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I want people to enjoy the show. or I want people enjoying the show.

Is it possible to use both?

I know it's a duplicate but the answers were not clear in the other posts.

  • See my answer to the duplicate regarding this not actually being a gerund, but the present participle. – Lemma Sep 16 '15 at 6:57
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    The short answer is that it is possible to use both, but the infinitive is far more natural, whereas using a gerund after want has an air of "business-speak" or "managementese" I would personally try to avoid. – choster Sep 16 '15 at 14:11
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In this (isolated, written) case "I want people enjoying the show" sounds awkward to me, but I doubt it would occur to many people as wrong if spoken, though perhaps a little less formal.

Embedded in a sentence, "I want people enjoying the show from the moment they arrive." conveys a sense of continuous activity that may even be preferred to the infinitive form. The -ing suffix here is not actually a gerund, it is marking the present participle. I can think of many similar cases where this form sounds more natural. Consider:

  • I don't want hecklers interrupting the show.
  • I want people dancing at my party.
  • I hate people blaming video games for violence.
  • I don't want you following me home.

In most contexts the difference will be subtle, but it really depends on what you'd like to convey. If in doubt, the infinitive form is semantically simpler and arguably a safer choice.

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Both sentences are correct for different reasons.

In the sentence "I want people to enjoy my show." "to enjoy" is the infinitive part of the infinitive phrase. This is a very common construction.

In the sentence "I want people enjoying my show." "enjoying my show" is a present participle phrase. "enjoying" is a present participle and not a gerund. It is what is left over when you omit "who are" from "I want people who are enjoying my show." "who are..." is a defining relative clause: it gives more information about people (necessary information.) "I want people" doesn't really say much and it doesn't tell you what kind of people.

Think of this sentence: "I want dresses made by Versace." This kind of sentence is probably familiar to you. "Made" is a past participle, and serves a similar function as a present participle. "I want dresses that are made by Versace." A verb plus "ing" can either be a gerund or a present participle in a sentence depending on what function it is serving. In the sentence "Skiing is my favorite pastime." "skiing" is a gerund, it is the subject of the sentence.

So to recap, both sentences are correct for different reasons: "to enjoy the show" is an infinitive phrase, and "enjoying the show" is a present participle phrase.

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I saw your post about whether to use infinitive or gerund. Want is on of the verbs that has to go with infinitives. You can't say "I want people enjoying the show". I am not a native speaker, but this what I learned while I was studying English.

I hope this will help you, and if you need more information about where I have got the answer, please let me know.

Regards,

Tariq

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Along with the good answer by micheal_timofeev, I'd point out the second sentence: "I want people enjoying the show", can be somewhat confusing to readers and interpreted more than one way.

Where in the first sentence I know you want people to enjoy the show, the second makes me worried you're collecting people who're enjoying the show.

A general rule of thumb I've found to work with determining gerunds from present participles is whether the word in question can be replaced with a noun and make sense. For example:

Gerund: I enjoy reading more than TV.
Replaced: I enjoy books more than TV.

Present participle: We're reading today.
Replaced: We're books today.

  • What would you say for "Reading is something I really enjoy doing."? – michael_timofeev Sep 16 '15 at 8:50

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