to as a preposition?

Learning to take good notes is very important. Good notes can help you remember and review a text you have read. There is no magic formula to taking notes when reading.You have to find out what works best for you. (Source: Iran's English Coursebooks)

I wonder why we have "taking" (a gerund) after "to". Is this "to" a preposition? I've checked a couple of dictionaries. The common combinations are:

(1) formula for: a formula for the withdrawal of US forces from the sea
(2) formula that: There is no magic formula that will transform sorrow into happiness.

Original Post
Freeguy posted:

There is no magic formula to taking notes when reading.You have to find out what works best for you. (Source: Iran's English Coursebooks)

Hi, Freeguy,

Yes, "to" is functioning as a preposition there; "taking notes when reading" is a gerund phrase that is functioning as the object of the preposition "to." However, "to" is not the idiomatic preposition to use in this context. Native speakers tend to use "for":

  • There is no magic formula for taking notes when reading.

In the somewhat rare cases when "to" is used after "magic formula," it is as the stem of an infinitive: "There is no magic formula to take notes when reading." There "to" is NOT a preposition. In your sentence, the idiomatic choice is "for" followed by the gerund. Perhaps you can notify Iran's textbook committee.

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