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Command Verbs with Infinitive Complements

Express an Order or Obligation for Someone to Do Something

judge and gavel


Subordinate That Clause vs. Infinitive Clause


A number of verbs expressing a wish, suggestion or order are followed by a noun or pronoun and a that clause.  The clause tends to be used in more formal contexts, and the verb is in the subjunctive, plain form, which is not inflected for tense or person agreement (no final -s).                        


The judge ordered 








sit down. (base form) 

be quiet. 

pay a fine. 




A similar meaning may be expressed with an infinitive clause.  The verb is followed by a noun or accusative pronoun, which is both the object of the verb and the understood subject of the infinitive clause. [The judge ordered John (for) John to leave.]   See Infinitive with Subject regarding [for + NP].


The judge ordered 







[for John]

[for him]

to sit down. 

to be quiet. 

pay a fine. 


will (N) – stating one's choice(s) strongly and positively

accusative – a pronoun form used when it is the object of the verb (her, him, us, them)

complement – a word, phrase or clause required to complete another element in the clause such as the subordinator that which requires a clause to complete its meaning, or a preposition which requires a noun (phrase or clause) to complete its meaning. See Complements.

nominative – a pronoun form used when it is the subject of the verb  (she, he, we, they)

subjunctive verb – 3rd person singular form is not inflected: base form (no -s is added to the verb) , also called "bare infinitive".

that, for, and to – function as subordinators above: that John sit down, for John, to sit down  See Grammar Notes.

See Grammar Notes  below for grammatical terms.


Word Categories: N – Noun; V – Verb; Aux – Auxiliary; Adj – Adjective; Adv – Adverb; P –Preposition; Det –Determiner. See Word Categories.

Phrasal Categories: NP – Noun Phrase; VP – Verb Phrase; AdjP – Adjective Phrase; AdvP – Adverb Phrase; PP – Prepositional Phrase; DP – Determinative Phrase.

Clausal Categories: Cls – clause; F – finite clause; NF – nonfinite clause: Ger – gerund; Inf – infinitive; PPart – past participle.



Command Verb Lists  ("mandative verbs")

Verb + Object + Infinitive




Order vs. Suggest Complements


Some verbs expressing will or giving orders are complemented by that + a clause or by an infinitive clause. A noun phrase may also occur.

The judge ordered a mental health examination of the defendant. (NP)

The judge ordered [that she return to rehab for sixty days]. (that+clause)

The judge order her [to return to rehab for sixty days]. (infinitive clause)


Other verbs can only be complemented by a noun phrase or that + a clause.

The judge suggested a mental health examination of the defendant. (NP)

The judge suggested [that she return to rehab for sixty days]. (that+clause)

*The judge suggested her [to return to rehab for sixty days].


defendant (N) – the person in a court of law who has been accused of doing something illegal

rehab –  rehabilitation; a hospital or treatment center for people with medical, mental, or addiction problems






advise     We advised– him to / that he – take a break.

ask     She asked – us to / that we – come along.

beg     She begged – us to / that we – stay up late.

caution    The doctor cautioned – us to / that we – rest a day.

command    He commanded – us to / that we – stop.

desire     We desired – me to / that I – see him.

directed  He directed – us to / that we – follow him.

forbid    She forbids – him to / that he – stay out late.

instruct  He instructed – us to / that we – follow.

intend     He didn't intend – us to / that we – do all the work.

order     They ordered – us to / that we – carry a passport.

pledge   He pledged – us to / that we – help out.

prefers    She prefers – him to / that he – see it.

prescribe  Dr. Lee prescribed – him to / that he – take aspirin.

signal    They signaled – us to / that we – come in.

recommend    He recommends – you to / that you – be hired.

request  They requested – us to / that we – dress formally.

require     We require – you to / that you – stay late.

urge     We urged – him to / that he – be more careful.

*wish    My parents wished – me to / that I – try harder. 


*"My parents wished me to try harder." is a past imperative. "My parents wished that I tried harder." could be a past imperative or an expression of disappointment – they wished and I failed. Lost Opportunity.





demand     They demanded that he leave.

insist     They insisted that she come along.

propose    They propose that he go first.

recommend    They recommend that she hire him.

suggested     We suggested that he try again.



Also see Command Clauses.







Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions



Error and Solution


*They advised that John sells his car and finds a safer one.

Jack's coach suggested him to do some extra practice.

*His doctor told him to stop smoking, start exercising and to eat less junk food.


They advised John to sell his car and (to) find a safer one. 
The advised that John sell his car and find a safer one. 
Use the base-form of the verb (Don't add -s for 3rd per.)

Jack's coach suggested that he do some extra practice. 

"Suggest" is followed by that + a clause (only) and a subjunctive verb "do." See Imperative Clauses

*His doctor told him to stop smoking, (to) start exercising and (to) eat less junk food.

It is only necessary to place "to" before the first infinitive form in a series. Repeating "to" places emphasis on each word in the series, especially in writing and public speaking for style. 


Related page Parallel Phrasing.




