In the context of compound subjects and compound verbs, the subject below is he. However, the tricky thing here is the verb(s) of the predicate part. Since the first verb is likes [to sing] then the second should be likes [to play]. In other words the compound verb would not be sing and play but rather likes to sing and likes to play.

The original sentence and expanded forms are:

  1. He likes to sing and play.
  2. He likes to sing and likes to play.
  3. He likes to sing and he likes to play.

The question is: what is the compound verb in sentence 1 above?

  • 1
    Unlike, say, to bow and scrape, I don't think anyone would say to like to sing or to sing and play were credible "compound verbs". So the short answer here is there isn't one. Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 19:05
  • 2
    The main verb of the sentence is likes. The compound direct object is to sing and play, two conjoined infinitives. The to of the second infinitive is elided and it's understood that the first to governs both infinitives. Infinitives are verb forms. You can tell because they're formed with the plain form of the verb and they do verbish things like take objects as in He likes to play the flute. But infinitives take roles in sentences (like direct objects, as in your example) that are also played by nouns. Direct objects are considered part of a sentence's predicate.
    – deadrat
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 19:05
  • Yeah, I didn't notice that they are objects of the verb like. It is equivalent to: He likes playing and singing. Thanks
    – learner
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 19:31
  • There is no compound verb in the given sentence. The only verb is 'likes' and it is a simple verb Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 3:50

3 Answers 3


There is no compound verb in sentence 1.
In this sentence, the subject is he, the verb is likes and the (direct) object is (to) sing and play.
Infinitives may, of course, be used as nouns, and are so used here.
The other two sentences have the same verb (likes) repeated. I think that awkward.

I prefer sentence 1 with only one stated verb . That is all that is needed.

  • +1 I like your short and simple intro: no compound verb in 1. Period. I didn't notice that they are objects of the verb like. It is equivalent to: He likes playing and singing. Thanks.
    – learner
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 19:34

You can coordinate two or more words or phrases of the same grammatical category to create a new word or phrase of that same category. Your example 1 coordinates two verbs to create a verb "sing and play". Your example 2 coordinates two verb phrases to create a verb phrase "likes to sing and likes to play". Your example 3 coordinates two sentences to create a sentence "He likes to sing, and he likes to play."

I used the term "coordinate" instead of "compound" to avoid confusion with the term "compound verb" used to refer to a single word verb made by combining two words, like "stirfry" (see Compound verb).


In using the term compound, it may help to keep the distinction between the lexical classification of a word and its role in a sentence. The OP's example has a compound direct object

to sing and [to] play

A direct object has a function in a sentence (namely to take the action of the main verb), and it's composed of two of infinitives (which are words of the lexical class verb). An alternate expression could contain a compound main verb

He plays and sings

Compound verbs, on the other hand, are conjoined verbs that act together as a single verb with its own independent sense. These are rare in English. One response here has suggested

bow and scrape

but this is really a set phrase of two separate verbs, with scrape meaning to bow awkwardly by drawing the foot back across the ground.

Another suggestion is stirfry, but this really means stirred frying, with the first verb acting as a modifier to the first.

About the only pure compound verb I can find is go and do, meaning to deliberately perform an action, usually one frowned on:

He called the boss a jackass? Did he really go and do that?

Note that this verb is an idiomatic unit, different from

Did he really go to church and do an act of contrition?

Also note that both parts of the compound verb take tense:

Yes, he called the boss a jackass. He really went and did it.

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