Hi everybody!

One of the grammar sections in the coursebook I'm using concerns the use of the -ing form. The explanation reads as follows:

We can use the -ing form of the verb as a noun. It can be the subject, object, or complement of a sentence. Here, I think it is making reference to the gerund, isn't it?


AS SUBJECT: Managing the computer's resources is an imoprtant function of the operating system.

AS OBJECT: The operating system starts running the user interface as soon as the PC is switched on.

AS COMPLEMENT: Another function of the operating system is executing and providing services for applications software.

The -ing form is also used after prepositions. This includes "to" when it is a preposition and not part of the infinitive. I think that, in this case, it refers again to the gerund, is this so?


We look forward to having cheaper and faster computers.

I'm used to surfiing the web.

Few people object to doing their jobs the correct way.

Now, one of my students asked me: "How can we decide when to use the -ing form and when the infinitive after "to"?"

My question is: Are there any rules to stick to when it comes to deciding whtether to use the - ing form or the infinitive after "to"? Or should we learn each case by heart?

Thanks a lot!!

Indeed the distinction is really troublesome for some verbs.

(EX) You can apply to go to that country as a traveler, but the same emigration rule will apply even to going for a travel.

Your comments re gerunds are correct.

You need to separate prepositional verbs from free verbs + infinitive. To a large extent, it is a matter of learning the prepositional verbs:

look forward to
be used to
object to
attend to
drink to
conform to

You can try checking by putting them into the passive: most prepositional verbs should transform, while verb+infinitive will not:

The committee objected to voting immediately. Voting immediately was objected to by the committee.
The committee refused to vote.
(X) Vote was refused to by the committee. But: To vote was refused by the committee

Obviously, the to of the infinitive should travel with it, while the to of the prepositional verb remains with its verb.

I think that this is a difficult way to judge however, since many prepositional verbs sound odd in passive anyway. And of course, there are many that use both, like drink to and agree to..
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Thanks a lot MM!

Your explanations were really helpful! Now, could you give some examples of the prepositional verbs used in context (i.e. in a sentence)?

Thanks a lot!!

 paco2004's reply was promoted to an answer.
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(Mr M forgot to log in again-- MM)

Right you are, Paco. Here are some samples, Mara:

You should attend to serving your guests.
Let us drink to outwitting the competition and becoming the top player in our industry!

Hussein would never have resorted to using weapons of mass destruction.
My father never referred to borrowing the car.

(I can't think of a gerund that will complement conform to -- this may be idiomatically impossible.)