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Set 1:

  1. China is close to be the centre of world trade.
  1. China is close to being the centre of world trade.

Set 2:

  1. I am on my way to be 25.
  1. I am on my way to being 25

Which is the correct form, the first or the second? What is the difference in meaning between these two sentences?

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3 Answers 3

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Close to and (the) way to both take -ing clauses, not infinitive clause.

There is no logic or general rule to this, and it has no discernable relationship to the meaning: it is just a property of those particular words. It is no more predictable than the fact that the adjective close cannot mean "which has been closed", whereas the adjective open can mean "which has been opened".

For examples of similar words that go the other way, consider ready to and prepared to, both of which require an infinitive clause, not an -ing clause.

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  • "On my way" can take the infinitive: "I'm on my way to buy dinner", "I'm on my way to get my hair cut", etc. "Close" however does not.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 8 at 14:43
  • That's a different meaning of way: a literal journey to a specified purpose, as opposed to a metaphorical journey where something is seen as an end-goal (not necessarily a purpose).
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jan 8 at 15:43
  • Also, far from being x.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 9 at 19:01
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How to tell:

China is close to being the centre of world trade.

Can also be stated as:
Being the centre of world trade is what China is close to.

Being rich is not easy to achieve.

So, being is a gerund-noun and gerund-nouns can be subjects of a sentence. The verb be cannot. Be rich to achieve. [buzzer]

Introduction to gerunds:

"gerunds by me"

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The World Trade Center is, famously, the complex of buildings destroyed in the 9/11 attacks and now rebuilt. However, you could say China is close to becoming the centre/center of world trade.

We would not use the infinitive in sentences like this.

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  • thankyou :) So you mean even in the set2 both forms are wrong?? Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 8:52

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