1. Professor required his students to return their papers typed.


  1. Professor required that his students return their papers typed.

Which of the examples is correct? Do they have the same meaning? What is the preferred usage?

http://oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/require and http://www.thefreedictionary.com/require do not mention any usage differences

  • I don't think there's any difference.
    – Barmar
    Apr 10, 2015 at 22:42
  • Both are OK, though the second flows a bit smoother. In some cases the two would have slightly different meanings but not in the above context.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 12, 2015 at 20:58

5 Answers 5


Require is a transitive verb, which means that in either case, we can look for an object later in the sentence. In the first sentence,

Professor required his students to return their papers typed.

We can diagram everything after "required",

his students to return their papers typed

as part of the object phrase, which in this case is an infinitive phrase functioning as a noun. The base infinitive is "to return," and we can add the object to expand the infinitive phrase, "to return their papers," and add an adverb (or postpositional adjective, but dynamically here it's probably just an adverb) to make it "to return their papers typed." But you can still go further. Since this infinitive form doesn't have an explicit subject, you can add the subject, "his students to return their papers typed." In fact, this verb, "require," happens to require infinitive objects to have an explicit subject. This is because in the absence of an explicit subject, the subject is assumed to be the subject of the clause. For example,

Professor wanted to return their papers typed.

In this sentence, since "his students" is not included as the explicit subject, the implicit subject for the infinitive phrase must be "professor."

The object of the sentence can also be a relative clause (signaled by "that") as in

Professor required that his students return their papers typed.

In this case, the object, what the professor required, is in the relative clause. Just about anything is acceptable as long as the phrase signaled by "that" is an independent clause in the subjunctive mood. You could even drop the word "that" and it would still be correct in some contexts.

My conclusion is that both of these sentences are perfectly acceptable in English. Hope that helps.


A. This is using the subjunctive mood and the subject form "they" of the pronoun:

The economy requires they return to work.

That economy requires they should return to work. [this is more frequent in BrE]


Miss Winthorpe's Elopement - Page 82 Christine Merrill - 2010 - ‎Preview - ‎More editions

You may go back, if you wish, and explain to them that economy requires they return to work


B. This is using the infinitive and the object form "them" of the pronoun, as per:


transitive verb

6 : to feel or be under the necessity of (doing or being something specified) — used with a following infinitive

one does not require to be a specialist — Elizabeth Bowen

a candidate requires to hold a … certificate — Achievement in the Gold Coast

Merriam Webster Unabridged Dictionary

The law required them to return to work.

*Daily Labor Report - Issues 191-212 - Page 44 1979 -

Most of the employees met in the lunchroom to discuss whether the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by Lumber Production and Industrial Workers Local 2573 required them to return to work.*

  • I think you copied the wrong definition from Webster ... given the examples, that definition seems to be for a largely archaic intransitive usage where today require is usually replaced by need. May 11, 2015 at 0:03

Or, possibly, the sentence implies: Professor required his students to return his papers typed. (his in place of their)

second one seems right.

  • Welcome to EL&U. Can you explain how you reached this unusual conclusion? Why would the professor have given his own papers to students, and is there any evidence to support your claim?
    – JHCL
    Oct 13, 2015 at 11:22
  • meaning may be wrong, but pattern seems right.
    – Rahul
    Oct 13, 2015 at 11:38

Both the sentences are correct; one simple with one finite verb 'required' and the other complex with two finite verbs, 'required' and 'return'where the subordinate noun clause beginning with 'that ...' is the object of the verb, 'required'. In the simple sentence "to return" is made an infinitive with an object which an infinitive by definition can accept.


Both of these sentences are attempting to get at the same semantic meaning, and in my opinion, both are grammatically incorrect. Both are good examples of English speakers' generally woeful failure to understand the subjunctive and infinitive moods.

The first sentence should be thus:

Professor required his students return their papers typed.

The "to" is totally superfluous. In this sentence, "return" is in the infinitive mood. Verbs are in the infinitive mood if they are being used as part of a noun phrase following the main verb of the sentence, which in this case, is the past-tense "required".

The second sentence should be thus:

Professor required that his students return their papers typed.

OK, you got that right here - the verb "return" is in the subjunctive mood, indicating a hypothetical or possible scenario, but not one that is necessarily true, or happening right now. However, your question title provides an example of where this is missed, where you say:

to require that someone does something

This is grammatically incorrect. You require that someone do something, not does. Does is present tense, intended to indicate that something is a fact. As you are requiring that something be done, it is not (necessarily) yet a fact, and so the subjunctive mood do is appropriate:

to require that someone do something

Note that in English, the subjunctive form is always identical to the infinitive form of a verb. For that reason, I sometimes call it the "subfinitive" form.

  • Yup. I fixed the title.
    – tchrist
    Apr 10, 2015 at 22:50
  • 1
    to clarify: original title incorrectly read “to require that someone does something" Apr 10, 2015 at 23:01
  • @Jez, can you provide a link to a source? I'd love to learn more on the subject Apr 15, 2015 at 13:32

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