Learners' Questions

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Preposition 'to' + 'ing' or infinitive?

Episode 200218 / 18 Feb 2020

This week's question

After the preposition 'to', do we use +ing or infinitive verb? - Paola from Italy

Answer this

Complete the sentence: "I prefer _____ (eat) crisps to ____ (eat) chocolate."

Language points

As a general rule: verb / noun / adjective + preposition + -ing verb

  • Please sit down without speaking.
  • I'm interested in learning to speak English.

Specifically using 'to' as a preposition:

Look forward to + -ing you (often used at the end of a letter)

  • I look forward to hearing from you. Yours faithfully, Dan.

Admit to doing something wrong: admit + -ing. Admit means 'tell the truth about doing something wrong.

  • I admit to being the best English teacher I can be! Sorry! (Dan's being ironic)

Object to doing something: object to + ing. Object means dislike, disapprove or dislike of something.

  • I object to people throwing litter in the streets. Stop it at once!

Be used to doing something: used to + -ing. If you are 'used to doing' something, it means it is not new, unusual or strange to you.

  • I'm used to having a cup of tea before leaving for work.

Preference: prefer -ing to -ing. You prefer doing X to doing Y, you compare two things - maybe your general likes and interests.

  • I prefer cycling to running.
  • I prefer teaching English to learning it.

Get round to doing something means do something after wanting to do it for a long time: get round to -ing verb

  • I've finally got round to making this video for Paola from Italy.

Note: When 'to' is not a preposition

It's usually followed by an infinitive. This happens after certain verbs such as want, need and would like (this is about verb patterns).

  • I would like to go. I want to go. I need to go.

And it happens after an adjective and we use 'to'+ infinitive verb.

  • I'm happy to see you.

The answer

"I prefer eating crisps to eating chocolate."

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