A friend of mine told me that the following sentence is incorrect (copied from an exercise)

Do all sentences tell us what the speaker would like to happen?

He claims that it should read:

Do all sentences tell us what the speaker would like for it to happen?

Is he correct? Why?

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    No, he is not correct. What's the "it" in his version? Your first sentence is a bit clunky but perfectly understandable. – Kristina Lopez May 3 '13 at 20:25
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    Actually, "would like to happen" can also be expressed simply as "wishes", "desired", "imagines", "hopes for", etc. So if you replaced the questionable part of the sentence, it could read, "Do all sentences tell us what the speaker wishes (imagines, hopes for, etc.)?" I'm sure one of my more erudite site-mates could give you the "why" for this which is why my response is a comment - I don't have the "why" - I just know how to use the phrase. – Kristina Lopez May 3 '13 at 20:34
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    Thanks so much once again Kristina! I just want to shut him up, I'll wait for the "why" then. Have a lovely weekend! – Pablo May 3 '13 at 20:39
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    Maybe your friend means "would like to {see/have/make [CHOOSE ONE]} happen". The sentence that he claims is incorrect is merely an elided sentence that would not confuse Native Anglophones: "The speaker wants to happen" is meaningless. – user21497 May 4 '13 at 0:33
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    More context would be useful here. Exactly what does the exercise require the OP to do? Although the second sentence seems wrong, the construction itself is feasible, as can be seen if it is replaced by a noun and for expanded to in order for: Do all sentences tell us what the speaker would like in order for the party to happen? – Shoe May 4 '13 at 8:38

The more typical, effective, and elegant way of phrasing the original sentence is, "Do all sentences tell us what the speaker wishes would happen?" (Kristina is correct that the original is grammatical, if clunky.)

Adding "for it" to the original is simply wrong because it inserts an unconnected and unnecessary word pair in a place where it could not possibly have any syntactical validity or purpose. "Like" and "for" can not be put together this way. "Like" is a transitive verb that takes a direct object. It can be followed by "for" only if using that word to mean "on behalf of," in this way:

What I would like for the world is everlasting peace.

But that's not the meaning intended by your friend's suggested correction. Your friend's suggestion is an attempt to insert the direct object of "like" (while misusing "for"); he's trying to say "like it to happen," with "it" becoming the direct object. This, however, ignores the fact that the word "what" is already present in the sentence as the direct object "of like." Inserting "it" would therefore be redundant and unnecessary, and hence incorrect.

  • I'd give you +2 if I could, John! Thanks for filling the gaps in my explanation with something that is thorough and educational! :-) – Kristina Lopez May 4 '13 at 13:21
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    @KristinaLopez Very kind of you, Kristina. I appreciate your appreciation! – John M. Landsberg May 6 '13 at 6:18
  • Thanks so much you guys! Thanks to Kristina's comment, I researched a bit further and found the use of direct object with the verb like (transitivity) and the use of "what" in object questions. Therefore I understood what John explained in my own way. Now the idea is clearer and I have enough tools to discuss with my mate. – Pablo May 6 '13 at 14:09

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