Preposition "to"

< Previous | Next >

albertino6375

New Member
Chinese
Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like to know when we should use "to" as a preposition and when an infinitive in a sentence. Take the following example, I guess that as there is no subject, a prepositional "to" be used in the subsequent verb "encourage -> encouraging"(because of the absence of an actor of the verb) instead of "to encourage". Please advise me if my comprehension in this direction is wrong. Thank you.

"Modern lifestyles tend to involve a sedentary workplace, and there are obvious health benefits to encouraging greater participation in sport. - SCMP"

Any rules or tips or online reference in this respect could be recommended?
 
Last edited:
  • chamyto

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    I´m not native , but it seems to me that it must be "to encourage" . Many times ( if I´ve doubt ) I change to by in order to . In some cases they both are more or less the same .

    By the way , welcome to the forum , albertino6375
     
    Last edited:

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Encouraging here is a gerund -- a noun, not a verb. It is a correct and the verb encourage would not be correct. Does that help?
     

    pops91710

    Senior Member
    English, AE
    I would like to know when we should use "to" as a preposition and when an infinitive in a sentence. Take the following example, I guess that as there is no subject, a prepositional "to" be used in the subsequent verb "encourage -> encouraging"(because of the absence of an actor of the verb) instead of "to encourage". Please advise me if my comprehension in this direction is wrong. Thank you.

    "Modern lifestyles tend to involve a sedentary workplace, and there are obvious health benefits to encouraging greater participation in sport. - SCMP"

    It sounds fine to me. I see it the same as saying to the encouragement of. Any other way would not seem right. Never to encourage.
     

    albertino6375

    New Member
    Chinese
    Encouraging here is a gerund -- a noun, not a verb. It is a correct and the verb encourage would not be correct. Does that help?
    Thank you Copyright. Could you please elaborate further the reason why to ecourage is incorrect? What I mean is why a preposition "to" is preferred to "to-infinitive" here?
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Thank you Copyright. Could you please elaborate further the reason why to ecourage is incorrect? What I mean is why a preposition "to" is preferred to "to-infinitive" here?
    I am not a grammarian, but I do know that you need a noun here, not a verb.

    There are benefits to filling your petrol tank up before a long trip.
    There are benefits to eating a good breakfast.
    There are benefits to taking the occasional shower.
    There are benefits to listening to my advice.


    Those gerunds are your nouns.
     

    chamyto

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    I am not a grammarian, but I do know that you need a noun here, not a verb.

    There are benefits to filling your petrol tank up before a long trip.
    There are benefits to eating a good breakfast.
    There are benefits to taking the occasional shower.
    There are benefits to listening to my advice.

    Those gerunds are your nouns.
    The trouble is that in Spanish those gerunds are infinitives , that´s the reason to think of a to-infinitive .
     

    snooprun

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you Copyright. Could you please elaborate further the reason why to ecourage is incorrect? What I mean is why a preposition "to" is preferred to "to-infinitive" here?
    Good question! I have the same problem too, and the use is really tricky, especially for ESL. Please elaborate further the reason. Thanks!:confused:
     

    albertino6375

    New Member
    Chinese
    I am not a grammarian, but I do know that you need a noun here, not a verb.

    There are benefits to filling your petrol tank up before a long trip.
    There are benefits to eating a good breakfast.
    There are benefits to taking the occasional shower.
    There are benefits to listening to my advice.

    Those gerunds are your nouns.
    Thanks again. However, I want some grammarians to help me out on this.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    "Filling your petrol tank up before a long trip" is a noun phrase.
    "Eating a good breakfast"
    is a noun phrase.
    "Taking the occasional shower"
    is a noun phrase.
    "Listening to my advice"
    is a noun phrase.

    For all of these noun phrases (the -ing is indeed a gerund as noted), one could add "There is benefit to that" where that refers to the noun phrase. So you can just take each red phrase and put it where that occurs in "There's benefit to that".

    Thus : "There is benefit to listening to his advice"
    (Also "We obtain benefit from listening to his advice")
    The "to" represents a set expression and is a preposition before the noun phrases - no relation to the to in infinitives.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Benefit is often followed by a preposition (there are benefits from/in showering first thing).
    Another preposition commonly used is to. There is a benefit to eating a proper breakfast. Sometimes all three prepositions can be used.

    If we think of the infintive as "to xxxx", it never follows a preposition; the gerund-participle or a noun is used instead.
    So we do not say "I look forward to to meet him next week" but "I look forward to meeting him next week".
    "I get no pleasure from to learn the violin" has to be "I get no pleasure from learning the violin".
    "I see no point in to continue this discussion" has to be "I see no point in continuing this discussion".

