Preposition 'to' with gerund (-ing)?



Check this sentence from (US Department of Education)

Technology ushers in fundamental structural changes that can be integral to achieving significant improvements in productivity.

Cannot it be better as...

Technology ushers in fundamental structural changes that can be integral to achieve significant improvements in productivity.

The preposition to takes gerund (-ing) here. Any rule?

Maulik V

Posted 2014-04-09T06:34:21.663

Reputation: 66 188



It is not just the preposition to that takes the gerund, but the construction "be adjective to":

Locking him up without food or water is tantamount to killing him.
Knowing your budget is important to successfully planning your holiday.

There are lists of verbs that take an infinitive or a gerund, like here, but they are seldom complete.

The gerund is also after verbs like "looking forward to":

I look forward to meeting you
He looks forward to getting to know her better.

Let's have a look at another example sentence to see if there is a difference between "be adjective to gerund" and "be _adjective infinitive":

Sharp knifes are important to cooking.
Sharp knifes are important to cook.

In the first sentence, I state that an important part of the action of cooking consists of sharp knifes. The sharp knifes can be seen as a property of cooking.

The second sentence is different. Well, there is the possible confusion that I mean I should cook my knifes, for one. That makes little sense. Even if we ignore that, I would parse the sentence more like:

If I am to cook, it is important I have sharp knifes.

So if I have no sharp knives, I won't start cooking.

Somehow, the sentence gives me more of a specific feeling, whereas the cooking variant is a general observation.

Now, in your original sentence:

changes are integral to achieving improvements.
changes are integral to achieve improvements.

The first sentence makes changes an (integral) property of "achieving improvements" in general.

The second one seems to presuppose we have a specific situation where we want to achieve improvements, and in order to do that, we need changes.


Posted 2014-04-09T06:34:21.663

Reputation: 24 925

I'm aware of verb patterns and have answered several questions here on this board. What confuses me is not the verb pattern verb + -ing but preposition + ing. – Maulik V – 2014-04-09T07:00:11.530

But it is not just the preposition :) There is a verb there. To be [adjective] to takes the gerund. "to" on its own does not. – oerkelens – 2014-04-09T07:02:42.150

Okay, what you think of replacing achieve as my second concern? Will it make it ungrammatical? – Maulik V – 2014-04-09T07:03:12.097

I hope my addition is somewhat useful :) – oerkelens – 2014-04-09T07:13:22.763

Oh yeah. that is. +1 – Maulik V – 2014-04-09T07:15:34.433

Just to say that "are integral to achieve" and "sharp knives are important to cook" would not only be considered non-grammatical by me (British English speaker) but sound unpleasantly wrong to my ear and would mark the user as non-native. – Francis Davey – 2014-12-28T09:23:06.440