► Show Grammar Notes and Works Cited ▼ Hide Grammar Notes

Grammar Notes (Advanced)

Traditional and Linguistic Description



Traditional / ESL and Linguistic Descriptions


subjunctive (Adj) – expressing a condition that is uncertain or contrary to fact (e.g., if I were you), including doubt, wishfulness, possibility, demand, and the like (e.g., the crowd demanded that she be heard).  — Garner  918



Azar. Understanding and Using English Grammar (450)

A subjunctive verb uses the simple form of a verb. it does not have present, past, or future forms; it is neither singular nor plural.

Sentences with subjunctive verbs generally stress importance or urgency. A subjunctive verb is used in that-clauses that follow verbs and expressions:

advise, ask, demand, insist, propose, recommend, request, suggest

It is… critical, essential, imperative, important, necessary, vital


Michael Swan. Practical English Use age (567)

567 Subjunctive Some languages have special verb forms called subjunctive, which are used especially to talk about unreal situations; things which are possible, desirable or imaginary. Older English had subjunctives, but in modern English they have mostly been replaced by uses of should, would and other modal verbs, by uses of past tenses, and by ordinary verb forms.

English only has a few subjunctive forms left: third-person singular present verbs with out -s (e.g. she see, he have) and special forms of be (e.g. I be, he were). Except for I/he/she/it were after if, they are not very common. 

Huddleston. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language 11 §7.1

Subjunctive is restricted to the following clause content.

Mandative –  occurs in construction with:

various verbs:

  • We insist that she be kept informed.
  • We insisted that they be kept informed. [not backshifted for tense]


various adjectives: 
It is… advisable, appropriate, crucial, desirable, essential, fitting, imperative, important, necessary, obligatory, preferable, proper, urgent, required, vital, etc.

  • It is essential that he stay here. [subjunctive]
  • It is essential that he stays here. [declarative]


various nouns: 
advice, agreement, arrangement, decision, intention, motion, preference, proposal, recommendation, requirement, suggestion, etc.

The requirement that he be here by Tuesday is non-negotiable.

various prepositions:
if, in case, on condition, unless, provided, for fear, lest, in order, so, etc.

  • Adversatives: Keep a straight face lest anyone (should) discover your intentions.
  • Conditionals: We gave him the car keys on condition that he not accept any passengers.
  • Purposives: Every bit of caution was taken so that no one  should enter without being searched.

       Huddleston 11 §7.1.2


Exhaustive conditional adjuncts.

We will have to face the challenge whether it be here in our country or abroad.

Huddleston 11 §7.1.3


Categories "Parts of Speech": N – noun; NP – noun phrase; V – verb; VP – verb phrase; Adj – adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; Adv – adverb; AdvP – adverb phrase; P – preposition; PP – prepositional phrase; Det – determiner; DP – determinative phrase; Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator; Interj – interjection.

Word Functions: Subj – Subject; Pred – Predicate/Predicator – Pred; COMP – complement:  elements required by an expression to complete its meaning ;  ADJUNCT: — adjunct: elements not required by an expression to complete its meaning; Supplement – a clause or phrase added to a clause but not closely related to the central idea or structure of the main clause (an aside comment).



Works Cited

  • Azar, Betty Schrampfer, and Stacy A. Hagen. "Common Verbs Followed by Infinitives." Understanding and Using English Grammar, 4th ed., Pearson Education, 2009.
  • Biber, Douglas, and Stig Johansson, et al. "Infinitive Clauses." Longman Grammar Of Spoken And Written English, Pearson Education, 1999.
  • Huddleston, Rodney and Geoffrey K. Pullum. "The structure of infinitivals." The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • Pullum, Geoffrey. "Non-finite Clauses." Linguistics and English Language, U of Edinburgh. 1 Nov 2012,
  • "Sentence diagram: The Reed Kellogg System." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 Apr. 2016.
  • Swan, Michael. "283 Infinitives (5): I want you to listen." Practical English Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005.






Mischievous Dog

Mischievous Dog



Read Context

David brought home a delightful, young Labrador retriever, Josie, from a dog shelter. The dog was both playful and mischievous. However, David soon needed help managing his new pet.

His wife preferred that he keep the dog outside.  But the dog kept escaping from the yard.

A neighbor asked that he keep the dog inside his fence. It was pouncing on his kids while they were playing.

Another neighbor begged that he keep the dog out of his flower garden.

An angry neighbor suggested that he tie the dog up.

The city requires that an owner to keep a dog on a leash.

The mailman recommended that he fix his gate latch. Otherwise, the dog might get hit in the street.

His brother urged him to give the dog away to a sheep farmer.

His wife wished that he hire a dog trainer.

The dog trainer advised that he walk the dog twice a day.

And she advised that he attend dog behavior classes with his dog.

escapades – reckless adventures, wild behavior, escapes

dog owner (N) – the person or people who take care of the dog

latch (N) – mechanism that holds the gate closed

wear out – become old or very tired .

willful (Adj) – having a strong will, being stubborn




Change the subjunctive that-clauses to infinitive clauses if possible.

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