Sunday, October 18, 2015

Suggest and recommend

My students usually make mistakes when using these two verbs.
A typical mistake:
* I suggest you to buy a new car.

The verb suggest cannot be followed by the infinitive. It can be followed by the gerund or a that-clause. Let's see:

I suggest buying a new car.
I suggest that you buy a new car.
I suggest buying a new car

In the first sentence the suggestion is good for the person who suggests or a group of which they form part.
However, in the second sentence, the suggestion is meant for another person, not for the speaker.
In the second sentence, the verb buy is in fact in the subjunctive mode, which uses the same forms of the indicative, except for the third person singular, which doesn't take the final "s":
I suggest that he buy a new car.
The subjunctive form of the verb to be is be for all the persons or were if it is in the past:
I suggest that she be here as soon as possible.
I suggested that she were here as soon as possible.

In British English, the sentence using the subjunctive can more commonly be expressed:
 I suggest that you should buy a new car.
As you can see, the modal verb should is used instead of the subjunctive. Another thing to take into account is that the word that can be left out in this type of sentences:
I suggest you buy a new car.
I suggest you should buy a new car.

After suggest you can also use just a noun or noun phrase:
A: "Which dress should I wear?"
B: "I suggest the black one"
I suggest the black dress

For the use of suggest in indirect speech, have a look at this blogpost.

As for recommend, it cannot be used with the infinitive either. It can either be followed by the gerund or a that-clause:
I recommend reading that book.
I recommend that you read that book.
In the latter sentence, read is a subjunctive.
I recommend this book

You can also use a noun after recommend:
I recommend this book to you.
However, you cannot use the indirect object next to the verb, so, these sentences wouldn't be correct:
*I recommend to you this book.
*I recommend you this book.

So, to put it in a nutshell, both verbs are never followed by the infinitive. Instead, they are followed by:
  • A noun or noun phrase
  • A gerund
  • A that-clause + subjunctive
  • A that-clause + should + infinitive

In the following video you can hear an example of suggest. At one point, the lady says: " I suggest you just go away". Can you hear it?

Finally, let's do some exercises:
Suggest and recommend

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