Edit: I added a comment to address the duplicate issue.

I had an issue with English grammar a few weeks ago, that is still haunting me, and I assume it to be related to mixing up grammars.

I translated a sentence from German to English which came out "Even economists no longer believe the markets to regulate themselves". This feels correct to me, oddly, but I am fairly sure it isn't. The problem seems to be in the infinitive, I would assume that "believe the markets to be self-regulating" provides a correct alternative, but I'm still curious to if and why my original version is wrong. I have a hunch I might have taken a Latin or Ancient Greek structure and rebuilt it in English.

Either way, I'm looking for confirmation that it's definitely wrong, and I'm open to speculation where I might have got it from. I know English at a comparably high foreign-speaker level, and am roughly capable of Br. Portuguese, Latin, French, Ancient Greek, and Ancient Hebrew (in a loosely descending order). Only in case somebody can identify a plausible source for my error.

  • 2
    "Even economists no longer believe [that] the markets regulate themselves". No "to". Jul 22, 2018 at 19:24
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of believe that S+V/ believe O+O.C
    – user 66974
    Jul 22, 2018 at 20:15
  • 1
    The construction you suggest is sometimes used, and some authorities would not say that it's "wrong", simply "not idiomatic". It sounds "off" to the NES ear and should be avoided, since the "correct" construction is easily achieved.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 22, 2018 at 21:00
  • Thanks! Especially for the possible duplicate - it is at least somewhat the same issue even though I believed it to be [snickers] related to the infinitive form.
    – Paul Burgh
    Jul 24, 2018 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


I think your confusion is related to the use of the infinitive with the passive form of "believe". When certain verbs expressing opinion or reasoning are used in the passive, they can take the infinitive, but a different construction is required when such verbs are in the active form (that + noun + verb in active form). If the subject of the passive form is it, then the pattern with "that" is required.

  • This tree was believed to have supernatural powers.

  • They believed (that) this tree had supernatural powers.

  • It is believed (that) this tree had supernatural powers.

WRONG: They believe to have found a tree with supernatural powers.

  • We are believed to be the first to have revealed this discrepancy.

  • We believe (that) we are the first to have revealed this discrepancy.

  • It is believed (that) we are the first to have revealed this discrepancy.

WRONG: We believe to be the first to have revealed this discrepancy.

Note: I have taken most of the concepts and examples from Adrian Wallwork's "English for Research: Usage, Style, and Grammar."

  • Thanks for the elaborated answer! Indeed, the WRONG ones feel somewhat correct to me, if I weren't focusing on them. Probably because I didn't internalize the active/passive difference here.
    – Paul Burgh
    Jul 24, 2018 at 19:23
  • My question appears to be a duplicate to the one mentioned above, which I didn't find because I interpreted the issue as one of infinitive vs. gerund etc. construction (and not as "believe O+O.C"). I think the issue is sufficiently represented in the other thread. But the accepted answer here provides additional info and a reference, so could this be moved over to the other question, for completeness' sake? Then my question could be culled at no loss. Thanks!
    – Paul Burgh
    Jul 24, 2018 at 19:34

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