Appendix:English catenative verbs

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Catenative verbs are verbs which can be followed directly by another verb — variously in the to-infinitive, bare infinitive or present participle/gerund forms. For example He deserves to win the cup, where deserve is a catenative verb which can be followed directly by another verb, in this case in the to-infinitive form.

Most of these verbs demand that the following verb be in one or the other form only. A few can take both forms, but sometimes there is a difference in meaning.

They are called catenative from their ability to form chains. We promised to agree to try practicing playing tennis more often.

If you are thinking of adding to this list, it is most 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 non-catenative verb that could easily be confused is leave where I left to work is 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.

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 to

  • 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

  • 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.

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

  • 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)

  • 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

  • Always be prepared to help others whenever you can.

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 to-infinitive except in the passive voice, as they place the object between the two verbs when used actively.

allowed

  • You are allowed to wear jeans here.

forbid

  • You are forbidden to smoke in here.

permit

  • But you are permitted to smoke in here.

request

  • You are requested to leave immediately.

require

  • You are required to leave now.

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.

enjoy

  • I enjoy watching snooker on the TV.

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.

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.

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.

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.

stand

Note This verb is most commonly found in the form can’t stand.
  • 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.

continue

  • It continued to rain.
  • It continued raining.

disdain

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

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

  • I came to realise that things were not as they seemed. (I underwent a slow realisation.)
  • I asked her to come dancing (I invited her.)

go

  • They went to see a movie. (That is why they went.)*
  • They have gone fishing. (Go is used with sports activities ending -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 for 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)

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 can remember that I did this activity.)
  • 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 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 a bare infinitive or a gerund[edit]

see

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".