In order to help the system make a better guess of the corner locations,...

In this sentence, why is "make" not succeeded by "s"? It seems it is needed!

  • I think this is because it's a future tense. It (the system) will make a better guess. If it was present tense, then the system makes would be correct. – dave Apr 26 '15 at 10:41
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    @dave No. It's not a future tense and its "make" even in an unambiguous present such as "It helps the system make a better guess." – David Richerby Apr 26 '15 at 16:00

The construction used here is help + object + bare infinitive. Here are two more examples:

Can you help me fix my bike?

I helped my father cut the grass.

An equally grammatical equivalent to the above construction is to include the to before the bare form:

Can you help me to fix my bike?

I helped my father to cut the grass.

It is clear that the verbs fix and cut are infinitives and are therefore not determined by the number of the object (system in your example).

You could rewrite your sentence as:

In order to help the system to make a better guess of the corner locations,...

  • 2
    I wish Word grammar-check would learn that one. At least my incarnation of it is programmed to have inviolable subject-verb agreement at the expense of all else. As another example it would not like "One of our gnomes is missing" and want an "are". Pshaw. How many non-native speakers have been misled and corrupted thereby? – David Pugh Apr 26 '15 at 11:10
  • It should be added that omitting "to" in "help (to) infinitive" is AmE usage. BE tends to retain the "to". This lack of "to" made it complicated for the OP. – Gábor Apr 26 '15 at 14:16
  • @Gábor: Actually, it looks like Ngrams shows both AmE and BrE are dropping the "to", but AmE started doing it earlier and is further along in the process. – Peter Shor Apr 26 '15 at 15:55
  • @Gábor I'm not convinced by that claim. To my British ears, "Help someone do something" sounds more natural than "Help someone to do something." – David Richerby Apr 26 '15 at 16:03
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    @David: According to the Ngram in my last comment, Gábor's claim would have been correct between around 1900 and 1950. – Peter Shor Apr 26 '15 at 16:20

Simple answer: 'In order to help the system make a better guess of the corner locations,' is an adverb telling us why we do something, not a sentence. The actual sentence follows this adverbial phrase. Adverbs do not require finite verbs.

In order to help the system make a better guess of the corner locations, we need to improve the 'corner location function'.

You can leave out the adverbial phrase:

We need to improve the 'corner location function'.

You cannot just write the adverbial phrase, that makes no sense:

In order to help the system make a better guess of the corner locations.

In order to [do something], I/you/she must/needs to/should [do something else]


"Make" is subjunctive rather than indicative, meaning that instead of describing an action that definitely occurs, occurred, etc., it is a theoretical occurrence, or one that may or may not happen.


I am walking to the park to see my friend.

"Walk" is indicative, because it is currently happening, while "see" is subjunctive. It does not use "seeing" because it is what I am intending to do, but may or may not happen. (Note that "to" is used to denote purpose, not to set "see" off as an infinitive.)

  • Hi, Mark, and welcome to the site. I must admit I'm intrigued by your answer. I freely admit I don't know a lot about the subjunctive mood, but I wonder if you're not in the same boat. As a new user, it's wise to provide references for your answer, lest it be leading another down a wrong path. For example, since I knew so little, I had to "show why". We all go through that phase. – anongoodnurse Apr 26 '15 at 20:47
  • A very queer theory. – rogermue May 31 '15 at 4:47

For a better answer, it does look like the -s is needed because you're seeing it as "In order to help, the system make a better guess of the corner locations,...," which is the correct form to use, but you need the -s for "make." The sense will still be the same, won't it. Yeah.

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    No, that changes the sense in a different way. Your second sentence is an imperative addressing the reader. When the system is being helped in its attempt to guess, you can't actually have a comma. – Andrew Leach Apr 26 '15 at 14:00
  • Don't worry about that because look now! – SometimesAReliableMathBoy May 30 '15 at 13:36

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