be accustomed to do/ doing?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by richardliu, Jul 7, 2009.

  1. richardliu Senior Member

    Hi, friends!

    When I read some English materials , I found an interesting phenomenon. To express somebody is used to sleeping late, one version goes like this: Mary is accustomed to sleep late. However , another version is : Mary is accustomed to sleeping late. Do these two sentences function the same to you or there is a tiny difference between these two ?

    Thank you so much!
  2. AprendoSiempre Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    American English (NC)
    The first one just sounds wrong to me. I've heard "accustomed to + gerund" or "accustomed to + noun," but not "accustomed to + infinitive."

    • I'm accustomed to sleeping in late on the weekend.:tick:
    • He's grown accustomed to the noise of the city.:tick:
    • She's accustomed to eat this kind of food.:cross:
    • She's accustomed to eating this kind of food.:tick:
    Maybe that's just me?
  3. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Oxnard, CA
    English (U.S.)
    Nope, I agree. Maybe the construction is British? I doubt it though.
  4. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    No, now there are at least three of us.

    The preposition "to" takes a noun, and a gerund is a verbal noun. Sleep is a "bare infinitive". A bare infinitive is not a noun, and so does not work with a preposition.

    Edit: to add xqby to the count.
  5. AprendoSiempre Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    American English (NC)
    Hi Richardliu,
    Is "Mary is accustomed to sleep late" a direct quote? If not, can you give us the sentence exactly as you read it?
  6. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    'Accustomed to' + plain form is rare, and perhaps quite old-fashioned, but not impossible.

    The ear is not accustomed to exercise constantly its functions of hearing; it is accustomed to stillness.--Ruskin, Modern Painters, 1851
    'The freedom and way of life we have been accustomed to enjoy for so long will vanish', Kenneth Oxford, Chief Constable of Merseyside, prophesied in 1977 [from BNC]
    She writes that it was 'one of the best, but it did not suit John, as he was accustomed to follow his whims, and invent or discover for himself . . .' [Theatre in my blood: biography of John Cranko, 1983, found in BNC]
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2009
  7. AprendoSiempre Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    American English (NC)
    It turns out this issue has come up before on WordReference: This thread suggested that it sounded slightly British. It's also older, as Entangledbank pointed out. I never hear it and I would suggest that in your speech you use "Accustomed to + gerund." I personally think it sounds much better.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2009
  8. AlbinoRat New Member

    English - U.S.
    accustomed to being and accustomed to eating sound much more natural to me. In fact accustomed to be and accustomed to eat sound plain wrong to me (although it may be a dialectical thing.)
  9. richardliu Senior Member

    Thanks go to all of you for your considerate help!
  10. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    I suppose the 'tiny difference' is that the second could possibly mean that Mary is accustomed to other people sleeping late, but the first could not.

    I think that contributors have exaggerated to rarity of this form. If you Google 'accustomed to do' or 'accustomed to make' you'll find lots of examples, including the following sentence from this very famous essay by George Orwell:
    If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2009
  11. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Well, accustomed to do sounds very old-fashioned to me. I can't imagine using it.
    I can readily imagine using accustomed to doing, however.
  12. wohlamhay Member

    Well I personally don't take it hard to think over again and again..

    See this:
    Be Accustomed To + Noun / Gerund

    Be Accustomed To + Sleeping (verb + ing)
    Be Accustomed To + Sleep (Noun)

    SLEEP is also a NOUN so without any grammatical change in Structure, there is nothing wrong to use SLEEP after Be Accustomed To...

  13. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    'Accustomed to do' is different in meaning from 'accustomed to doing'.
    In the former case, the custom is, so to speak, external to the action, while in the latter case it is involved in the action.
    Take Teddy's example quoted from George Orwell.
    This describes a habit of delivering a speech repeatedly. The habit is formed from an intent to do so. That intent precedes logically the custom itself. It is a habit which is lodged, as it were, among the other habits and routines of his life. It is determined by larger forces in his personality and career. The speech-making results from it.
    On the other hand, to be accustomed to making the speech means to acquire a habit from the performance of it. Here the habit follows from and is created by the speech-making.
  14. Myopic_Shaikh New Member

    I just just want rule to know where "to" takes a verbal noun and where it takes an infinitive. I have been seeking it months. For example if I only know the phrase "be accustomed to" how can I analyse if I should use the structure of "To + Do" or "To + Doing" ?
  15. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    If you read the above posts, as well as the thread linked to in post #7, you will see that most present day speakers would use gerund (doing) and not the infinitive form with 'accustomed'. The infinitive was used in the past, and it is grammatically correct, but many people nowadays would hear it as a mistake.

    We use 'to' with nouns and pronouns:
    I have grown accustomed to her face.
    He was accustomed to the noise.

    As 'doing' is a gerund in this construction, that is, a verbal noun, the preference for 'doing' may be seen as consistent with this rule.
  16. Myopic_Shaikh New Member


    Thanks alot. but see, i used "accustomed" as an example. what I need to know is if there is a way knowing about the condition of "To". e.g. "look forward to" "be used to" and so on. I just want to be acquainted with the criteria of using infinitive or gerund. i hope I was perceptive.
  17. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    It is a reasonable question, and you are not the first one to wonder whether there is a rule. Unfortunately, there is no rule that will help you predict which verbs we use with infinitives and which we use with gerunds. There are even verbs that take both, but with a difference in meanings.

    See this thread: List of verbs followed by gerund/infinitive

    To find earlier discussions of specific verbs, use the search box at the top of the page to search for gerund infinitive. Here are some to start with:
    can't stand <to infinitive, gerund>

    'd advise + infinitive or gerund?
    I regret not to accept/ not accepting ...? [gerund infinitive]

    (You will also see why we ask that titles contain the specific verb or phrase under discussion, rather than generic titles like "gerund or infinitive.")
  18. Myopic_Shaikh New Member

    Thanks Cagey. In last 5 years of my teachin experience i got no satisfactory answer to this question. Although I am now aware of the lexical rule of each and every word, still there comes a time very often that we are not able to get our thoughts delivered into students' minds.

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