Learn English – Form of verb after a preposition


I've heard a grammar rule which is, if there is any verb followed by a preposition except the 'to' preposition, the verb must have a 'ing'.

As example, I've this sentence:

I am going for playing.

Where the 'play' verb is in 'ing' form.

But in this sentence:

I am going to play.

the 'play' verb is in normal form.

I just want to know that is the rule correct? If correct then is there any other exceptional preposition like 'to'?

Best Answer

First things first. Nobody know what type of word to is in the sentence:

  • I am going to play.

A lot of people would just call it a particle (which means it's small and they don't know what it is). A small number of people would say that it's a verb. Some people say that it's a subordinator. However only a very, very small number of writers think it's a preposition. Those people that do think that it's a preposition, would argue that it is an exceptional preposition. It is not the same as the preposition to that we find in the sentence I went to Paris. This word is the same word we find in:

  • To err is human.

Most people regard it as part of an infinitive construction. It always appears before a plain form of the verb.

Regarding your rule. This rule is slightly circular because in backwards traditional grammar people describe prepositions as words that come before nouns. These writers view a gerund as a kind of nouny form of a verb. The problem is that if you ask these people why a particular sentence has a verb which isn't a gerund after a preposition, they'll say it's because that word is not a preposition. However, if you ask them why the word is not a preposition, they'll say because it isn't followed by a nouny form of the verb. You get the picture? This is an indefensible position to take. The answer to your question is that it is a fairly good rule of thumb that when a preposition occurs before a non-finite verb (i.e. not before a full finite clause) the verb will be in the --ing form. However, there are some exceptions:

  • He went on to become president.

Here we see the preposition on occurring before the to-infinitival, to become. There are other exceptions such as:

  • I was just about to leave.

Hope this is helpful!