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I'd like to know the difference between start and starting when use as a noun. I saw the following sentence and could not understand why it shold be "to starting" instead of "to start".

He is looking forward to starting his job next week.

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  • @All Don't answer in comments. Write an answer (especially if you think mine could be improved). Oct 20, 2023 at 7:18

3 Answers 3

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Look forward to requires a noun, as you know. The gerund starting is a verb form which functions as a noun, so "look forward to starting" is correct. The to here is not a particle in a verb; it's a preposition, and the preposition licenses only a noun.

Start is a noun as well as a verb; a race has a start and an end. However, a peculiarity of English nouns (as opposed to, say, Russian) is that they usually require some sort of determiner.

So one might say "He's looking forward to the start of his job next week," but that does mean something subtly different from the original "starting his job".

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  • I'm writing this in an attempt to get you to make your post at least less confusing, if not more accurate. And to ask for clarification. You say look forward to requires a noun. But then you say that starting is a verb form and is correct. So does look forward to require a noun or does it accept verbs? And you say that to licences only a noun. But you say that starting is a verb. And to starting is correct. Can you unmuddle this muddle for us please? :-/ Oct 20, 2023 at 22:48
  • Starting is a verb form which functions as a noun. I don't see what's unclear about that. You are, of course, at liberty to write a better answer. Oct 21, 2023 at 8:04
  • When you say lft requires a noun, do you mean it cannot take a verb? Oct 21, 2023 at 8:53
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He is looking forward to starting his job next week.

To there is a preposition that normally requires a noun as its complement. It can also take a gerund (verb+ing) because a preposition can generally license a gerund**(*** i.e. starting *) as opposed to other classes of verbs.( A gerund is close to a noun). Still, starting is a verb and that's the reason why it can take his job as its own object.

He is looking forward to start his job next week.

This one is ungrammatical. Preposition to cannot license this form of verb.

But start is a noun if preceded by a determiner like the and takes an of phrase complement as exemplified in Andrew Leach's example.

He's looking forward to the start of his job next week.

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  • Does starting in starting his job have any noun type properties at all? For example, can it be modified by an adjective? Maybe if you want to use a verb after a preposition you have to use an -ing form of the verb (and thus the verb has verb-type properties, because it’s a verb)? (+1, but I think the noun-type properties might cause readers problems!) Oct 21, 2023 at 9:18
  • Happy I got a +1 from you! My initial reasoning is that since "looking forward to" can take "starting" as its complement and it is grammatical, that would imply that "starting" has the property of a noun though overall it is a verb because of its direct object "his job." (Nouns normally cannot take a direct object like that.) Would that make sense? Thank you for your feedback. I'm happy to improve my answer but right now I need to take my lunch. @Araucaria-Nothereanymore.
    – user424874
    Oct 21, 2023 at 9:31
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. done my lunch and my edit. You can pass judgment on it a second time. :)
    – user424874
    Oct 21, 2023 at 10:21
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The "to" in "looking forward to" is a preposition, and requires a noun phrase after.

While both "start" and "starting" can be used as nouns, they are used with different structures.

The noun "start" cannot have a direct object like "his job". The word "start" can only have a direct object if it is a verb, so "start his job" is always verb phrase, never a noun phrase, which means it cannot follow the preposition "to".

The gerund "starting", however, is a verb acting as a noun, so it can have a direct object, so "starting his job" is a valid noun phrase, and it can come after the preposition "to".

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  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. Thanks. How do you like my edit?
    – gotube
    Oct 21, 2023 at 6:57
  • Thanks. Hmm. I think it’s still pretty confusing, but maybe that’s me. For example the verb start (which is the same verb as the verb starting) can only be a verb phrase and not a noun phrase in start his job because it takes a direct object. Ok, but hang on: starting takes a direct object in starting his job, but you say it is not a verb phrase and it is a noun phrase. Oct 21, 2023 at 9:05
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. I'm open to suggestions. You seem to get what I'm trying to express, so how would you word it?
    – gotube
    Oct 21, 2023 at 18:42

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