I'm not sure about the use of the verbs "offer" and "promise" with to infinitive clauses. With the verb offer, the noun following the verb (person offered something) is normally understood as the subject of the to-infinitive like:

We offered her to stay with us until she found an apartment.

(we offered, she to stay)

But, can the context be ambiguous and allow interpreting the subject of the main clause as the subject of to-infinitive clause, like:

We offered her to pay the rent until she found an apartment.

She to pay the rent or we to pay the rent?

My second question is related to the same construction with the verb "promise". Am I correct that "that" clause phrasing is usually preferred to the one with "to-infinitive" with this verb, especially with negative sentences:

I promised her not to forget to call her when I came home.


I promised her that I wouldn't forget to call her when I came home.

  • Your first example is not a to-infinitive. Stay is a noun in the example and to is a preposition. The first example in that set is correct though (2nd one is wrong). She is not paying. You are offering her a favor by allowing her to stay with you (she doesn't pay). You would not want to "offer" such a thing usually, and it doesnt make sense the way it's worded even if that were your intention (to ask her to pay). The second set with "promise" only makes sense in the 2nd version. You cannot promise her to "not to forget" something. It's illogical. Second version is correct. – Kace36 Jul 17 '17 at 9:59
  • Thank you Kace36! I was having in mind a context where we are offering to pay the rent for the place where "she" is currently living, until she finds another apartment. I'd like to know if it is possible to interpret similar situations in a way that the subject of the main clause is the subject of the to-infinitival. Here's a simple example: "We offered him to drive him home". (we offer, we drive). My question is whether in general such interpretations are possible with "offer" or "persuade" or "ask" or any other verb or the intervening noun must be understood as the subject of "to-infinitive" – user97589 Jul 17 '17 at 10:30
  • @Kace36 Hi, I'm struggling to follow which sentences you are referring to in your comment. Where do you see 'stay' used as a noun? – Spagirl Jul 17 '17 at 13:22
  • @Spagirl Sorry it was my foul up. I totally misread it and was on my phone. I was thinking of it in the sense of "We offered her a stay at our place until...." (not to stay). I was wrong. But even so the rest should still be fairly accurate, however, yes, you are right stay is a verb in that sentence. I just didn't read it right. I don't quite agree with the below answer that was marked correct. The one about the use of "promise". That first "promise" sentence in the OPs question is totally illogical but the answer says either one is fine. – Kace36 Jul 18 '17 at 7:31
  • @Kace36 Happens to the best of us. On the 'promise' sentence, the first is clunky, but it's definitely something people would say – Spagirl Jul 18 '17 at 8:28

"We offered her to stay with us" is not standard English. With the verb "to offer", the infinitive must come immediately after the main verb, as in "We offered to let her stay with us." Similarly, you cannot say "We offered her to pay the rent." You have to say something like "We offered to pay the rent for her."

The verb "to promise" behaves differently, and either of the examples you give is correct. I would use the first version myself, but it's purely a matter of style.

  • Thank you Roger Bridgman! So, if we want to have the subject control the infinitive we have to avoid inserting the person offered in between? Or to put it the other way around, the object of "offer" necessarily have to be interpreted as the subject of the "to-infinitival" in this construction. I mean we obviously can use an object with the verb "offer" but in that case the intervening noun controls the to-infinitival. – user97589 Jul 17 '17 at 10:47
  • Yes, that's about it. "Offer" is confusing because it behaves differently with a noun phrase. "We offered her a place to stay" is correct; "We offered her to stay in our place" is not; the indirect object "her" cannot be introduced until the two verbs have been spoken. As a native speaker, I find all this obvious, but I can see that it is quite confusing! – Roger Bridgman Jul 18 '17 at 12:47
  • Thank you Roger, I was convinced that "offer" is used in this construction, but as you said, of course, it isn't a grammatical construction in English. The ditransitive construction is possible of course, as you also noted. It is much like "give" when I think of it, we need to say what is given and also provide the recipient of that. – user97589 Jul 18 '17 at 14:29

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