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Studying the 504 essential words book, I found the following sentence grammatically incomprehensible: "Several layers of thin clothing are essential to keeping warm in frigid climates"

Should't it use "to keep warm" instead of "to keeping warm"?

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    "Hives are essential to beekeeping". Keeping warm is used in the same way. Can you explain your confusion?
    – oerkelens
    Jul 9, 2020 at 16:24
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    Your version also works, and is more colloquial. 'Keeping' there is an ing-form some would class as somewhere between a verb and a noun ('beekeeping' is more nouny in oerkelens' inspired example). Look up POSS-ing and ACC-ing, and realise that 'essential to' takes a noun or ing-form. Jul 9, 2020 at 16:28
  • They are both fine and just two different ways of saying the same thing. The syntax is, of course, different. In the first, "to keeping warm ..." is a prep phrase with the prep "to" as head and the gerund-participial clause "keeping warm ... " as its complement. The PP then functions as complement to the adjective "essential". In your suggested alternant, the infinitival clause is directly complement of the adjective "essential".
    – BillJ
    Jul 9, 2020 at 17:09
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    In short, you're mixing up the infinitive particle "to" and the preposition "to". Those are two completely different words that work completely differently. One requires a verb, the other a noun phrase. They just happen to be spelled the same.
    – ЯegDwight
    Jul 9, 2020 at 23:55

2 Answers 2

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It depends on the context and what follows "to keeping". It can have several meanings and it can be any of the sentence elements with the exception of Adverbial.

For example "to keeping guidelines" will have the same meaning as "to keep guidelines" and both can be used at the beginning of the sentence where they will work as Subject. For example the sentence "To keep/keeping guidelines is necessary for you.", will have the same meaning no matter what.

You can then use Extraposition to have 2 subjects in one sentence. Basically you will use Introductory IT as a grammatical subject and the extraposed clause as notional subject. The sentence then look like this: "It is necessary for you to keep/keeping guidelines."

Both your sentence and mine are correct. The sentence with -ing suffix is more formal form than the normal to keep.

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Essential can be followed by either to or for - both are prepositions.

The gerund should always be used after a preposition.

Keeping is the gerund. Keeping is correct in this instance, although keep is very common.

You can test whether keeping or keep is correct by replacing to with for.

You can say: "...are essential for keeping warm...".

You can't say: "...are essential for keep warm..."

Most grammaticists say that essential can take either for or to when it is followed by a noun, but can only take to when it is followed by a verb.

Because the gerund of a verb is considered to be a noun, I don't know if that means that both to and for are strictly acceptable before a gerund, or if only to should be used. I believe either is acceptable for this usage.

Essential can also be followed by an infinitive verb when the meaning is that it is essential to do something (for some reason).

You can say: It is essential to keep warm (so that you don't get sick).

You can't say: It is essential to keeping warm (so that you don't get sick).

I believe it is because of this usage that many people use the infinitive instead of the gerund in the previous usage.

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    In 'It is essential to keep warm', 'to' is not the preposition but the infinitive marker found in say 'I like to keep warm'. Jul 9, 2020 at 20:07
  • There's nothing wrong with to keep warm, except that it can have a different meaning: that the clothing should be kept warm. Jul 25, 2020 at 18:23

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