I once found this sentence. Why is 'to find' used here instead of 'finding'

He returned home to find his wife waiting for him.

I'm curious about this. Because normally, when it comes to describing sth that has already happened or that is actuality, we should use gerund.(based on this answer)

Besides, this sentence is confusing me as well:

He lived to see the Second World War.

He definitely not want to see the WW2, but why is 'to see' used here instead of 'seeing'?

Please help me figure this out. Thanks in advance!

  • You seem to think He lived to see XXX implies he wanted to see XXX, but that's only true with the more literal "adverb of purpose" usage, as in A gourmet lives to eat. The somewhat literary / stylized usage lie He lived to see the Second World War just means he survived until then. Maybe something bad, like WW2. But maybe He lived to see his dream (come true). Nov 18, 2023 at 4:35

1 Answer 1


Expressions like return to find X are simply idiomatic and mean the same thing as return and find X. Another way of rephrasing it is find X upon returning.

As for He lived to see the Second World War, it contains another idiom, live to see. It means the same thing as He lived long enough to see the Second World War. To be very long-winded we could say that he was born before WW2 began and did not die until sometime after it had begun.

  • All perfectly true, but I think what the OP is asking is: If we say return to find X is the same as return and find X, why isn't it the same as return finding X? I can't answer that, other than to say It's the established pattern, but perhaps there's a more coherent rationale. Nov 18, 2023 at 11:25
  • FumbleFingers express my confusion better! thanks a lot. If it's idiomatic, then there are tons of idiomatic I have to get familiar with, which is kinda hard hahaha. Anyway, think you guys for clarifying.
    – ricky chow
    Nov 18, 2023 at 13:43
  • As to @FumbleFingers’ clarified question, I’d say the reason that He returned finding doesn’t work has to do with the verb find. I mean, one could say, “He returned carrying two bags of groceries,” where the pattern V-ing describes, modifies, or limits the nature of his returning. By contrast, his finding of his patient wife happened not while he returned, but rather at the moment that he had accomplished his return. Nov 18, 2023 at 14:11

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