When is it correct to use “to” plus –ing (part 2)

I said in the last post that when “to” acts as a preposition it is usually followed by an –ing form or a noun/noun phrase.

Now we will look at exceptions to this rule.

The most important exception relates to the verb “agree”. You may use an infinitive verb after “agree to”. For example:

I cannot agree to delete Section 3.7.

This provision may cause unnecessary difficulties especially in complex matters where the parties do not agree to extend the prescribed time period.

If you try to use –ing forms in these examples in a document written on Microsoft Word, you’ll find that “deleting” and “extending” are underlined in green. This is because Word’s grammar check knows about this exception.

“Agree” is not the only verb covered by this exception. Others are “consent”, “entitled” “inclined” and “prone”.

Here are some examples:

The duchess has consented to open her London house to the public for two months every summer.

The Company is entitled to request that the authority reassesses the circumstances of the case.

I am inclined to agree with you.

The Employee is prone to suffer from asthma attacks and cannot work in a dusty environment.

More on “agree to”

When Microsoft Word underlines “agree to + -ing” it does so because it knows that it is an exception to the rule I gave you in Part 1. But Word does not know that you may, in fact, use “agree to + -ing”.

However, there is a difference in meaning between “agree to + -ing” and “agree to + infinitive”. Let’s make a comparison:

I cannot agree to delete Section 3.7.

I cannot agree to deleting Section 3.7.

The first one means I am not going to delete Section 3.7 myself; whereas the second sentence means I don’t want Section 3.7 to be deleted by anybody.

Similarly, if we make a comparison of the second example:

This provision may cause unnecessary difficulties especially in complex matters where the parties do not agree to extend the prescribed time period.

This means that the parties may not want to extend the prescribed time periods themselves; whereas

This provision may cause unnecessary difficulties especially in complex matters where the parties do not agree to extending the prescribed time period.

means that the parties may not agree to the idea of the time period being extended by anyone.

If you find it difficult to see the difference in meaning, try replacing the -ing form with a noun phrase:

I cannot agree to the deletion of Section 3.7(Deletion by anyone)

This provision may cause unnecessary difficulties especially in complex matters where the parties do not agree to the extension of the prescribed time period(Extension by anyone)

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One Response to When is it correct to use “to” plus –ing (part 2)

  1. Kunal Medhe says:

    Apart from “consent”, “entitled” “inclined” and “prone”, the word “liable” is also applicable.
    For eg:- The company is liable to pay the compensation to the workers’ union.

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