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suggest, recommend, insist, demand
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Julie from Argentina writes:

Could you please tell me if this use of suggest is grammatically correct?

The boss suggested we left early yesterday.

Thank you in advance for your answer.

Roger Woodham replies:

It is perfectly correct, Julie. You could also say:

  • The boss suggested (that) we leave early.
    The boss suggested (that) we should leave early.

All these forms are possible with little or no difference in nuance, although the subjunctive form, suggested we leave, is a touch more formal.

 

suggest / insist / demand / recommend

Suggest is one of those verbs of advice that cannot be followed by the more usual pattern of object + infinitive but has to be followed by a that-clause with should + infinitive or with past, present or subjunctive form verbs.

Insist, demand and recommend (among others) also follow this pattern, but other verbs that suggest that something is desirable or necessary or important follow the object + infinitive pattern. Compare the following:

  • I asked him / told him to stop phoning me.
    I implored him / begged him to stop phoning me.
    I insisted / demanded that he should stop phoning me.
    I insisted / demanded that he stopped phoning me.
    I insisted / demanded that he stop phoning me.


  • Everyone urged her to continue with her education for a further three years.
    Everyone advised her to continue with her education for a further three years.
    Everybody recommended that she should continue with her education for 3 more years.
    Everybody recommended that she continued with her education for 3 more years.
    Everybody recommended that she continue with her education for 3 more years.
    Even her granny recommends that she continues with her education for 3 more years.
      important / desirable / essential / vital / imperative

These adjectives, when they are used to express similar ideas, are also followed by a that-clause with should + infinitive or with present, past or subjunctive form verbs:

  • It is vitally important (that) you should take this medication night and morning.
    It is vitally important (that) you take this medication night and morning without fail.


  • It was desirable (that) she should go to a school where Italian was taught.
    It was desirable (that) she go to a school where Italian was taught.
    It was desirable (that) she went to a school where Italian was taught.

In examples like these, you can avoid a that-clause, if you wish to, by using a for + object + infinitive construction, which sounds slightly less formal:

  • It is important for you to take this medicine twice a day.
    It was considered desirable for her to attend a school where Italian was taught.
 
     

the subjunctive

The subjunctive is a special kind of present tense which has no -s in the third person singular and where the same forms are used in both present and past situations when we want to sound slightly formal. The verb to be has a special subjunctive form, see below:

  • The school governors insisted that he resign from his post as deputy head immediately.
    They suggested that Mrs Giddy be appointed as deputy head on a temporary basis:
    "We propose that Mrs Giddy be appointed as deputy head until the end of the school year. It is of vital importance that she be present at the interviews when other teachers are selected."

  • The doctors recommended that my father remain in hospital for a further five days and that he return to work only when fully fit.

Note that do is not used in negative subjunctive sentences:

  • They advised that he not return to work until fully fit.
 
         

If you would like more practice more please visit our Message Board in the You, Me and Us part of our website.

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