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In my academics I learned that we use infinitives (to + verb 1st form). So I was surprised when someone told me this sentence is incorrect. I am not able to figure it out why this sentence is incorrect.

When the shootout took place the police made everyone to leave the building immediately.

According to him, to won’t appear in this sentence. But according to my understanding, infinitives always contain to. Please clarify my doubt.

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

EDIT: Added modals including quasi-modals; added examples and exceptions; note that these lists are only “complete” for the modals and quasi-modals.


That’s because make does not take a to-infinitive. It takes a bare infinitive, without the to particle. Not all infinitives have a to attached to them. You really have to learn the sort of complement each particular verb takes.

However, as a sort of general rule, the causative verbs don’t take a to particle, and neither do the sensory verbs. First the causatives:

  • make someone do something
  • have someone do something (note: have to do something also exists, but takes a to particle and is not causative)
  • help someone do something
  • let someone do something
  • bid someone do something (note: there are two different bid verbs, with only the one that means entreat/beg/command/enjoin and conjugates to bad/bade in the past working this way; most uses of it are now fairly literary or even archaic except in some spoken dialects; for example he bad her come in; the intransitive use involving card tricks does not do this)

And now the sensory verbs (sometimes called perception verbs), which also all take a bare infinitive alone:

  • hear someone do something
  • overhear someone do something
  • see someone do something
  • watch someone do something
  • feel someone do something
  • sense someone do something
  • notice someone do something

The nine modal verbs also take a bare infinitive. Note that the modals do not inflect for person, nor do they admit a person complement after the verb and before the infinitive the way those listed above do. There are exactly nine main modal verbs in English:

  • must do something
  • may do something
  • might do something
  • can do something
  • could so something
  • shall do something
  • should do something
  • will do something
  • would do something

Less common than the nine main modals that everyone knows, there are also four more which are sometimes classed as quasi-modals, verbs which exist in both modal and non-modal form, with the modal version listed first and the non-modal version given in parentheses:

  • ought do something (note: ought to do something also exists and is more common with the to particle except for some speakers in negation or inversion, but unlike the previous alternatives to need and dare, this one still does not inflect so it is still modal; for example, he ought to do something contrasts with ought he do anything? and he ought not do anything)
  • need do something (note: need to do something also exists, but now inflects, so he needs to do something contrasts with need he do anything? and he need not do anything or he need do nothing)
  • dare do something (note: dare to do something also exists, but now inflects, so he dares to do something and he dared to do something contrast with dare he do anything? and he dare not do anything or he dare do nothing)
  • durst do something (old strong past tense of dare; now fairly archaic except in dialect; Gollum said “But we durstn’t go in, precious, no we durstn’t.” The weak form is now more common in the past tense: He dared not enter.)

Contrast those sets above that take no to with “normal” verbs taking a to particle before their infinitive complement, like these:

  • tell someone to do something
  • get someone to do something
  • wish someone to do something
  • want someone to do something
  • allow someone to do something
  • need someone to do something
  • ask someone to do something
  • urge someone to do something
  • beg someone to do something
  • direct someone to do something
  • counsel someone to do something
  • order someone to do something
  • require someone to do something

Then you have the privative verbs (ones that take something away), which all take an -ing form instead of an infinitive as their complement, and which furthermore require from not to:

  • stop someone from doing something
  • block someone from doing something
  • keep someone from doing something
  • forbid someone from doing something
  • bar someone from doing something
  • stay someone from doing something
  • enjoin someone from doing something (now mostly only legal: enjoin them from infringing a right that does not exist)

A very great deal of professional linguistic work has been done on these related matters, with many PhDs granted.

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@Sudhir No, it is not correct. One confesses to having done something, or just to doing something. So he confessed to forging or confessing to having forged. But this should really be a second question. –  tchrist Dec 21 '12 at 7:37
    
Plus modal verbs. –  Barrie England Dec 21 '12 at 7:57
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These examples, incidentally, make nonsense of any claim that the particle to is part of the verb. –  Barrie England Dec 21 '12 at 9:16
    
@BarrieEngland My initial posting made passing comparison to modal. I’ve now expanded that to better retain all the examples of this sort of thing in one place for future searchers. –  tchrist Dec 21 '12 at 14:16
    
@Sudhir Yes, it is better to post that as a separate question. The verb confess to always takes an -ing form as a verbal complement. As mentioned, you must for the most part learn each of these separately. –  tchrist Dec 21 '12 at 14:19
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