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When writing: "We should say something on how we imagine to implement this.", my word processor suggests "We should say something on how we imagine implementing this."

Although the suggestion doesn't look bad to me, I'm wondering if there's some rule or subtle change in meaning that I'm missing.

Or is my word processor inferring some meaning that isn't necessarily there and should I ignore the suggestion?

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The word processor’s suggestion is correct, and the original wording is not natural. If you had not used “we imagine”, you could have used the infinitive: “We should say something on how to implement this” is fine. But it isn’t natural to use the infinitive directly after the verb “imagine”: we don’t say *“we imagine to implement this”, but instead “we imagine implementing this.”

In general, different verbs in English may be followed by other verbs in either the to-infinitive form or the -ing form. The identity of the first verb in the chain (in this case, imagine) is important for determining the form of the second verb in the chain. Some verbs have both as options, but others can only be used with one or the other. I don’t know a simple explanation for why the verb imagine is used with -ing forms instead of with to-infinitives, but that is why the word processor suggested changing your sentence.

A term for verbs that combine with other verbs is "catenative verbs" (from Latin catena meaning "chain"). You can use that as a search term to find more information about this topic. Here are links to two questions on this topic on the ELU site: How do I know when a verb should be followed by a gerund or an infinitive?, When should a verb be followed by a gerund instead of an infinitive? You can see that VonC's answer to the second describes "imagine" as a verb that must be followed by the -ing form.

  • It could also be how we imagine this implementation. Interestingly though, when I first read the sentence, my first thought was it should be about instead of on. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Aug 30 at 1:51
  • @JasonBassford I agree on the 'about' vs. 'on' and changed that in a later rephrasing, the suggestion came up when it had 'on' though and I figured I'd best present the case as it occurred. – Grismar Aug 30 at 2:21
  • It's not exactly answering my question, because it amounts to a "that's just the way it is for this word", thanks for the input though. It works for "We should say something on how to implement this", but it doesn't for "We should say something on how we imagine to implement this" - should it work for "We should say something on how we plan/cost/schedule to implement this", etc.? Because it seems more clear for something like "We should say something on how we remember/justify to implement this", then I feel it can only ever be 'implementing', although I still don't know the formal reason. – Grismar Aug 30 at 2:26
  • @Grismar Note that we should say something on imagining how to implement this would also be fine. English is full of exceptions and particular forms of idiomatic speech that simply have to be learned or memorized. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Aug 30 at 3:51
  • @Grismar: you would say "how we justify implementing this". "Remember" can take either a to-infinitive or the -ing form, but they mean different things. "How we remember to implement this" makes more sense to me. Some related questions on ELU: How do I know when a verb should be followed by a gerund or an infinitive? and When should a verb be followed by a gerund instead of an infinitive? – sumelic Aug 30 at 3:59

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