I took an English grammar test and one question was:

Chen's looking forward ... his new job next week.

There were four choices: to starting / to start / starting / in starting.

My answer was "to start", because I knew the structure of "looking forward to" and because of the presence of "to", I used the infinitive.

But the answer was "to starting". Why "V-ing" is used in this case? Is there a rule for “to + v-ing”?

  • 1
    It would be better to say "I took a test of English grammar......The choices were..."
    – Chowzen
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 11:21
  • @Chowzen why? This sounds perfectly natural to me as written. We always say french test, maths test,
    – WendyG
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 16:00

3 Answers 3


Cambridge Dictionary gives the following explanation:

Look forward to something means to be pleased or excited that it is going to happen. The ‘to’ in look forward to is a preposition, so we must follow it by a noun phrase or a verb in the -ing form:

  • I’m looking forward to the holidays.

  • A: Are you excited about your trip to South America?

  • B: Yes, I’m looking forward to it.

  • We’re looking forward to going to Switzerland next month.

  • Not: … looking forward to go to Switzerland …

If the second verb has a different subject, we use the object form of the pronoun, not the subject form:

  • We’re looking forward to him arriving next week.

    • Not: We’re looking forward to he arriving next week.

We also use look forward to at the end of formal letters and formal emails to say that we hope to hear from someone or expect that something will happen. We use the present simple form:

  • I look forward to your reply.

  • We look forward to receiving payment for the services detailed above.


We look forward to something, so you need to use the form of the verb which can also be understood as a noun, starting.

  • What's with this vague description "understood as a noun"? If it's a verb, it's a verb; if it's a noun, it's a noun. Starting is a verb in this sentence (not a noun): Chen's looking forward to *quick / quickly starting his new job. See this.
    – user3395
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 16:31
  • Can you please support your answer with some reference .
    – user29952
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 16:45
  • @userr2684291: Why is being able to modify the -ing form with an adverb (quickly starting) a "test" for its verbitudinality, whereas being the object of a preposition (to having, in having) or its ability to be preceded by a possessive pronoun (their having) are not tests for nounicality?
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 18:07
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo The first test is valid because prototypical verbs, unlike nouns, take adverbs as modifiers. The second test doesn't work because a gerund-participial clause can function as complement of a preposition. In your third proposed test, their can function as subject of the gerund-participial clause, which (just like your previous test) doesn't prove that the word at issue is a noun.
    – user3395
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 19:34
  • @user2684291: So your answer to OP would be "a gerund-participial clause can function as complement of a preposition" and you would leave it at that? You wouldn't attempt to explain why a gerund-participial clause can be the complement of a preposition?
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 19:57

Think at 'looking forward to' as a replacement of 'excited about' (even if the meaning is slightly different *)

Would you ever say the sentence below?!

Chen is 'excited about' to start his new job next week

In the above sentence the correct form is of course:

Chen is 'excited about' starting his new job next week


Chen is 'looking forward to' starting his new job next week

which is more natural.

[*] I came across this article that explains when to use 'looking forward to' instead of 'excited about':

"looking forward to is appropriate in most situations, so when in doubt, choose it."

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