I am studying for the TOEFL iBT and I have this sample introduction to an independent writing section:

Although some people prefer to work alone, I believe it is much better to work in teams. The benefits for working in teams vastly exceed the convenience of working alone. In my opinion, there are two main advantages to working in teams over working alone.

My question: why does working come after to? I have been taught that after to we must use the "zero verb" or "general" form of the verb.

  • Following the research by FumbleFingers, which shows the quoted passage to have been written by a non-native speaker, I'm going to vote to close this as Too Localised. May 28, 2013 at 23:33
  • And please do not be discouraged if it is closed; it was a sound, interesting question, it just happened to be based on a false premise, that your quote represented Standard English. Welcome to ELL! Come again soon! May 28, 2013 at 23:41
  • Leave Open. Although I agree "The benefits for working" is strange, the sentence in question ("In my opinion...") is, as far as I can tell, Standard English. This seems like a reasonable question for ELL.
    – user230
    May 29, 2013 at 2:10
  • "benefits of working in..." is surely the correct form. Dec 28, 2014 at 16:45

1 Answer 1


There is an error here, but it is not what you think it is.

To in this case is not the ‘infinitive marker’, which sits in front of an infinitive (what you call the ‘verb-zero or –general’), but the ordinary preposition to, which may very well take a gerund (the -ing form acting as a noun) as its object.

Unfortunately, it’s the wrong preposition—or at least it used to be.

When I was young, fifty years ago, one said there is an advantage in or of this that or the other. This was distinct from the advantage to the person who received the benefit. Your example would have been written (with the to phrase added) as:

There are two main advantages to many employees in working in teams over working alone.

In colloquial use, however, the construction with to instead of in has been growing more and more common for the past three quarters of a century; and I have no doubt that it will eventually be accepted in formal use, if it has not been already. Here's a Google Ngram:

advantage to having, advantage in having

But I recommend that you maintain the distinction. That way you will never raise anybody's eyebrows, not even those of old fogeys like me; and you will avoid the repetition if you ever have to say something like:

?There is an advantage to you to maintaining the distinction.

That's awkward. It's much more graceful to say

 There is an advantage to you in maintaining the distinction.

? marks an utterance as marginally or only possibly acceptable

  • 1
    I don't have a strong opinion on the relative merits of benefits of working as opposed to benefits to working, but what I find absolutely appalling about OP's passage is that not only has the writer has used for the first time (which is never valid, imho). He's followed that with of the second time, and to for the final one. I could even accept in if it were used consistently, but this writer doesn't seem to be able to remember which preposition he used for the same context, earlier in the same sentence. "Ye gods and little fishes!", as we used to say. May 28, 2013 at 22:06
  • Ditto. I've left my first comment, because unless I missed it, you didn't specifically point out the "triple inconsistency". May 28, 2013 at 23:37

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