Appendix:English catenative verbs

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Catenative verbs are verbs that can be followed directly by another verb — the second verb variously in the to-infinitive, bare infinitive, or present participle / gerund form. Commonly the second verb (along with any clause it might introduce) serves as the direct object of the first verb. For example, in He deserves to win the cup, deserve is a catenative verb, followed directly by another verb, in this case in the to-infinitive form; and "to win the cup" is the direct object of "deserves".

Most catenative verbs demand that the verb following be in one or the other form only. A few can be followed by either the infinitive or the gerund, but sometimes there is a difference in meaning (see list below).

The name catenative derives from these verbs' ability to form chains: We promised to agree to try practicing playing tennis more often.

Catenatives have much in common with auxiliary verbs (such as shall, will, can, may), but unlike auxiliaries, catenatives are "full-fledged" verbs, capable (in most cases) of being conjugated in all tenses (He deserved to win the cup) and moods, and of being used non-catenatively (He deserves better).

Before adding to this list, it is important to distinguish between a real catenative verb, such as decide I decided to work, and a normal verb followed by an infinitive of purpose (French: pour) or a descriptive gerund. A good example of a false catenative that could easily be confused is leave, where I left to work means in reality I left (home), followed by a purpose, to go to, or do, some work. A descriptive-gerund example: She left crying is in reality a description meaning She left and at the same time she was crying.


Followed by a to-infinitive[edit]

afford

  • At last I can afford to buy a new car.

agree

  • He agreed to work on Saturday.
Note In (US) usage, agree is intransitive only. Where to immediately follows, it functions as a preposition — not as the start of a to-infinitive — and not only in an obvious example like He agreed to their demands, but also in the example above. Thus, in the US, agree by itself might not technically qualify as a true catenative.

aim

  • We aim to please all our clients.

appear

  • I appear to have forgotten my glasses.

arrange

  • I think we can arrange to put you in a double room.

ask

  • He asked to leave early.

attempt

  • This is the second time we have attempted to climb the mountain.

be able

Note This is considered an auxiliary modal verb equivalent to can, but sometimes it is used to differentiate between general ability and a particular situation.
  • Ask John. He will be able to help you.
  • Normally I can do these problems, but I am not able to solve this one.

beg

  • I beg to differ on that point.

care

  • Would you care to choose another one, sir?

choose

  • I will go when I choose to go, and not before.

condescend

  • I don’t know if the Senator will condescend to see us.

consent

  • He consented to pay for the dinner.

dare

Note This is also considered a semi-modal auxiliary verb. Particularly in the negative, the modal form is preferred.
  • I didn’t dare to climb the tree.
  • I didn’t dare climb the tree.
  • I daren’t climb the tree.

decide

  • We decided to buy the pink one in the end.

deserve

  • You don’t deserve to be treated like that.

elect

  • He elected to stay in college the full four years.

expect

  • I expect to receive the payment any day now.

fail

  • I fail to understand your argument.

happen

  • If it happens to fall, just put it back up again.

have

Note have to is also considered an auxiliary modal verb similar to must, meaning obligation.
  • I have to go to work now.

help

Note The to is optional.
  • I helped to pack her bags.
  • I helped pack her bags.

hesitate

  • If you hesitate to make the reservation, you could lose the discount.

hope

  • I hope to see my aunt this week-end.

long

  • I am longing to go to Paris.

move (meaning propose in a formal setting)

  • I move to adjourn the meeting for lunch.

need

  • I need to eat my lunch.

offer

  • I offered to carry her suitcase for her.

plan

  • I plan to play football this week-end.

prepare

  • We are preparing to help our neighbors in case the storm hits.

pretend

  • I know you are only pretending to be asleep.

proceed

  • He proceeded to apply the lotion as instructed.

promise

  • I promise to tell the truth.

refuse

  • I refuse to take such silly advice.

seek

  • I seek to triumph over our enemies.

seem

  • You seem to be rather tired today.

strive

  • He strives to teach well.

struggle

  • The company will have to struggle to survive the economic downturn.

swear

  • I swear to tell the truth.

tend

  • It tends to snow here in winter.

threaten

  • He threatened to call the police.

undertake

  • He undertook to finish the job in less than ten days.

wait

  • I can’t wait to see her face when I tell her!

want

  • I want to play the guitar.
Note (UK) usage with gerund below.

wish

  • I wish to complain to the manager.

would like

  • I would like to drink some water.

