage. There are examples of such a usage with other verbs, but not with the verb commit ... yet. So your sense of wrongness was justified.

Merriam Webster provides nothing in response to the entry "committed to", and under "committed" provides no parallel or example of "committed" with an infinitive. But it responds to "determined" as follows:-

Having reached a decision : firmly resolved.

And it gives the examples:-

was determined to become a pilot

is determined not to let it happen again

The Cambridge English dictionary set out its account differently, but re-enforces Merriam's account.

having promised to be involved in a plan of action:

It gives the following examples:

We are committed to withdrawing our troops by the end of the year.

The prime minister has said that the government is committed to the preservation of the country's national interests.

We are firmly committed to reducing unemployment.

In each example committed to is followed by a noun or noun phrase. That is why I say that, while there are usages that are analogous to the WHO use with an infinitive, so that it is obvious what they it is trying to say, it is not an established usage. I know I am disagreeing with the earlier answer which you have accepted, but I have to beg to differ.

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  • I agree with you! And I think both the other answers here are mistaken in supposing the infinitive form is "valid" at all, let alone capable of carrying some different meaning. Well, maybe it's a bit ott to say She was committed to marry him is actually "invalid". But it's not really idiomatic. Jun 9, 2020 at 17:31
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Both are correct: they have different meanings. The infinitive form is what the WHO intended.

The infinitive form indicates the complete action and implies the completed action.

The "-ing" form indicates an action that, at the time referred to, is uncompleted.

The WHO's use indicates that they wish to attain that point at which there is "better health for everyone, everywhere", thus the "-ing" form indicates that they wish to attain a state in which the providing "better health for everyone, everywhere" has started but has not (at the time referred to) finished.

Have a look at the results and examples in Google NGrams for committed to achieve,committed to achieving

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  • Thank you, although the Ngram you linked is already in my post :) Jun 9, 2020 at 16:23
  • I think the idea that the achieving / achieve choice here reflects whether the commitment is to starting or finishing some process is complete fantasy. Jun 9, 2020 at 17:28
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I may not be the best person to answer this question since I always consider the grammatical and syntactic aspects in it. Sometimes, there is no "right" or "wrong" sentence, what we do have is: how it's usually said.

In fact, your ears, mother and Grammarly told you correctly about how it should read, but there may be a different interpretation for the related question:

There are two possible ways to rephrase this sentence:

  1. We are committed to achieving - that means they are engaged in achieving something (which is how you think it should read)

  2. We are commited to achieve - that means they are committed with a purpose of achieving something (to achieve something), the fact that to-infinitive (to achieve) was used rather than "to achieving" makes it clear that it is being used as an adverb of purpose. Therefore, the verb "to commit" is not being used with a complement. Another way to interpretate it would be using a subordinate clause indicating reason: We are committed because we want to achieve it or even: We are committed so we can achieve it.

Perhaps, the second interpretation is what Instagram's writer meant.

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