I cannot figure out why "become" is used as a gerund and not as a to-infinitive in this sentence:

  • He wanted to bolster his problem-solving abilities, which, as he well knew, are pertinent to becoming a polished engineer.

Besides, could for becoming replace to becoming?

3 Answers 3


In this sentence, "to becoming" is a prepositional phrase. "To", here, is a preposition.

This might seem unusual, because normally after adjectives we have [ "to" + infinitive ], like:

I'm so excited to see you!
It can be painful to lose a friend.
Believe it or not, it's uncommon to hear an accordion on the streets of Paris.

This isn't always the case. Some adjectives, like "pertinent", "related" and "adjacent" take prepositional phrases with "to" that indicate a relationship between the subject and the object, in this case, a gerund.

In fact, "pertinent" is special because it can take both structures:

"It's pertinent [to this discussion] [to mention that we don't yet have public support]."

The "to" phrase in the first set of brackets is a prepositional phrase that says there's a relationship of pertinence between the subject and "this discussion". The "to" phrase in the second set of brackets is the thing which is pertinent.

  • 1
    Excellent answer. I'd been struggling with it for ages. I'd written twice as much and said half as much. Feb 21, 2022 at 2:27

gotube has explained it well. I would just like to make a further suggestion.

Rather than "He knew they are pertinent" (with its jolt as we put past tense next to present tense) I would say, "He knew they were pertinent". It feels more natural. Using "were" doesn't, in this context, change the original meaning. They were and still are. ("I knew she lived there" doesn't mean she has since moved.)

Perhaps your desire for an infinitive is influenced by the common formula "It may be pertinent to mention..."

Here are some examples of "pertinent to" and a comparison of the most common prepositions used after 'pertinent': to/in/for/as/at.

  • 1
    +1 I hadn't considered the structure in your example, "It may be pertinent to mention..." and have added a chunk to my answer. Thanks!
    – gotube
    Feb 21, 2022 at 6:56

pertinent (to)= relevant (to)

'Pertinent' is an adjective and 'to' is a preposition.

Preposition (to) + noun

The information may be pertinent to this inquiry. They should consider all factors pertinent to a situation.

After prepositions we usually add -ing to verbs.

to + (become + ing) = to + becoming

...are pertinent to becoming...

(The opposite of 'pertinent' is 'irrelevant'.)

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