I am not sure about the usage of infinitives in this sentence:

Finally, one of the accused confessed to have forged the director's signature on the report.

Could anyone explain correct usage?

1 Answer 1


You seem to have confused the to particle used in certain infinitive constructs with to used as a preposition.

In English, the phrasal verb confess to takes the -ing form of the verb as its complement, not a bare infinitive as you have used here.

  • He confessed to forging the signature.
  • He confessed to having forged the signature.

This acts as the head of its own verb phrase (VP), and is effectively a noun. When you use an -ing form as a noun, it is sometimes called a gerund. Notice how you can swap in a real noun:

  • He confessed to the crime.
  • So you would confess to yesterday’s robbery?

There is also a non-phrasal use of confess, as distinct from the phrasal verb confess to:

  • He confessed his sin.
  • @ tchrist: So here in this question gerund appears in the picture rather than infinitives? Am i right?
    – Sudhir
    Dec 21, 2012 at 14:46
  • +1 Notice that he confessed his sin is a slightly different construction. Dec 21, 2012 at 15:00
  • Notice the difference now that we know the difference between forging the present participle and forging the gerund. Terminology makes everything clear, [Chinese-English ahead:] isn't it?
    – user21497
    Dec 21, 2012 at 15:07
  • @StoneyB: I just checked my Collins-COBUILD Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs but couldn't find confess to listed. Where is it listed as a phrasal verb? I checked the Internet as well, but came up blank. Confess to seems to be merely an idiom with a synonymous phrasal verb: own up.
    – user21497
    Dec 21, 2012 at 15:25
  • @BillFranke The OED has it as a phrasal verb: “6. intr. confess to (a thing): To plead guilty to (a charge), own to (a fault or weakness); to admit, acknowledge. With indirect pass.”
    – tchrist
    Dec 21, 2012 at 15:37

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