I'm an ESL student, and trying to write an paper. I found it very confusing on the usage of suggest. I have asked a proofreader for help, and the proofreader changed the my sentences like the following. But I think I heard that the that clause after "suggest" can only use the infinitive of the verb (be) rather than "is" or "was". So is this "...suggested ecotourism be nature-based..." is the correct way or the following are correct?

But what is ecotourism? This is not an easy question to answer, as there are various definitions. Weaver & Lawton (2007), for example, suggested ecotourism is nature-based, focuses on learning or education and benefits the environment and local economy. More recently, Buckley (2013) argued ecotourism is also concerned with sustainability, although most government agencies regard ecotourism as nature-based tourism and do not mention sustainability. Fennell (2014) also suggested local culture was a part of the ecotourism experience, defining ecotourism as nature-based tourism that focuses on preserving the environment, benefiting the local economy and educating travellers.

  • Welcome to EL&U. To my ear, the sentences carry different meaning. Yours indicates advice given, while the "correction" seems to mean a current state of being. Of course, if you go with your version, it would require a change in the form of all verbs following "suggested". Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 15:36
  • When engaging scholars in this fashion, it is common practice to use the present tense, i.e., Weaver and Lawton suggest...
    – KarlG
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 15:40
  • Have you noticed that the sentence paraphrasing Weaver and Lawton uses suggested... is, while the sentence from Fennel uses suggested... was? Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 15:46
  • @KarlG, I believe MLA favors present but APA favors past. Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


Like most common words, the verb suggest has multiple meanings, and thus multiple numbered definitions in dictionaries. The following is #1 per American Heritage:

To offer for consideration or action; propose: suggest things for children to do; suggested that we take a walk.

The verb take in the latter example is an example of the sort of subjunctive that is identical in form with the infinitive (without to); and presumably that kind of usage underlies what you have mistaken for an invariable rule.

In the sample sentences that you put forward, however, the verb is being used in a different sense, one that is properly complemented by a clause (with or without that), as a verb of saying:

to mention, introduce, or propose (an idea . . .) for consideration . . . (Random House Kennerman Webster’s College Dictionary, #1).

Suggest in this sense is one of a whole spectrum of verbs of saying that scholars use to attribute claims to one another, which is so big a part of scholarly writing as to be well-nigh definitive of it. This spectrum ranges from note, which indicates complete agreement with the claim in question, to claim, pretend, or allege, any of which cues a reader to be skeptical of the claim, and paves the way (via an adversative like but or however) for the writer to proceed to refute it. Suggest occupies an intermediate or non-committal position on this spectrum.

  • Thanks for pointing out there are two kinds of sense for the usage of "suggest". I'm curious if I encounter similar words in the future, how do I know its usage? I had googled suggest usage, but some of the top ranked sites, like this and this, did not mention the second usage sense. So that's why I was confused.
    – Diaosi
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 9:37
  • One of the better ways to acquaint yourself with the range of meanings for a given English word is to consult the dictionary aggregator site to which I link (twice) in my answer. Even that does not squarely identify the scholarly usage, though, by which to suggest is to advance a theoretical hypothesis rather than a practical decision or course of action. (The sites you link seem to focus on the practical sense exclusively.) Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 13:24

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