To Ask or To Asking? #EngQAs

A question from our fella, @froushon.

‘a guide to ASKING questions’ or ‘a guide to ASK questions’? 

Before we go on to the discussion, we have to see what a phrase is.

A phrase is two or more words that DON’T contain the subject-verb. If it has a subject and a verb, it is called a sentence, not a phrase. Noun phrases are one kind of phrases, besides verb phrases, prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, participle phrases, gerund phrases, and absolute phrases.

A noun phrase is formed by combining a (optional) modifier (a, the, her, his, their, etc.), a noun and a (optional) modifier). Ex:

  1. My teacher
  2. A teacher
  3. His teacher of English
  4. His teacher of Math
  5. A guide to Paris
  6. A guide to living in Paris
  7. A guide to asking questions
  8. The secret of life
  9. Secrets of enjoying life

*The underlined ones indicate the nouns. The bold ones are the modifiers.

Modifiers mean ‘pelengkap’ or ‘pemberi keterangan’ of nouns. What makes ‘the teacher’ in the examples above different are the modifiers, which are ‘English’ and ‘Math.’

Then why do we have to use ‘asking’ in ‘a guide to asking questions?

The reason is simple; (1) it is a noun phrase; (2) the word ‘guide’ whether it performs as a noun or as a verb is always followed by a gerund or a noun and it would be accompanied by the preposition ‘to.’

‘Guide’ as a verb


  • She guides the group to the museum of independence.
  • He guides me to write a book of cooking.

‘Guide’ as a noun


  • The tourism company distributed (a guide to Paris) to us.
  • She gives us (a guide to enjoying Paris).
  • He writes (a guide to asking questions in English).

Do you see that ‘asking questions in English’ is also a noun (phrase)? If not, see this sentence:

Asking questions in English is difficult.

‘Guide’ is a word that should be followed by a noun or a gerund. It is the same case as:

  • I am looking forward to your story.
  • I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.
  • I am opposed to your idea.
  • I am opposed to increasing the petrol price.
  • Finally, we have come to the end of the discussion.
  • That was the best we have come to winning the championship.

In conclusion, (1) ‘a guide to asking questions’ is NOT a sentence. It doesn’t have a subject and a verb. It is in fact a noun phrase. And ‘guide’ is a word that is followed by a noun or a gerund. (2) ‘to’ is not always followed by an infinitive or a bare verb. It could be also followed by a noun or a gerund.


source of picture:

Thanks @froushon for the question! For your own extra resources on verbs followed by gerund and to infinitive, please see our previous posts or follow these links:

Written by @Wisznu at @EnglishTips4U on Augustus 20, 2015


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