Improper use of an infinitive


Several people with whom I work use an infinitive after a request or demand.  For example: "I had her to check for bugs under the sink."  "We had them to move all the furniture."  I know this is incorrect, but exactly what rule are they violating?

asked Jun 11 '13 at 04:46 R. Dixey New member

1 answer


This is a great question! You are absolutely correct that it is a grammar mistake.


A word about terminology


As an English teacher and a grammar geek, I find that one of the most infuriating things about talking about certain grammar issues is that different grammar references and textbooks use different terms to refer to the same thing.  In your example sentences, check and move are called (a) base verbs, or (b) infinitive verbs, or (c) infinitive-without-to verbs, or (d) dictionary form.  There may be other terms too, and it is bloody ridiculous that there is no agreement on what to call them.  I prefer base verbs, so that's what I will call them in this answer.  But basically a base verb is the form of any verb that goes with "to", and it is also the form of the verb that you would look up in a dictionary (you wouldn't look up ate in the dictionary; you'd look up eat).


On the opposite side, yes the same grammar experts and references use different terms to describe the "to + base verb" structure; most call it an infinitive verb (which is confusing because other references call base verbs infinitive verbs!), and others call it a "to + infinitive verb".  Aargh!  In my answer I will refer to it as an infinitive verb.


[Have] + object + base verb - causative sentence


In your example sentences, the subject of the sentence causes the object of the sentence to do something.  This is called a causative sentence; one person causes another person to do something.  And the correct grammar requires a base verb after the object, not an infinitive verb.


[Get] + object + infinitive - causative sentence


Perhaps where your friends and co-workers have gotten confused is because you can also make a causative sentence with get, but in this construction the object must be followed by an infinitive verb, not a base verb.  The get-construction sounds much less formal than the have-construction.


John had his secretary stay late has the same meaning as John got his secretary to stay late.


In summary, then, We had them to move all the furniture is a mistake; it should be We had them move all the furniture.  But, We got them to move all the furniture is correct.


Anyway, I hope this helps.  Let us know if you have any other questions.

link answered Jun 11 '13 at 12:17 Shawn Mooney Expert

Brilliant! The causative sentence explanation is exactly what I was seeking and makes perfect sense. Thank you!

R. DixeyJun 11 '13 at 18:54

This is very common in the South, where the statement might have been (writing aloud, here): We hayed theyem ta move all the furn-itch-your (sic)." ;<)

Brother DaveJun 11 '13 at 21:12

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