I'm a native speaker, and I'm having trouble figuring out if something I said is just bad English or if it is correct (but just sounds strange).

A friend asked me a question, and I said, "I'm not completely sure, but check that website out. That's a start to answering your question."

I looked at this link, but I could not see where "start to answering" made sense grammatically.

It doesn't sound as bad to me if I say, "That'll serve as a start to answering your question."

Can someone tell me of that sentence is right or wrong? If so, what part of speech is "answering" in that question?

  • 1
    A gerund used as a noun. Perfectly acceptable, I believe. Aug 20, 2015 at 13:06
  • To add: the "to" in your phrase is a preposition. You could use "of" there as well. Aug 20, 2015 at 13:07
  • I know what a gerund is, but I don't see how answering is a noun in this sentence.
    – user461262
    Aug 20, 2015 at 13:08
  • "A start to a (beautiful) friendship" - "a start to <something>", what follows 'to' is a noun. Aug 20, 2015 at 13:10
  • One more question if you don't mind. "To answering" is a prepositional phrase right? Also, if you write your comment as an answer, I can mark it as the final answer.:)
    – user461262
    Aug 20, 2015 at 14:12

1 Answer 1


In your sentence, the part "to answering your question" is a prepositional phrase used as adjective (to accompany 'start'), I believe. In it 'answering' is a gerund used as a noun. More on prepositional phrases you can find here.

As an alternative you can use the preposition "of" instead of "to", although both are acceptable. Examples of similar uses are, "a start to a wonderful friendship", "a decent start to a long day".

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