A modest recommendation/suggestion

How often have you heard people say something like “I recommend you to see a lawyer”? This structure is very common in Asia but is never used by native speakers (unless they’ve soaked up too much of the local patois).

Unfortunately no rule applies to this situation. The correct form is simply a matter of usage, what the grammarians call “government”. In the case of “recommend” (and also “suggest”) there are two acceptable grammatical structures, with different meanings.

You can recommend someone, but then they are the object of the recommendation, e.g.,

“I will recommend you for the position.”

In the case of the sentence in the first paragraph, the object of the recommendation is “seeing a lawyer”. So we need to say

“I recommend (that) you see a lawyer.”

To make matters more complicated, similar verbs have different rules of governance. So you can properly say

“I advise you to see a lawyer.”

Is that confusing enough? It will get worse – wait until we talk about prepositions.

See you next time!


Bill Lawrence worked in US law firms and multinational companies until 2001. For the past 15 years Bill has been a writing coach at the Polytechnic University’s Centre for Business and Professional English. He has also presented seminars to law firms on coaching lawyers on effective writing.

Published by Hughes Castell

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One thought on “A modest recommendation/suggestion

  1. Today’s tip: when you study a second language, learn new vocabulary in a short phrase or sentence. This will help avoid errors of usage.

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