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I have some doubts on the idioms employing "prerequisite". Take this example:

A is not a prerequisite of/for/to B

  1. According to dictionaries, prerequisite can be followed by the 3 prepositions of/for/to. Can I use the 3 prepositions interchangeably? If not, what is the difference/rule?

  2. If B begins with a verb, should it be an infinitive verb or an -ing verb? Should I use an infinitive or -ing verb depending on the preposition that I use? I have seen examples of the preposition "to" followed by both infinitive and -ing verbs, so I don't know what the rule is. I am even wondering whether both infinitive and -ing verbs can be correct in this particular case.

Thanks.

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  • of : for : to :: noun : participle : infinitive Nov 8 at 11:45
  • I think the headline takeaway here is you should only use an actual infinitive after the prepositional phrase "in order to". The "preposition + infinitive" form a prerequisite to watch {HDTV is expensive hardware}} does occur, but it's quite rare compared to "preposition + gerund" (prerequisite to watching...), which is the preferred version. Nov 8 at 13:00

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This NGram shows relative frequency of occurrence for all three prepositions following prerequisite.

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Three separate "wildcard" NGram searches for "prerequisite of for to" ALL show the SAME three "most common following words" in the same order for each preposition (the, a, any).

Note that prerequisite to has voting and obtaining as the 7th and 8th most common words following to, and ...for has voting in 10th place. Those are the only instances of (gerund) verbs.

Also note that although the charts show no instances off a gerund verb being in the "top ten" for of (only to and for), these are only relative usage tendencies. As this Google Books search shows, there are many instances of prerequisite of voting from published writers over the years.

Although there are no instances of prerequisite [to verb] in any of my above searches (where to is an infinitive marker, not a preposition), the format does occur occasionally (church attendance is not a prerequisite to go to heaven), but it's not common (it's usually prerequisite for going to heaven anyway).


TL;DR: The infinitive verb form is rarely used after prerequisite - but if it is, no preposition is included. Other than that, usage isn't really consistent enough to justify worrying about choice of preposition - but if you need a guiding principle, just use the current favorite for in all contexts.

FINALLY: See this NGram for in order to (a prepositional phrase) showing the most common verbs following as be, achieve, understand, make, avoid, determine, obtain, establish, have. Given that voting is the only gerund to appear in more than one "single-word preposition" context, I can't explain why prerequisite in order to vote doesn't occur more often. I just take that as further evidence that there aren't many meaningfully consistent usage patterns in this general area.

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  • Wow, what a detailed answer. Thank you very much! To summarise and to be sure that I understand you well, this is my takeaway: 1) Use FOR, 2) If need be to use a verb, use FOR + GERUND. Right?
    – bobpeck
    Nov 8 at 13:41
  • Absolutely! And if you really want to use an infinitive verb, only use it after the prepositional phrase in order to. Offhand I can't say for certain whether to there is in fact a preposition (or an "infinitive marker") (But if I as a native speaker don't know that, you as a learner probably don't need to know it either! :) Nov 8 at 13:50
  • The words "the", "a" and "any" aren't "prepositions". Did you mean "determiners"?
    – gotube
    Nov 8 at 20:20
  • @FumbleFingers - I have a question. If we use the example discussed in the other thread (ell.stackexchange.com/questions/326984/…) with your rule stated in the present thread, we would use for+gerund: A college degree is not a prerequisite for having/getting a good job. However, according to your rule in the other thread, we would have to use to+infinitive: A college degree is not a prerequisite to have/get a good job. What should be used in this case and why? Thanks.
    – bobpeck
    Nov 9 at 6:51
  • @gotube: Perhaps my phrasing isn't ideal, but what I meant there was for each of the three prepositions under consideration (for, to, of) I did a wildcard search for the next word AFTER prerequisite [for|to|of]. In every case the three most common words (in the same "popularity" sequence) were the determiners the, a, any. Nov 9 at 12:14

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