When I was taking my examination, I 'learned' a new word, but I don't know how to use it. I don't know if the to following the word is a preposition. If it is then I should say "to doing". Or if to is part of the infinitive infinitive - then I should say to do. In other words: "to do" or "doing": are there any rules?

For example in "suggest doing something" why not use an infinitive? Why do we tend to say "object to doing" rather than "object to do"? I am sorry that maybe there's something wrong with my expression - but I would be grateful if you would like to help me.

2 Answers 2


Many prepositions usually come before a noun. We usually use the --ing form of verbs after prepositions which come before nouns. Some examples of prepositions like this are: in, on, at, about, of, up and to. Here are some examples of sentences with prepositions plus --ing:

  • I succeeded in passing my exams
  • I am keen on dancing.
  • I am good at cooking.
  • I am mad about jogging.
  • I tire of reading very quickly
  • I gave up smoking.
  • I object to working.

Some verbs about liking/enjoying activities and also not liking/not enjoying activities usually take --ing forms of the verb:

I like shopping I hate shopping I love shopping I don't mind shopping I enjoy shopping I detest shopping I loathe shopping I adore shopping

Some other verbs also take --ing form. The best way to learn them is to learn the verbs in a sentence, not just as one word:

  • I loathe shopping.

Sometimes we know that there is a to after a particular verb. We don't always know whether to is a preposition or whether it is part of another verb phrase, for example 'to swim':

  • want to [verb]
  • object to [verb]

There is an easy way to test whether to is a preposition or part of another verb. We can use a noun after the verb that we want to test:

  • I want bananas. (no to)
  • I object to bananas. (still has to)

In the first example, the word to disappeared. This shows that it belongs to another verb. It belongs to an infinitive. When there is no verb after want, there is no to. In the example with object, we still have the word to. This shows that it is a preposition. We still use the preposition when it comes before a noun.

Now we know that want must be followed by to + infinitive and object to must be followed by --ing (because to here is a preposition):

  • I want [to smoke].
  • I object to [smoking].

Hope this is helpful!

  • +1. :) . . . But maybe if you could elaborate some more on this "test" for us? Because I haven't had no coffee yet and I don't expect to do no heavy thinking this early in the day (4 PM), and kinda wanna the grammar to be spoon fed to me. :)
    – F.E.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 22:15
  • @F.E.Will cogitate on bus home. In the meantime do you fancy casting a beady eye over this I think the question might deserve a reopen vote ... Though what I really want is for someone to vet my answer ... :) Dec 2, 2014 at 22:34
  • I thought it was pretty good when I had read it the other day :) -- (Hmm, it seems that I was the only one who upvoted your answer. That is kinda disappointing to see.)
    – F.E.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 22:37
  • @F.E. I don't think closed questions get that many views :) Don't mind really, but wasn't entirely sure if it was readable/accurate, so thanks! ... Dec 3, 2014 at 0:59
  • 1
    I've just started my first cup of coffee, and so, I wasn't really able to follow your last comments here. Perhaps if you posted them as a question-post on ELL, your test that is, and as a formatted rationale, I might be able to take a look. There probably is competition between those various constructions (e.g. 'to'-PP vs 'to'-infinitival, vs '-ing'-clause, 'for'-PP vs 'for'-infinitival, etc.). Be interesting to read something on it. :)
    – F.E.
    Dec 3, 2014 at 3:13

By itself "to doing" is not a valid English construction. Sometimes, 'to V-ing' is part of a larger phrase. In the sentence "My boss is used to doing all the company's taxes," the full construction is "be used to V-ing."

It means the subject is accustomed to that activity. Other examples:

  • I am used to swimming in the ocean.
  • She is used to riding horses.
  • They were used to holding garage sales in the fall.

An infinitive is only the word 'to' followed by the basic form of a verb: 'to do', 'to be', 'to go', etc.

Maybe you've heard of gerunds? Gerunds are a part of speech made up of -ing verbs (present participles) that we treat like nouns. Most activities are gerunds. In the sentence "I like cake," 'cake' is a noun. Although 'run' is a verb, in the sentence "I like running," 'running' is a noun.

In conversational English, when suggesting an activity, we might ask, "How about watching a movie?" instead of asking "Do you want to watch a movie?" In those questions, 'watch' is a verb, and 'watching' is an activity/gerund.

  • i'am appreciate your answer,the last point you mentioned is our biggest problem for we are influenced by our native language.and i wanna ask what kind of verb follow this pattern"v+to do"?what kind of verb follow"v+doing" Dec 2, 2014 at 14:51
  • @miltonaut Could you change the used to example. It is usually confusing for learners because of the verb construction used to. Thanks! :) Dec 2, 2014 at 19:42
  • Could you show us how "running" in "I like running" is a noun and not a verb? And could you show us whether "watching" is a noun or a verb in "How about watching a movie?", too?
    – F.E.
    Dec 2, 2014 at 21:46

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