In the passive voice followed by a to-infinitive[edit]

Note These verbs are not found in catenative form with a to-infinitive except in the passive voice, as they place the object between the two verbs when used actively.

allow

  • You are allowed to wear jeans here.

ask

  • You are asked to go home and change if you wore jeans.

call

  • Those who are rescued are called to help rescue others.

command

  • The soldiers were commanded to perform the exercise again.

compel

  • The bystander was compelled to carry Jesus' cross.

destine

  • My child, you are destined to achieve great things.

encourage

  • You are encouraged to leave if you wish to smoke.

entitle

  • A true hero is entitled to enjoy a hero's welcome.

forbid

  • You are forbidden to smoke in here.

force

  • Many employees have been forced to work unpaid overtime.

instruct

  • The babysitter was instructed to stay off the parents' phone.

intend

  • That valve is intended to help keep the machine from overheating.

invite

  • Never had guests been invited to enjoy such a sumptuous meal as this.

made

  • The sheep were made to lie down and drink.

move

  • At last he was moved to treat people more compassionately.

order

  • Users are ordered to refrain from adding frivolous content.

permit

  • But you are permitted to smoke in here.

request

  • You are requested to leave immediately.

require

  • You are required to leave now.

teach

  • The child had been taught to say "please" and "thank you".

tell

  • We were told to call the police, not our parents.

tempt

  • I am tempted to keep adding examples all night.

Followed by a gerund[edit]

admit

  • He admitted taking the money.

advise

  • I advise leaving immediately.

allow

  • We do not allow smoking here.

appreciate

  • I would appreciate receiving more help with this.

avoid

  • Please avoid touching the goods on display.

can't help

  • I can’t help liking the way he smiles.

complete

  • I have completed painting the kitchen.

consider

  • Have you considered working at the factory?

delay

  • We had to delay travelling because of the weather.

deny

  • I deny taking the money.

detest

  • I detest working on Sundays.

dislike

  • I dislike working on Saturdays.

encourage

  • This museum encourages touching its displays.

enjoy

  • I enjoy watching snooker on the TV.

entail

  • The new job entails keeping meticulous records.

escape

  • He escaped being run over by about a millisecond!

finish

  • When you finish painting the shed, let me know.

forbid

  • They forbid smoking in the restaurant.

imagine

  • Can you imagine winning the lottery?

imply

  • This plan implies buying an expensive piece of equipment.

involve

  • The second plan involves buying an even more expensive piece of equipment.

keep

  • I didn't get anything, so I kept trying my best.

mind

  • Would you mind closing the window, please?

miss

  • I miss playing football with my friends.

need

Note (US) usage. Means require or want.
  • That door needs painting.

permit

  • Do they permit smoking in here?

practise (universal, especially UK and Commonwealth), practice (US)

  • I like to practise playing the piano every day.

prohibit

  • They prohibit smoking in the restaurant.

quit

  • I wish I could quit smoking.

recall

  • I recall meeting you at the convention in New York.

recommend

  • I can recommend washing your clothes with this product.

regret

Note This verb is found with to infinitive in some set phrases. See next section.
  • I regret telling him about the party now.

require

  • Losing weight requires disciplining oneself.

resent

  • I resent seeing him enjoying himself as if nothing has happened.

resist

  • How can you resist eating those lovely chocolates?

resume

  • We will resume discussing this matter tomorrow.

risk

  • We can’t risk working in the dark.

see

Note This verb usually is concatenative only with forms of can, be able to, or other verbs of similar meaning.
  • I can see giving some reimbursement for expenses, but that's way too much!

stand

Note This usage is most commonly found in the form can’t stand, or in questions.
  • I can’t stand walking in the rain.

suggest

  • I suggest asking your teacher about it.

tolerate

  • I won’t tolerate swearing in this office.

want

Note (UK) usage. Means require or need.
  • That door wants painting.

give up

Note Catenative phrasal verbs in general are followed by the gerund.
  • I gave up smoking last year.

