I have a student who has expressed frustration with the preposition “to.” She certainly isn’t alone. Other students have confused infinitives with combinations of the preposition “to” followed by gerunds. How many times have you corrected students when they write or say, “I look forward to meet you” or “I look forward to hear from you”?
Exposure and practice. That’s the key. We need to develop good instincts by teaching common patterns. What nouns, adjectives, and verbs are followed by “to” + a gerund? Students need to learn these collocations. I also think that the more meaningful the practice is, the better the chance students have at internalizing the grammar.
Personalizing grammar helps make it more meaningful. Some funny examples can come out of a discussion about bad habits. Discussion can be humorous and even therapeutic if done with a light tone. Confessing to a few bad habits is the topic used in my Preposition TO and Gerunds_handout. I challenge upper level students to identify and use six combinations of the preposition “to” + gerund.
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