According to practically every grammar I've encountered, "I demanded them to leave" is incorrect English. I've quite literally spoken like this all my life; I don't know if it's a dialectal thing (I'm from the NYC area), or if it's simply an error of my own idiosyncratic speech. However, as someone who teaches English Language, I don't want to make any mistakes concerning my pupils' language acquisition. It's extremely important to me that I clarify this subject before I continue teaching it… I'm afraid to create a generation of poor English-speakers!

Does anyone else speak this way? Is

My mother is demanding I clean my room before I leave


My mother is demanding me to clean my room before I leave

vastly different? Is one simply incorrect?

  • 3
    The second one is wrong. Demand can take an A-Equi infinitive object complement clause (I demand to see the evidence) but not a B-Raising infinitive complement, which is what I demand him to do it is. It can also take an untensed that-clause (I demand (that) he clean my room), but not a tensed one (*I demand that he cleans my room). Basically, all 4 varieties of complement clauses (infinitive, gerund, that, Wh-) are determined by the matrix predicate, in this case demand. – John Lawler Mar 20 '15 at 14:27
  • @John Lawler Quirk et al [ACGEL 3.59] actually give 'The employees have demanded that the manager resigns' as a perfectly acceptable choice. I'd have no problems with it, but in a formal register would opt for 'putative should'. The mandative subjunctive variant is labelled 'esp AmE', and the putative should and indicative choices 'esp BrE'. I believe Pullum prefers not to use the indicative so as to avoid some ambiguities, but then surely the choice should be putative should which avoids more. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 20 '15 at 15:48
  • One can always add a modal auxiliary to any tensed verb phrase that doesn't have one yet. That makes it a different clause and a different sentence, with different syntax. That's cool, but that's not what we're talking about. As for Quirk et al, as I've said before, it's not very good on complex sentences, because it doesn't deal with cyclic phenomena, among other reasons. It's also UK, not American. – John Lawler Mar 20 '15 at 18:32

I think what John Lawler was getting at with his response is what the direct object of "demand" is allowed to be. (Definitely an interesting read, John. Thank you.)

In the case of "demand", the object should be an action or the result thereof. Let's use your initial construction.

I demanded them to leave.

Certainly, the direct object appears to be "them", but the sentence wouldn't make any sense without "to leave". Here's an alternative, and perhaps the source of your confusion.

I demanded of them that they leave.

So, we have them appearing twice: as them and as they. It sounds wordy to have both, so we can choose one. If we choose to keep the first, the verb becomes an infinitive without a subject.

I demanded of them to leave.

If we choose to keep the second, we simply take out the entire prepositional phrase in which they first appear.

I demanded that they leave.

This can be condensed further.

I demanded they leave.

Let's look at your other examples. Here is the statement fully realized.

My mother is demanding of me that I clean my room before I leave.

Technique #1: Remove the second subject and convert the verb to an infinitive.

My mother is demanding of me to clean my room before I leave.

Technique #2: Remove the first prepositional phrase.

My mother is demanding that I clean my room before I leave.

Technique #2b: Remove the first prepositional phrase and the relative pronoun.

My mother is demanding I clean my room before I leave.

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