I have this English sentence from an English book:

Don't forget to turn off the light before you go to bed!

I was wondering whether I can use the -ing form this way and get the same meaning:

Don't forget to turn off the light before going to bed!

Is it latter correct?


2 Answers 2


This is quite an interesting question as both are correct terms and can be used at will for most situations.
The first usage is the most common. The second is more formal and is likely to be used as part of a list of instructions.
For example:
List of things to do next week while I'm away:
On Tuesday, take out the rubbish.
On Friday, do the shopping.
Don't forget to turn off the light before going to bed.

Here, the instruction implies that it's meant for every night of the week.

By contrast, the other version might more commonly be used by one person to another (or others) as an instruction for this occassion only, though it could also cover a period of time depending on the context.

If the usage of the phrases were swapped for these examples it would still be clearly understood but might raise an eyebrow or two.

Equally, "before you go" implies a known subject whereas "before going" is more generic and, therefore, more likely to be found in a written context.

  • 1
    I'm not saying you're necessarily wrong, but I'm deeply suspicious of your assertion that before you go to bed is more "common" than before going to bed. It's possible that children and non-native speakers might be slightly less likely to use the second (gerund) form, and it's also possible people might be slightly less likely to introduce a pronoun in some formal/official contexts. But in general I would say both forms are used equally. Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 17:00
  • Thank you. I got it. Anyway, "raise an eyebrow or two" about what exactly?
    – jeysmith
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 17:44
  • 1
    I think it's fair to say that people will more often say "before you go to bed" if they are talking about a specific situation, and "before going to bed" if they are conveying a set of general instructions. Having no data on whether people more often give orders for specific situations or for general instructions, I'm also skeptical of the assertion that one occurs more often than the other.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 19:09
  • I agree that there is insufficient data to make any real assertions one way or the other. On that basis my comments, which I still stand by, should be considered as my own personal viewpoint as a 50 year old native English speaker. I believe that, although each phrase is grammatically correct, in certain circles they may be considered either "too posh" or "too familiar", depending on the audience. I take no offence from any remarks and hope none is taken from mine. @FumbleFingers "deeply suspicious"? Of what am I suspected? [raises an eyebrow - sarcasm, in the nicest possible way of course!]. Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 17:01
  • @user2422586: It's probably not that easy to draw conclusions about relative prevalence. There are about 10 times as many written instances of before going to bed in Google Books, compared to before you go to bed. But comparable contexts for the former would include different [pro]nouns and tenses (before John went to bed), and I couldn't begin to guess how much you should factor in because of that. All I know is I'm not aware of any significant difference in prevalence. But if you tell a learner one occurs "more" than the other, they'll probably just stick to the common one. Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 17:46

If we want to use a verb after a preposition, it must be a gerund. It is impossible to use an infinitive after a preposition.Here are some examples: "I will see him before going to work."" He phoned me after having lunch" So your second sentence is correct.

  • I don't know exactly what you mean by it is impossible to use an infinitive after a preposition - but I'm pretty sure you're mistaken, and it seems to have nothing to do with the choice between OP's two examples anyway. Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 17:07
  • Why don't you give me an example of an infinitive after a prepostion?
    – Vic
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 17:33
  • 1
    I'm sure I could turn something up to satisfy the basic condition, but I imagine that's not the construction you had in mind! :) Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 18:12
  • Well, are you sure that "up" here is a preposition???
    – Vic
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 18:56
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    I'm moving on to take a new job. I went out to wash the car. I came from behind to win the race. I went in to eat dinner. I ran him through to win the duel. I knocked a bit off to make the sale. I've put these down to provide examples. Those sure look like prepositions to me. :)
    – BobRodes
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 19:16

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