Confessed to killing v/s confessed to having killed

  • kanu

    Senior Member
    but...actually....what does it mean to me........if i am doing...something...& confess to someone.....how would i write....." i confess that i am doing this ".........
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    I think there can be a difference.
    He confessed to killing. may have a broader meaning:
    He confessed that he had killed.
    or
    He confessed that he killed.

    He confessed to having killed. can only mean:
    He confessed that he had killed.
     

    Majorbloodnock

    Senior Member
    British English
    "Confess" is more often used in the third person, as in "At the police station, he confessed to having killed Eric". It is perfectly possible to use it in the first person ("I must confess that's one of my big weaknesses"), but it's less common.

    However, if you've done something and are owning up to it, it's probably more normal to use the word "admit" instead. "Yes, I admit I forgot to buy your present in time for your birthday, but I'll make it up to you."
     

    wormhole

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    @Thomas1

    I don't think that "he confessed to have killed." is wrong. Isn't it possible to use it like some other verbs such as "believe" & "claim"?

    He claims to have been discriminated against.
    We believed him to have been wrongly accused by them.
     

    Majorbloodnock

    Senior Member
    British English
    @Thomas1

    I don't think that "he confessed to have killed." is wrong. Isn't it possible to use it like some other verbs such as "believe" & "claim"?

    He claims to have been discriminated against.
    We believed him to have been wrongly accused by them.
    Think of it in the present tense for a moment. We wouldn't say "I confess to kill", we'd say "I confess to killing". Therefore, the correct form in the past tense is "I confess to having killed", not "to have killed"; if you wanted to use "have killed", you'd have to supply a subject for the verb, as in "I confess I have killed". However, the sentence "He confessed to have killed" would be perfectly well understood even if it is sloppy English.

    The only real difference between "He confessed to killing" and "He confessed to having killed" is the degree of continuity implied. The first implies a persistent and indefinite period of killing, whilst the second simply implies at least one instance of having killed someone or something.
     

    wormhole

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    But this verb must be used to explain two actions in different times, so as you have said, nobody would use " I confess to kill",but, on the other hand, I thought that I could say " I confess to have killed two girls." instead of "I confess that I have killed two girls." or " He confessed to have killed two girls." instead of "He confessed that he had killed two girls." My problem is that the verb " to confess to" is some kind of verb to be followed by "-ing" or there is something different here?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The verb is "confess", not "confess to".

    The word "to" in these examples is not part of the verb form, it is a preposition introducing a noun or noun phrase (gerund in this case).
    I confess to killing...
    I confess to having killed...


    I confess to have killed...
    Here, there is no noun or noun phrase following "to".
     

    wormhole

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    @panjandrum

    So you are saying that the use of " I confess to have killed..." is not correct because "to", which is a preposition here as you've said, must be followed by a noun or noun phrase. I encountered the usage I have given above in some of the news websites, and they've made me confused.
     

    Majorbloodnock

    Senior Member
    British English
    @panjandrum

    So you are saying that the use of " I confess to have killed..." is not correct because "to", which is a preposition here as you've said, must be followed by a noun or noun phrase. I encountered the usage I have given above in some of the news websites, and they've made me confused.
    Quite probably, Wormhole. News sites are written by journalists who are under pressure to publish their stories as quickly as possible - preferably before their competitors. The journalists' grammar is usually fairly good, but by no means perfect, and one can often spot minor mistakes.

    "Confess to have killed" is grammatically incorrect, but I think we've already admitted (and if not, we should do so now) that the combination is often used. Since it is easy to understand the meaning, communication is not really hindered, so it's easy to forgive the error. However, on a site like this, it's far better to be accurate.
     

    wormhole

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    @Majorbloodnock

    Thanks for your explanation. I know that there are a lot of wrong usages of English in Internet, but in my humble opinion news sites should be more accurate than all the others. Anyway, I got the answer and the possible reasons of the wrong usage thanks to you and the other valuable members of this forum.
     
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