I'm a bit hesitant when using these sentences :

  1. I don't want you talking about her.

  2. I don't want you to talk about her.

  3. This wall wants painting.

  4. The students want teaching.

As we know the verb want is followed by an object and then followed by the to-infinitive, as in the sentence number #2. But I found that the sentence number #1 is also used.

Is the sentence number #1 acceptable to use ? Or should I use the form number #2 instead ?

As to the sentence number #3 and #4,

Does the sentence #3 have the passive meaning ?

Is the sentence #4 correct ? because I use people as the subject instead of things.

  • I've run out of closevotes (again, ho-hum! :) But I think this is essentially a duplicate of When should a verb be followed by a gerund instead of an infinitive? Mar 2, 2015 at 20:06
  • 1
    1) and 2) are the same; want can take either an infinitive or a gerund complement with A-Equi; if there is a meaning difference, it's too subtle for me, and it's likely idiolectal anyway. 3) and 4) are the sense of want that means lack; in 4) it can also mean that the students desire teaching (presumably somebody else's teaching the students, but possibly the students teaching somebody else). Note that need can be substituted for want in all four without changing either the structure or the meaning. Both are modal verbs, of course. Mar 2, 2015 at 20:22
  • @FumbleFingers We could have a whole site just with questions about infinitives and -ing forms. It could have treble the number of questions currently on the whole of EL&U without any of them being duplicates. C'mon! ;) Mar 2, 2015 at 22:19
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    @John: It's not exactly an "absolute", but I think I'd be more likely to use "I don't want you talking about it" as an "enduring" instruction (not tomorrow either). It seems to me "I don't want you to talk about it" might be more suitable in contexts where you could reasonably follow it with something like "...at the moment" or "...in the present company". But maybe it's just because faced with two "equivalent" ways of saying something, we scrape the barrel looking for some (possibly spurious) distinction. Mar 2, 2015 at 23:26
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    You got it, FF. Built in is the assumption that if you say something different, you mean something different. Not true at all, but those options can get appropriated for other uses; this is where syntax comes from. Mar 2, 2015 at 23:30

1 Answer 1


Both #1 are acceptable and grammatical, and mean essentially the same (and to most hearers, probably exactly the same.

However, the gerund construction of #3 and #4 is not universally common, at least in the United States. It is more popular in certain regions. In many parts of the US, these would more likely be expressed as:

3 The wall needs to be painted.

4 The student needs to be taught.

("want" is not usually used in such contexts as equivalent to "need". To say the student "needs to be taught" means he lacks teaching; to say he "wants to be taught" means he desires teaching. And it would make no sense to say a wall "wants to be painted", as walls are presumed to not have desires.)

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