"To correct" or "to correcting"?


Please tell me whether this sentence is correct.

The first step to correcting a mistake is patience.

I think that after to the verb must be in its infinitive form. Am I mistaken?


Posted 2013-04-02T19:38:36.280

Reputation: 73



You are correct. It should be

The first step to correct a mistake is patience.

but you could also say

The first step in correcting a mistake is patience.


The first step in (the process of) correcting a mistake is patience.


Posted 2013-04-02T19:38:36.280


1Nice answer; in correcting is the form I would most likely use. – J.R. – 2013-04-03T00:28:47.707

2I believe you're mistaken. I searched COCA for "the first step to" and found 286 results. I took the first 100, discarded one, and checked the remaining 99 instances to see if they were followed by verbs or nouns. Only 13 were followed by verbs; the remaining 86 were followed by nouns. Of these 86 nouns, 68 were gerunds (as in "the first step to correcting"). This supports my intuition as a native speaker: both forms are correct, and the one you prefer is the less common of the two. – snailplane – 2013-04-04T20:12:00.893


There are actually two different tos.

One is the infinitive marker, which tells us that what follows is the infinitive form of the verb.

I want to correct my mistakes.

The other is the preposition, which marks its object—the noun or noun phrase which follows it—as the direction or goal of an action.

He is driving to London.

In your example, the to is in fact the preposition: you take a first step to or toward a goal. (In fact, most native speakers would use toward rather than to). Consequently it must take the form of the verb which can act as a noun: the -ing form, which is called a gerund.

The first step toward correcting a mistake is patience.

(Note that the marked infinitive form of the verb can be used as a noun, too—for instance, To correct one’s mistakes is virtuous—but it is not used as the object of a preposition.)

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2013-04-02T19:38:36.280

Reputation: 176 469

+1. Also in British English, we would prefer towards rather than toward (in American English toward is preferred). – Matt – 2013-04-05T00:31:39.563


After "to" a verb must be in its infinitive form. You are not mistaken there. Then it must be:

The first step to correct    a mistake is patience.

But "correcting" can also be a substantive, i.e. it is also possible:

The first step to (the) correcting of a mistake is patience.

In that case the of would be missing (while the correcting would be right in this case).

It is also possible to use for plus gerund, i.e.:

The first step for correcting a mistake is patience.

Here correcting is right, but to is wrong and needs to be replaced by for.


Posted 2013-04-02T19:38:36.280

Reputation: 905


The infinitive is generally used to show purpose or intention, as in the example sentence you wrote. The example sentence can be rewritten as:

Patience is the first step to correct a mistake.

Using the word order you used, the sentence would be:

The first step to correct a mistake is patience.


Posted 2013-04-02T19:38:36.280

Reputation: 20 456