English Grammar: How to use “to” before an “-ing” verb

English Grammar: How to use "to" before an "-ing" verb

In this lesson, I explain how and when we use “to” before a verb with the “-ing” ending. The use of “to” before an “-ing” verb is not always correct. But it is correct in a particular case to express an emotion or action happening in the present referring to a past or future event. If this sounds complicated, have no fear! It is a simple structure once you understand how it works. And if you do our quiz at http://www.engvid.com/english-grammar-how-to-use-to-before-an-ing-verb/ you will get used to using this concept in no time!


Hi there. My name is Emma, and in today’s video, we are going to talk about something many students wonder about, and that is when we use “to” and “ing” together. Sorry. Okay, so for example… Yeah: “What???” Many students, when they see this, it “poof” their minds; they have no idea: What is this? It goes against all the rules they’ve learned. So I’m going to explain to you when this happens, and how we can use it. So, let’s look at some examples.

This is the most common example of this you will see: “I look forward to meeting you.” Notice we have our verb: “look forward”, and then we have this little guy, here, “to”, and then we also have “ing”. Okay? So, in this case, it’s very strange. We’re going to learn about why this is in a moment, but before we do that, I want to tell you some of the basic rules so you can understand, first off: What am I talking about with “ing”, and what am I talking about with “to”?

So let’s look at the basic rules. This is all about when you have two verbs in a sentence. For example: “thank” is the first verb, and “help” is the second verb. Okay? What you will notice in English, the first rule is: Any time you have a preposition between the first verb and the second, you’re going to use “ing”. A preposition is a word like “for”, “to”, “about”, “toward”, “up”, “down”, “in”, “out”, all of these words that kind of tell us where something is located, these are called “prepositions”. So, whenever you see a preposition after a verb, this next verb is going to end in “ing”. So our example here: “I thank you for helping me.”

Similarly, we have our verb: “interested”, “I’m interested”, so this is the verb. And we have a second verb: “learn”. So, if we have a preposition after the first verb: “I’m interested in”, you’re going to see that the second verb is going to end in “ing”. “I’m interested in learning English.” So we don’t say: “I’m interested in to learn English.” Similarly, we don’t say: “I thank you to help me.” If you have a preposition like “for”, “in”, “out”, you are going to have the second verb with “ing”.

Okay, some verbs… These are verbs without prepositions. If we have two verbs and there’s no preposition between them, they will be either verb with a second verb ending in “ing”, or a verb plus the second verb beginning in “to”. So let’s look at some examples so you understand what I’m talking about.

Okay, I have here the verb “enjoy”. Here’s my first verb. Think of a second verb we can use. Let’s say “eat”. With the verb “enjoy”, the verb that follows is always going to end in “ing”. “I enjoy eating.”, “I enjoy reading.”, “I enjoy listening to music.”, “I enjoy shopping.” Okay? So, in this case, all… The second verb will always end in “ing”. We have another example, here: “I started”. “I started”, let’s think of a verb, any verb. “Fish”. “I started fishing.” So, again, this is the first verb, here’s the second verb, second verb ends in “ing”. I en-… Or: “I started drinking.”, “I started eating my dinner.” Okay?

Then we also have some verbs that you will see… Here’s the first verb: “decided”. The second verb does not end in “ing”. “I decided to”, what’s a verb we can use here? “Watch”. “I decided to watch TV.” Okay? “I want to eat ice cream.” So, in this case, we have two verbs-so verb one, verb two; verb one, verb two-the second verb begins with the word “to”.

Now, other teachers on engVid have already covered this information. What you will notice is that some verbs are always like this, some verbs are always like this, and some verbs do both. It’s pretty much you have to memorize: When is it “ing”…? Sorry. “ing”, and when is it “to”? What we’re really interested in today is this, this really confusing thing: Why is it “ing” and “to”? All right? So let’s look at some more examples of this, and I will tell you the rule on when we use “ing” and “to” together.

Okay, so I’ve explained to you the three rules we use when we have two verbs together. Okay? Sometimes you have a verb followed by “ing”, sometimes you have a verb followed by “to”, and in the case of prepositions, you have a verb followed by “ing”. So I’ve taught you these three rules. Now we’re going to look at when we have both “ing” and “to” together. Okay? So, “ing” and “to” together.

So in this case, we have two verbs. The first verb is: “I look forward to”. The second verb is: “meeting”. Okay?