    The infinitive in a sentence often means "in order to".
    "They went to Lisbon to improve their Portuguese."

    To return to the original sentence:
    "Modern lifestyles tend to involve a sedentary workplace, and there are obvious health benefits to encouraging greater participation in sport."
    In encouraging = in/from encouraging = from the encouragement of = from encouraging.
    There is no infinitive here. If we say "There are no obvious benefits to encourage greater participation in sport", it would mean "in order to encourage" or "which encourage", which makes little sense.
     
    Last edited:

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Another approach to this question:

    Benefits to is the prepositional use of to that our dictionary describes as:
    3. identifying a relationship between one person or thing and another.
    As a preposition, it must be followed by a noun, or a noun phrase that has the same function. A 'to infinitive' can also function as a noun, but then we would have a doubling of 'to', and we avoid that, as e2efour explained above.
     

    albertino6375

    New Member
    Chinese
    Thank you all.

    I understand that a gerund or noun must be used after prepositions like "to" if it is used in such common phrases as dedicated to, key/crucial to, contribute/attribute/apply to, look forward to, etc. But what makes me perplexed is sometimes the use of "to" in some sentences does not fall within the above category, where they still take a gerund after it instead of a to-infinitive. Grammatically, is there any way to define this particular phenomenon in some other circumstances? For your easy reference and explanations, I would like to raise some examples below:

    "Even in natural resources, where it has been most active in dealmaking, it is not close to controlling enough supply to rig the market for most commodities - economist."

    "There is always an element of risk to starting up a new business. - LDOCE"
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    It is difficult to lay out a pattern for the use of prepositions in English. Each preposition can express many different relationships. See, for instance, our dictionary's definitions for to.

    These are my explanations of the particular examples you ask about:
    close to controlling: to expresses the "relation to a condition". "It" does not approach, is not near, the condition of controlling ...

    an element of risk to starting: to identifies "a relationship between one thing and another." Starting up a business contains /has, an element of risk.​
     

    albertino6375

    New Member
    Chinese
    According to my examples as quoted before, could I draw the conclusion that in the following sentence patterns, "to" must be followed by gerunds since "to..." is the "genuine" subject?

    It is...to...
    There is...to

    Thanks for your advice again.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    According to my examples as quoted before, could I draw the conclusion that in the following sentence patterns, "to" must be followed by gerunds since "to..." is the "genuine" subject?

    It is...to...
    There is...to

    Thanks for your advice again.
    Please include specific examples here. It will be easier to respond to your question.
     

    Thomas Veil

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    "Even in natural resources, where it has been most active in dealmaking, it is not close to controlling enough supply to rig the market for most commodities - economist."

    "There is always an element of risk to starting up a new business. - LDOCE"
    The word "close" often takes the word "to": "My house is close to the store". The word "close" suggests movement towards, so "to" seems rather natural to me. As for your second example, that isn't the most natural phrasing to me. I would say "There is always an element of risk in" or "It is always risky to".


    "Modern lifestyles tend to involve a sedentary workplace, and there are obvious health benefits to encouraging greater participation in sport. - SCMP"
    As currently written, the sentence says that if you encourage, then benefits will result. If you replace "encouraging" with "encourage", then would then mean that there are benefits, and those benefits encourage greater participation in sport.
     

    albertino6375

    New Member
    Chinese
    Sorry, Cagey, here they are:

    "Even in natural resources, where it has been most active in dealmaking, it is not close to controlling enough supply to rig the market for most commodities - economist."
    -> Controlling enough supply to rig the market for most commodities is not close to it.

    "There is always an element of risk to starting up a new business. - LDOCE"
    -> Starting up a new business is always an element of risk.
     

    albertino6375

    New Member
    Chinese
    Some people suggest replacing the expression after to with "it" to see if the sentence is sensible; otherwise, an infinitive should be used. Is this possible?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Thank you. I didn't understand your questions. I see the sentences differently.

    In the first example, it is not a dummy subject, but refers back to something that was probably named in the preceding sentence. Thus, it (or what it refers to) is the real subject of the verb is [not close ....]. This is the ordinary structure of an English sentence.

    The second sentence might be rewritten with element of risk as the subject.
    An element of risk always is to [=exists in] starting up a new business.
    In more ordinary English, the sentence would be reversed:
    Starting up a new business always contains an element of risk.

    Added: I hadn't seen your last question when I started writing this. I hope it is helpful anyway. (I don't think the test for an infinitive works with these two sentences.)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top