A few obstacles to develop/ developing

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roxanelag

Senior Member
Spanish-Spain
Hi there! How's it going?
I'm coming up with another 'ing or not ing' question.
In a text in my English book I'm reading this:
Being born into a family like this must at the very least have meant there were few obstacles
to developing a Bach child's musical talent.

So, is 'to' here a full preposition?
Wouldn't be more suitable '... few obstacles to develop a Bach...?

Thank you very much for your time.
Cheers!
 
  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    In a text in my English book I'm reading this:
    <- when you wrote that you were not reading anything -> you were writing the question...

    Being born into a family like this must at the very least have meant there were few obstacles to developing a Bach child's musical talent.

    So, is 'to' here a full preposition?
    It is a preposition but it has no meaning.

    The OED explains the historical background of “to + infinitve/-ing-form” and then goes on to say:
    In modern English the infinitive with to is the ordinary form, the simple infinitive surviving only in particular connections, where it is very intimately connected with the preceding verb (see below). To a certain extent, therefore, i.e. when the infinitive is the subject or direct object, to has lost all its meaning, and become a mere ‘sign’ or prefix of the infinitive. But after an intransitive verb, or the passive voice, to is still the preposition. In appearance, there is no difference between the infinitive in ‘he proceeds to speakand ‘he chooses to speak’; but in the latter to speak is the equivalent of speaking or speech, and in the former of to speaking or to speech.
    Wouldn't '... few obstacles to develop a Bach...' be more suitable ?
    (i) Note word order. (ii) No.

    The -ing form always implies progress; that the action is/was/will be on-going.

    I am reading a book -> I am in the process of reading a book. / I am spending time reading a book
     
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    roxanelag

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Spain
    <- when you wrote that you were not reading anything -> you were writing the question...

    It is a preposition but it has no meaning.

    The OED explains the historical background of “to + infinitve/-ing-form” and then goes on to say:
    (i) Note word order. (ii) No.

    The -ing form always implies progress; that the action is/was/will be on-going.

    I am reading a book -> I am in the process of reading a book. / I am spending time reading a book

    Hi PaulQ. How are you?
    Although I was able to read your answer the same day you wrote it on my mobil, it has been a very busy week and I didn't have the time to thank you.
    I made a few mistakes due to the little time I'm having for studying and the fast that I can forget
    what I know. That's not important, though.
    Maybe I should, however I fail to see why 'to developing' works better than 'to develop'.
    I'm afraid that the lack of translation in Spanish is what makes it hard to understand.
    You say the 'ing' form implies progress and that the action is/was or will be ongoing.
    This is what I'm keeping to myself. Maybe, today my knowledge of this language is not enough to
    get why this 'ing' works here, by I'll try to look into it and I will be wide open to any other
    examples I could find just to figure out what this 'ing' conveysin this sentence.

    Thank you very much for your time.
    Nice start of the week.
    Cheers!
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    If your language does not have a continuous form, it is a difficult concept to grasp. It has several uses. Its prime use is to indicate to the listener that you were spending time doing something. "I was listening to the radio."
    A secondary use is that this easily allows two things to happen at the same time:
    1. He was listening to the radio when I knocked on the door. -> He was spending time listening to the radio at the same time as I knocked at the door
    2. He listened to the radio when I knocked at the door. -> He started to listen to the radio as soon as I knocked on the door.
    I am not sure how you translate 1 and 2 into Spanish (don't tell me - this is the English Only forum!) but, I think you can see the effect.
     

    roxanelag

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Spain
    If your language does not have a continuous form, it is a difficult concept to grasp.
    Hi PaulQ! Thanks for your quick reply!
    How are you?
    Maybe I did explain well or I am missing something here. We have a continuous form, of course.
    We don't call it 'present participle', it is called 'gerund'. Not long ago that I learnt they are different
    things in English.
    The thing is that our 'to' would never be followed by a 'present participle'.
    In English there are certain expressions like 'looking forward to + ing' which are taught to us like follows:
    'This is like this, because this is like this.'
    Another rule is that every preposition is followed by a present participle.
    I posted a question here about 'admit' and 'admit to' and I kind of understood that this 'to' is in esence, as any other preposition, followed by an 'ing' form.
    However, there is another different point here: ... at the very least have meant there were few obtacles
    to developing ...
    I'm going to make up an example:
    There were not enough people to carry out an operation of such extent.
    Would you say that it is better '... enough people to carrying out an ...' than '... to carry out an ...'?

    Thanks PaulQ! I'm going to have some lunch. Spanish time ;-)
    Best regards!
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    There were not enough people to carry out such a large operation of such extent. :tick: This would be said before the operation was even attempted.
    There were not enough people to carrying out such a large operation of such extent. :cross:

    Bad example: that "to" = in order to, and the -ing form does not work with "in order to"

    There were not enough people carrying out such a large operation of such extent. :tick: This would be said after the large operation to indicate that during the large operation there were not enough people who were spending time carrying out the necessary duties.

