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  1. #1
    Deepurple is offline Member
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    How to tell a prepositional "to" from an infinitive "to"

    Dear Teachers,

    Take the following newsline as an example, I would like to know when the use of a preposition "to" (so that it is followed by a gerund) is preferred to an infinitive "to"(so that it is followed by a verb), or vice versa. Are there any rules or principles governing their respective uses? Thank you.

    "A ban on idling engines is one small but important step to decreasing roadside temperatures, improving the working conditions for professional road users, and improving the environment generally for us all. Following the ban, there should be a number of supplementary measures, such as continued assessment of the availability of cleaner engines, and better urban planning to create more open spaces with better natural ventilation. - SCMP

    In the second sentence stated above, could I use "There should be a number of supplementary measures...... to creating more open spaces with better natural ventilation as that in the first sentence, i.e. A ban on.....to decreasing roadside temperatures"? If not, what are the reasons? Thanks again.
    Last edited by Deepurple; 08-Jul-2010 at 14:22.

  2. #2
    IHIVG's Avatar
    IHIVG is offline Member
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    Re: How to tell a prepositional "to" from an infinitive "to"

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepurple View Post
    Dear Teachers,

    Take the following newsline as an example, I would like to know when the use of a preposition "to" (so that it is followed by a gerund) is preferred to an infinitive "to"(so that it is followed by a verb), or vice versa. Are there any rules or principles governing their respective uses? Thank you.

    "A ban on idling engines is one small but important step to decreasing roadside temperatures, improving the working conditions for professional road users, and improving the environment generally for us all. Following the ban, there should be a number of supplementary measures, such as continued assessment of the availability of cleaner engines, and better urban planning to create more open spaces with better natural ventilation. - SCMP

    In the second sentence stated above, could I use "There should be a number of supplementary measures...... to creating more open spaces with better natural ventilation as that in the first sentence, i.e. A ban on.....to decreasing roadside temperatures"? If not, what are the reasons? Thanks again.
    Seems like an interesting question! I've been pondering over it trying to detect some regularity. Here's what I've come up with:

    If you can replace the 'to' with 'in order to', you should use the infinitive.
    There should be a number of supplementary measures in order to create open spaces. In order to create open spaces, there should be....

    X is one small but important step in order to decrease... -- doesn't work, so it's the case of preposition + gerund.

    X is an important step to... [step to WHAT?] ==> step to success, step to prosperity... In other words, a noun is required (and in this case it's a gerund functioning as a noun - 'to decreasing'.)

    You can't ask a number of supplementary measures or better planning [to WHAT], can you? So, 'to creating' is wrong and requires the infinitive:
    There should be a number of measures to create open spaces.

    Well, I tried to be logical.

    Let's see what others have to say.

  3. #3
    Deepurple is offline Member
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    Re: How to tell a prepositional "to" from an infinitive "to"

    Further comments on this are welcome.

  4. #4
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Re: How to tell a prepositional "to" from an infinitive "to"

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepurple View Post
    Dear Teachers,

    Take the following newsline as an example, I would like to know when the use of a preposition "to" (so that it is followed by a gerund) is preferred to an infinitive "to"(so that it is followed by a verb), or vice versa. Are there any rules or principles governing their respective uses? Thank you.

    "A ban on idling engines is one small but important step to decreasing roadside temperatures, improving the working conditions for professional road users, and improving the environment generally for us all. Following the ban, there should be a number of supplementary measures, such as continued assessment of the availability of cleaner engines, and better urban planning to create more open spaces with better natural ventilation. - SCMP

    In the second sentence stated above, could I use "There should be a number of supplementary measures...... to creating more open spaces with better natural ventilation as that in the first sentence, i.e. A ban on.....to decreasing roadside temperatures"? If not, what are the reasons? Thanks again.
    The first "to" should be "towards", "...towards decreasing..." . Does that help you to understand?

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