I've been having a hard time trying to understand this specific grammar point. Which sentence is correct?

Work hard to stand out from the crowd.

Work hard to standing out from the crowd.


2 Answers 2


The short answer is that to + verb will never end in '-ing' when you are dealing with 'to' as an auxilliary word. It is how the infinitive is formed in English, so will always be to + the basic form of the verb, ie: 'to stand'.

Words that end in '-ing' are used in a number of ways in English:

Extract from this page: Present Participle:

The verb: to laugh

The present participle: laughing

The present participle used as an adjective: The laughing boy

The present participle used to form a verb tense: The boy was laughing.

The other use is when verbs are used as nouns or adverbs (traditionally the narrower meaning of 'gerunds').

The rising of the sun and the running of the deer.


'To' can be followed by an '-ing' word when 'to' is used as a preposition.

I am [looking forward to] hearing from you.

I am [opposed to] increasing taxes.

In both cases above, we're not dealing with an infinitive, but prepositional phrases.

The trick to working out how to know when to use which form will be to spot when you need an infinitive, and when you are using 'to' as part of a prepositional phrase of some sort. Does 'to' 'go with' the preceding word (ie is is a preposition that is required for the preceding phrase to make sense), or with the verb as part of the infinitive form?

  • Thank you very much for responding fred2! It has been very difficult for me to understand a phrase where there is "to + verb-ing" but now you showed me that "my problem" is called prepositional phrases. After your explanation everything makes more sense now especially with the trick you gave. Again, thanks for your willingness to help me!
    – Barbara
    Mar 1, 2019 at 21:08
  • Very happy to help. Good luck!
    – fred2
    Mar 1, 2019 at 21:23


Work hard to stand out from the crowd.

My suggestion in this example is" replacing "to" with "in order to", which is just its elaborate form. This is the definition of "in order to" by Longman Dictionary: in order to do something: for the purpose of doing something. I must add that after "in order to" we cannot use "ing+ verb". However, I think what has made you confused is other cases with " to + verb + ing". As far as I know, as a proficient English learner, in those cases, "to" is not used to mention a result, and to be more precise, these "to"s are proportions used after their specific words, which followed by a gerund. Take this for example: All of these careless actions from people in this harsh situation of coronavirus leads to having hard times commuting my to work. (As you might know, "to" is a proportion utilized after lead)

  • I've never heard about this trick, replacing "to" with "in order to" but it makes a lot of sense!! Thank you very much for your answer!!!
    – Barbara
    May 9, 2020 at 14:11
  • Your welcome! However, it is not a trick." to" is just an abbreviated form of "in order to", in this meaning.
    – Ali Sirous
    May 9, 2020 at 14:17

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