    Another rule is that every preposition is followed by a present participle.
    Please see my signature below: not only are there no rules, but also that "rule" is far too imprecise to be true.
     

    roxanelag

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Spain
    Bad example: that "to" = in order to, and the -ing form does not work with "in order to"

    Please see my signature below: not only are there no rules, but also that "rule" is far too imprecise to be true.
    Good morning PaulQ. Thanks for your time again.
    Well, maybe that was a bad example, but it might end up being useful.
    Do you mean that this 'to': '... there were few obstacles to debeloping ...' doesn't mean 'in order to'?
    ' ... there were few obstacles in order to develop a Bach ...'

    This might be tiring but it is hard for me to get to understand.
    What I can see right now is that leaving out this 'to' the sentence makes sense to me:
    '... have meant there were few obstacles developing a Bach ...'

    Where does this 'to' preposition belong to in the sentence? I can't see it. How frustrating!

    Thanks a lot PaulQ. Have a nice day.
    Regards
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I find that in a lot of cases in which the grammar is complex, it does not particularly help to give endless examples and then get tied up in the meaning of each of those examples.

    The solution is to look at the principle of surrounding the use of "to" with infinitives and the -ing form.

    That principle, which originates in the grammatical case structure of Old English, is laid out in the honor < of serving as / to serve as > and #2 in the quote from the OED.

    To (prep.) has several meanings and functions. Its chief meaning is (approximately) "in the direction of and as far as": "I went to the end of the street." As this does not involve the verb, you can ignore this.

    A second meaning is "in order to" -> "He use a brush to sweep the path."
    Then there is 'no meaning at all.' -> "To do that would be madness!"

    This is the point at which you need to read the OED quote in #2:
    In modern English the infinitive with to is the ordinary form, the simple infinitive surviving only in particular connections, where it is very intimately connected with the preceding verb (see below). To a certain extent, therefore, i.e. when the infinitive is the subject or direct object, to has lost all its meaning, and become a mere ‘sign’ or prefix of the infinitive. But after an intransitive verb, or the passive voice, to is still the preposition. In appearance, there is no difference between the infinitive in ‘he proceeds(intr.) to speak and ‘he chooses(tr.) to speak; but in the latter to speak is the equivalent of speaking or speech [which are nouns], and in the former is the equivalent of to speaking or to speech [which are nouns].
    That concludes the infinitive.

    The -ing form:

    See the honor < of serving as / to serve as >

    As a meaningful preposition, "to" must have a noun (or other nominal) as an object. To can therefore only precede the -ing form when the -ing form is a noun (as you may call it, a gerund.)

    "He was given to shouting when he lost his temper." / "He dedicated his life to saving orphaned kittens." :tick:

    To cannot be used if the -ing form is verbal:
    "He decided to wearing a hat." / "He chooses to seeing an exhibition of paintings." :cross:

     
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    semeeran

    Senior Member
    Indian Tamil, India
    1. He dedicated his life to saving orphaned kittens.
    2. He dedicated his life to save orphaned kittens.
    Are these two sentences OK grammatically?
    Please comment.
    Thanks.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The first is correct as dedicated has an object.
    The second is wrong because dedicated does not have an object and "to" means "in order to".

    Please note:
    it does not particularly help to give endless examples and then get tied up in the meaning of each of those examples.
     

    roxanelag

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Spain
    Oh my Godness! I think I got it!
    Hi PaulQ! I'm sorry I've had a couple of tight days. I read your answer on the bus, but it was
    too thick as to get something out of it in that environment.

    First, the 'of serving/ to serve' haven't helped much because in Spanish we always go for 'of',
    and obviously, what matches with your own language is easy to understand.

    Secondly, you are right. Too many examples are not most of the times the best way of getting something.
    However, on this ocassion, yours '... given to shouthing ..., and ... dedicated his life to saving ...'
    have been key to grasp this 'ing' meaning.
    Now, I can see crystal clear how those 'to' can't be replaced by 'in order to.'
    Seemeran post comparing 'to saving' and 'to save' has been useful too.

    I've checked out this 'dative case' (let's say I've skimmed) and the reference to the indirect object
    has shed some light as well.
    This grammar is yet out of my reach,but I have some notions that have been pretty handy in this 'search.'

    There's only one thing left and that is to come back to the first sentence '... to developing a Bach ...'
    '... this must at the very least have meant there were few obstacles to developing a Bach child's musical talent.'
    Could 'few obstacles for the development of a Bach child musical talent' work?

    I know I still have something left to get here, but I'm very happy with this little achievement.
    Now, I have something, a direction in which I can analyze the cases I come across from now on.
    The challenge will be to incorporate this structure to my active English.
    But that's another story.

    Thanks PaulQ. Wow, it is late and I'm falling asleep.
    Thanks a lot for your time. I really appreciate it.
    Best regards.
     

    roxanelag

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Spain
    The first is correct as dedicated has an object.
    The second is wrong because dedicated does not have an object and "to" means "in order to".

    Please note:
    Hi PaulQ! I've just noticed that I didn't reply or quote you in my last post. I just wanted to make sure
    you know that thanks to you something which has been around long, bothering and saying
    'Hey! You can't get me. I'm right here, but you can't.', well, it is now mine. The secret has been undisclosed.
    Another little victory on the way to the top of this language.
    Thank you very much! It's been great indeed.
    Best regards!
     
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