i'm kind of confused about the use to+verb-ing

i found the title of a document like

"Five keys to create the new communications era"

but also I found the same doc titled as

"Five keys to creating the new communications era"

so when to use -ing and why?


  • 1
    Regardless of other sentences, To look forward to has to take ING. Without ing, the phrase is not idiomatic. I look forward to seeing them tomorrow. Your question and the title of your question are two different grammar points.
    – Lambie
    Feb 12, 2018 at 21:53

4 Answers 4


In the first sentence, “to” is part of an infinitive, which expresses finality. For example, if you lose your key, you may buy or manufacture a new one (in order) to be able to open a door.

In the second sentence, “to” is a preposition and the gerund stands for a noun. Thus the speaker could have also said: "Five keys to the creation of the new communications era". In particular, the expression the “key to something” means the only or at least best way to achieve something. This is a figurative use of the physical case: the key (= what gives you access to) a house.

Although the first expression is not grammatically incorrect, the intended meaning will be normally better expressed through the second one. With the latter, you are stating that if you want the propitiate the advent of the communications era (= enter a new room), you must do this and that (= use certain key actions). The first one is weird. Its meaning would depend on what precedes it. If, for example, I said “I am going to give you 5 keys to create a communications era”, I would somehow mean that the act of giving you such information is what causes the sociological change…, which is probably not the intention…

PS: the same applies to the expressions of the title:

"I am looking forward to attending the party" = I think of the future and see a picture of my attendance to the party, which is pleasant (I like the idea).

"I am looking forward to attend the party" = I look in front of me and trust that this way I will be transported to the party (you can... but don't expect to succeed, you had better take a bus...).

This example has the advantage of placing the two uses together, both with their respective meanings:

WHAT does your daughter object to? She objects to doing things that harm the world. WHY does she object? She objects to those things (in order) to make the world a better place to live in.


The first sentence is equal to: "Five keys for creating ..." The word "to" here is used to make an infinitive. "to" in the second sentence is the preposition of the noun "key." Take a look at this link: http://www.englishteachermelanie.com/grammar-can-a-gerund-be-used-after-to/


Both forms are correct in my opinion. They expressed the same idea.

In the first sentence, to create is an infinitive. In the second sentence, creating the new communications era is a gerund used as a noun.

Here are definitions of infinitive and gerund from English Grammar 101:

Infinitive: An infinitive is a verb that has not been conjugated (changed to show person or tense). In English, infinitives generally use to with the base (present) form of the verb. The infinitive can work as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.

Gerund: A gerund is a verbal that uses the present participle of a verb (the ing form) but acts as a noun. It can act as a subject, a subject complement, a direct object, an indirect object, or an object of a preposition.


They have different feelings about the action.
Using to +infinitive is more formal, definitive, and localized in time.

We are going to kill the enemy!
we will find the enemy and kill them in one fell swoop

whereas using "+ing" is more ongoing

We are killing the enemy (everyday).

  • -1 The question is about infinitive vs. to + gerund. The second example you use for contrast does not involve a gerund, or the word to.
    – Igid
    Feb 12, 2018 at 22:28

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