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Why do we look forward “to doing something”?

作者:Jason Shew  邵敬翔

 

SAT

Many out there have their own way to decipher the phrasal verb “to look forward to”, but hardly anyone has proposed a cogent analysis.

 

Of course, the verb “look” here is intransitive. Like many other intransitive verbs, “look” needs a preposition followed by a noun/pronoun: look after yourself, look for my pencil, look at the sky, etc. It’s usually not acceptable to say “look my pencil”. Bearing this in mind, some may make a deduction about “look forward to something”: “forward” is an adverb; between”look” and “something” we need a preposition “to”. That sounds as if it makes sense.

 

However,

(1) it’s also okay to say “looking to do something”.

An intransitive verb is not necessarily always followed by a preposition. “Intransitive verb (+adverb) + to do” can also be valid.

e.g. The government is looking to improve the rail network.

They always strive hard to achieve their goals. (We can’t say “strive hard to achieving”)

 

(2) the verb “look” can be transitive too.

She looked me in the eye, and I could felt her infatuation.

They looked him up and down, thinking he couldn’t afford this pocket watch.

 

So we don’t need the idea that “look” has to cling on to a preposition, and we don’t have to pin ourselves down to identifying the word “to” (that follows an intransitive verb like “look”) as a preposition.

 

 

But why do we use “look forward to something/doing something” rather than “look forward to do something”? The answer couldn’t be simpler. Well, first, you have to figure out what this phrasal verb means.

 

Never try to get the precise meaning by roughly putting it into your mother tongue. The interference from your mother tongue is often the reason you are in the dark.

 

“Look forward to” is not equal to “expect to”, though many learners find one bears a close resemblance to the other when they translate them into Chinese.

 

“Expect to” means “believe that something will happen or that someone will do something”, so it’s okay to say “we expected him to learn some Spanish”/ “he expected (himself) to learn some Spanish” / “he expected that he could learn some Spanish”. We call it an occurrence if a chunk reveals who does what (i.e. the action taker(s) AND the action) . We can always have an occurrence (e.g. him to learn some Spanish / (himself) to learn some Spanish / he could learn some Spanish) to “expect”.

 

“Look forward to” means “await eagerly”, or rather, “think about (something) because pleasure will be there if it happens”. That is, we can’t have an occurrence to “think about”, “await eagerly”, or “look forward to”. It is NOT correct to say “I think about Tim to come” or “I await you to help me eagerly”. Instead, we just “think about / await the action” or “think about / await the action taker(s)”. For example, everyone thinks about success and getting rich. Consequently, we only say “we look forward to success”, and “we look forward to getting rich”.

 

 

 
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Posted in: SAT词汇, 托福词汇

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