Phil|Accent Trainer
Professional Teacher
Important grammar point: “to +verb +ing”
ESL students learn that the infinitive is formed with “to” + the base form of a verb. Then, they see “to” + the -ing form and they wonder what’s going on. Here’s the explanation:

Chongsheng gave these examples in a recent question (

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
A theoretical approach to understanding consumer behavior.

In these examples, “to” is a preposition, and, like all prepositions, must always be followed by a noun (which may be modified by an adjective or additional prepositional phrases, etc.).

I’m looking forward to___ 
the (big) game
news from you

What is your approach to___

If we want to use a verb after a preposition, we must first nominalize it (turn it into a noun). The easiest way is to simply use the gerund — the -ing form:

I’m looking forward to___ 

We can also modify the verbal noun with an adjective or prepositional phrase:

I’m looking forward to___
your playing in the game

We can also use a gerund phrase with a direct object. The subject is understood to be same as in the main part of the sentence:

I’m looking forward to___
playing football
eating Chinese food

If we need to change the subject, we use a possessive adjective to modify the verbal noun (as previously demonstrated):

I’m looking forward to___
your playing in the game
his playing the guitar
(We can also use a real noun:
I’m looking forward to his guitar performance.

Colloquially, it’s probably more common to use the object pronoun instead of the possessive (before the -ing verb). An argument could be made that the -ing verb is a participle, but I don’t believe that to be the case.

I’m looking forward to___
you playing in the game
him playing the guitar
Jan 26, 2018 10:30 PM
Comments · 11
I never object to reading a good explanation like this one.  Thanks.  Thumbs up.
January 26, 2018
Where I live, it would take weeks for a teacher to explain the exact same thing.
January 27, 2018
Thank you, Michael, for your support – and for cleverly presenting us with an additional example of the structure :)

January 26, 2018
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Phil|Accent Trainer
Language Skills
Catalan, Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
Learning Language
Chinese (Cantonese), Hebrew