Followed by a to-infinitive or a gerund[edit]

No difference in meaning[edit]

bear

Note This verb is most commonly found in the form can bear/can’t bear.
  • I can’t bear to hear him sing.
  • I can’t bear hearing him sing.

begin

  • It began to rain.
  • It began raining.

bother

  • He didn't bother to ask for permission.
  • He didn't bother asking for permission.

cease

  • You must cease to waste so much time on the computer.
  • You must cease wasting so much time on the computer.

continue

  • It continued to rain.
  • It continued raining.

disdain

  • He disdained to speak with us.
  • He disdained speaking with us.

hate

  • I hate to brush my teeth.
  • I hate brushing my teeth.

intend

  • I intend to finish this.
  • I intend finishing this.

like

  • I like to eat pilaf.
  • I like eating pilaf.
Note: See also section "Difference in meaning", where the "to" infinitive sometimes has a specific meaning.

love

  • I love to swim in the sea.
  • I love swimming in the sea.

neglect

  • I neglected to paint behind the cupboard.
  • I neglected painting behind the cupboard.

prefer

  • I prefer to work alone.
  • I prefer working alone.

regret

Note This verb is normally followed by the gerund, except in certain set phrases with tell, say, and inform.
  • I regret inviting him to the party now.
  • I regret to tell you that the show has been cancelled.
  • I regret to have to inform you that your brother has had a serious accident.

start

  • I started to learn Spanish three years ago.
  • I started learning Spanish three years ago.

Difference in meaning[edit]

come

  • She came to realise that things were not as they seemed. (She underwent a slow realisation.)
  • She came dancing with me last night. (She accompanied me in this activity.)
Note The second usage should not to be confused with that in And when you come...be sure to come dancing, where dancing functions as a descriptive gerund.

go

  • They have gone to see a movie. (The infinitive can be used for any verb that follows go.)*
  • They have gone fishing. ( activities ending in -ing.)

go on

  • After a long career, Ken went on to be a manager. (He changed to a different, more prestigious activity.)
  • Some goalkeepers go on playing until they are 40. (They continue doing the same activity.)

go round/ go around

  • He went (a)round to see if she was OK. (He went to one place.)*
  • He went (a)round saying terrible things about her. (He went to lots of different places [while] saying terrible things about her.)

get

  • Successful actors often get to go to film premières free. (They have the privilege.)
  • Get going! (Hurry up!)

forget

  • I forgot to go to the shopping centre. (I remember that it is something I meant to do but didn’t do.)
  • I forget going to the shopping centre. (I cannot remember the experience of going to the store.)
  • Don't forget to lock the door when you go out. (Compare remember below.)

like

  • I like to go to the dentist every 6 months. (I have the custom. I do not necessarily enjoy it.)
  • I like going to the cinema every week. (An activity that I enjoy.)

mean

  • I meant to tell her yesterday, but I forgot. (Intention. I intended to tell her.)
  • The promotion will mean moving to a new area. (Signify, imply, entail, necessitate.)

need

  • I need to paint the house. (I need to do the activity .)
  • The house needs painting. (The activity needs to be done to the house.)

remember

  • I remembered to lock the door. (I did not forget that I was supposed to lock the door, and I locked it.)
  • I remember locking the door. (I know I did it because I can mentally picture the experience.)
  • Remember to lock the door when you go out.

propose

  • I propose to open up a little shop. (I have the intention of doing something)
  • I propose going to that nice little restaurant by the beach. (I suggest, or make a proposal, for a group activity.)

stop

Note Many sources state that this has two meanings. But some sources state that it is nothing more than ellipsis of the first activity in gerund form, as context will always allow us to know what activity has stopped, followed by an infinitive of purpose.
  • I stopped driving.
  • I stopped to drink some coffee. (This could be an ellipsed form of I stopped driving. followed by the purpose to drink some coffee.)*

try

  • I tried to open the door, but it was locked. (I attempted and failed in an activity.)
  • I tried opening the door. Then I tried opening the window. (I made an attempt or experiment. Neither success nor failure is implied.)

* In these cases, the to can be considered an ellipsis of in order to or an infinitive of purpose.

Followed by a bare infinitive[edit]

dare

Note This is considered a semi-modal auxiliary verb. Particularly in the negative, the modal form is preferred.
  • He daren’t climb the tree.
  • He didn’t dare to climb the tree.
  • He didn’t dare climb the tree.

help

Note The to is optional.
  • I helped to pack her bags.
  • I helped pack her bags.

go / come

Note This is most common in American English. In other varieties, and is generally inserted between the two words.
Come and go are not used this way except in their bare forms, ie, not *He went/came sit with her. or *He goes/comes sit with her. or *He is going/coming sit with her. or *He had gone/come sit with her.
  • Go clean your room.
  • Go and clean your room.
  • I can’t go watch that movie.
  • I can’t go and watch that movie.
  • Come sit with me.
  • Come and sit with me.

Followed by "and"[edit]

Expressions such as Go and clean your room and Try and do better are often analyzed as hendiadys, the figure of speech in which one "substitutes conjunction for subordination".