Bad Habits, but Good Instincts: Grammar Tip

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.

Photo credit: Business, Career, Depressed, Employee by Public Domain Pictures. Retrieved from the Public Domain at


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Perpetua says:

    Aren’t we suppose to add ‘ing’ after the to ‘word-ing’. English is my second language and I totally clueless what gerund but I can tell I reads bad without ‘ing’.

    1. Hello. Are you asking about using a gerund after the preposition “to”? It’s important to be able to tell the difference between infinitives and prepositions followed by gerunds:
      1) I look forward to seeing you. (“look forward to” – a phrasal verb that requires an object, so we use a gerund)
      2) I want to see you again. (“want” can only be followed by an infinitive)
      You may find it helpful to try some online exercises to practice gerunds vs. infinitives. On my website, I list some sites with free grammar exercises. Good luck! > Students > Student Resources

      1. Perpetua says:

        HI Jennifer: Thank you for the link. I was looking for someone to converse with and practice writing good english. Thank you again for responding.

      2. You might try the free trial on Rype.
        My link to their platform:

        You can also see if you can find a conversation partner here:

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