Tuesday October 23, 2012
We look forward to...
By ALISTAIR KING
FREQUENTLY, I am asked whether we can write I look forward to seeing you or I look forward to hearing from you.
Almost invariably, the question is posed by someone whose boss, whose colleague or (shudder) whose English teacher has declared that these sentences are ungrammatical and that the correct versions are *I look forward to see you. and *I look forward to hear from you.
This is often accompanied by the explanation that we can’t say to seeing / to hearing; we must say to see / to hear. I suspect that many readers have heard something similar and are wondering if these sentences are right or wrong:
I look forward to meeting you.
We look forward to serving you.
I look forward to receiving your reply.
We look forward to knowing your requirements.
Or should there be no –ing?
In these examples, we do not connect the word to to the next word.
This is because to is connected to the previous words. Look forward to is a unit called a “phrasal verb”.
This is created when words (normally prepositions) are added to a verb in order to produce a different meaning. For example, consider this:
There is a mysterious crater in the middle of the High Street. The police are currently looking into it.
The non-phrasal (and rather delightful) meaning of this is that several policemen are standing around the large hole peering into it, while the phrasal meaning is that there is a police investigation in process. Other phrasal verbs using look, which can also be understood non-phrasally, are: look down on (despise); look up to (respect); look out (exercise caution).
The phrasal verb look forward to is followed by a noun and very often that noun is a gerund.
The gerund is the –ing form of the word as in:
Smoking is bad for you and so is overeating.
Taking exercise is good for you, though running can cause joint pain. Both talking and eating are not allowed during the examination.
Please note that it is grammatically wrong to write, We look forward to hear from you, etc.
The following forms are absolutely correct:
We look forward to ...
a) meeting you.
b) receiving your reply.
c) having the opportunity to serve you.
d) knowing your requirements.
e) explaining further our expectations.
One comment about the ending We look forward to hearing from you.
While it is grammatically correct, it is of low communicative value. It doesn’t take the scenario on to the next step with any focus.
How, when and where will you hear from the other person?
In a previous article of Right For Business, we looked at endings to letters.
Always end by pointing the way ahead as clearly and as specifically as possible.
For example: We look forward to receiving your amended proposal with itemized quotation by the end of this week.
Just one last thing: please don’t write Thank you at the end of a letter!
Dr Alistair King is an Applied Linguist and Corporate Training Consultant with clients throughout the region, the Middle East and Southern Africa. He looks forward to receiving feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org / aksb.com.my