to want somebody to do something or no "to"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by veracity, Oct 4, 2008.

  1. veracity

    veracity Senior Member


    "She wants you to sleep downstairs again." Chevalier: Girl with a Pearl Earring.
    Can I leave to out?
    "She wants you sleep downstairs again."

    I googled the phrase like it with or without to. I found some example without to also.

    How to understand the difference?

  2. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Oxnard, CA
    English (U.S.)
    The difference is that it sounds funny and is incorrect without "to."
    I found four Google hits for "wants you sleep," so I don't know what results you were finding.
  3. veracity

    veracity Senior Member

    "wants you help" - thousands
  4. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    If you leave the "to" out, the sentence is not grammatical. It also does not sound like anything a native speaker would ever say. Note that the word "help" is also a noun meaning "assistance", and that it is easy to make the typographical error "wants you help" instead of "wants your help". The situation is not analogous to what you are suggesting.
  5. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Oxnard, CA
    English (U.S.)
    The vast majority of those look like typos of "Wants your help" and "An organization wants you! Help!"

    It's just flat-out wrong to say "I want you help."
  6. veracity

    veracity Senior Member

    Thank you. I learned it.
  7. sethmachine Banned

    If you wish to emit the to, you can do so but you have to change the verbal tense of sleep to its imperfect form sleeping.
    She wants you sleeping downstairs.
    This is more colloquially however. In most of cases however, you should always avoid emitting the 'to' and use grammatical forms such as:
    She wants you to be sleeping downstairs.
  8. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Oxnard, CA
    English (U.S.)
    Sorry, this does not sound idiomatic to me. And I'm pretty sure that's not the imperfect tense.
  9. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It's not natural to me either.
    It's kind of just round the corner from the imperfect tense.
    That, from my Latin education, is the "I was loving" tense, using the past present participle.
    Sleeping is the past present participle of sleep.
    It is also the form sethmac used.
    However, in his sentence sleeping is the past present participle behaving as an adjective :)
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2008
  10. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Neither of these sounds like any English that I know of:confused:

    I presume, Seth, that you mean omit in the first line above.
  11. chajadan Senior Member

    (1) She wants you to sleep downstairs.
    (2) She wants you to be sleeping downstairs.
    (3) She wants you sleeping downstairs.

    I see (2) and (3) as synonymous and interchangeable, with (2) coming across as more 'proper'.

    There is a difference between (1) and the rest, in that sentence (1) does not place the act of sleeping at a particular time -- she wants you to sleep downstairs (whenever you happen to go to sleep next, or just in general as it occurs) -- whereas (2) and (3) indicate that you should be sleeping now in the moment the sentence is said.

  12. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Oh right, I'm with it now. What was confusing me was our American cousins' inability to use the word asleep:

    She wants you asleep downstairs right now this instant.
  13. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Without entering into discussion of ewie's cousins' vocabulary :rolleyes:, I would say that "She wants you sleeping downstairs" works in some sort of bespoke context, but not in the context we are given in post #1. The word again at the end of the sentence seems (to me) to rule out the "right now" implication we get if we take "sleeping" for "asleep".

    Did that make any sense at all?
  14. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Up to a point, Nunty.
  15. sethmachine Banned

    Well this must be an issue of dialect regarding:
    She wants you (to be) sleeping downstairs.
  16. HistofEng Senior Member

    New York
    USA Eng, Haitian-Creole
    I want you sleeping downstairs
    I want you [to be] working on your homework right now, sound natural to me.

    Both sound natural and colloquial to me.
  17. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'm not quite sure why we've got side-tracked onto "she wants you sleeping"...

    Veracity's original question was whether "to" can be omitted in "she wants you to sleep".

    The answer is clear, I think: no.
  18. sethmachine Banned

    Yes it can be omitted if he uses a relative clause:
    I want that you sleep.
  19. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I disagree. This construction is common in several European languages, but it does not work in English.
  20. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Oxnard, CA
    English (U.S.)
    Seriously, what? That sounds like a word-for-word translation from Spanish. Google is notoriously unreliable, but the disparity between: "want you to sleep" and "want that you sleep" should tell you something.
  21. paintedhouse113 Member

    English - USA
    The concept here is that verbs such as want and order regularly take another verb's infinitive after them. The construction is more evident in, and may have entered English from, Latin, but most languages probably have something similar. Order also shows the trend more clearly:

    The sentence 'I order you' means nothing.

    When we add an appropriate infinitive, then order suddenly has a much greater use, e.g.:

    I order you to move.
    I order you to leave the area.

    With want there is no equivalent rule, since we can say, for example:

    I want nothing from you.
    I want you out of here.

    But there is still a logical principle at work; if the direct object is followed by a verb, as in I want you sleeping downstairs, the verb must be in the infinitive form, in this case, I want you to sleep downstairs, as others have said.
  22. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    As I said in post #10, this is not any English that I know of.
  23. sethmachine Banned


    Really, so you must disagree with:
    I insist that he eat.

    Another relative clause using 'eat' for the third person rather than 'eats' (subjunctive vs indicative).

    I inisist that he sleep downstairs.
  24. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    But this thread is about want, sethmachine, not about insist.

    Different verbs take different patterns.
  25. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Yes, we use this construction with verbs -- insist, demand, require, suggest -- that imply a demand or instruction.

    We do not use it with want in standard English, although it is a construction that you sometimes hear, most often from non-native speakers of English.
  26. shrekspeare

    shrekspeare Senior Member

    South of France
    french and australian english (bilingual)
    "I want that you sleep" ????????? "I want you sleeping downstairs", okay.... But I "want that you sleep"?
  27. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
  28. sethmachine Banned

    I am merely giving evidence for my option of using a relative clause with a subjunctive verb. I was unaware that there was a universal authority on the English language much like there are for many other languages (RAE for Spanish for example). I would be grateful if you would direct me to the English lanugage authority. Some natives uses different constructions than others.
  29. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    And so on, and so on.
    You are seeking to defend the indefensible.

    As you well know, good English usage is determined by custom and practice.
    It is very clear that on this point you are in a minority - of one in this thread.
    It would be gracious of you to admit that, as have many of us here in the past, and allow this thread to rest.
  30. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Just a minor note: there is no relative clause in sentences like "*I want that you sleep and "I insist that he eat".

    In all friendliness: please read a basic grammar book. Please do.


    Last edited: Oct 8, 2008

Share This Page