I read the following in a comment to an answer to another post of mine:

"What’s the difference between expect for things to improve and expect things to improve? Is that for part of expect for, or is it part of the infinitive? You can do the same thing with need for him to call and need him to call, so I imagine there are others like this. You can ask that he call you and you can ask for him to call you, but you ask also ask him to call you. How come a for isn’t mandatory here in these to-infinitives with overt subjects?"

I think these are very interesting observations, and I too would like to have an answer to this. My very tentative theory is that these are, in fact, different syntactic structures – not simply the same structure with an optional for.

(1a) I expect for things to improve

(1b) I need for him to call

(1c) I asked for him to call

(2a) I expect things to improve

(2b) I need him to call

(2c) I asked him to call

My question is as follows: Could it be that whereas the structures following the finite verbs in (1a-c) are indeed non-finite clauses with overt subjects introduced by for, functioning as catenative complements, the words following the finite verbs in (2a-c) are, in fact, two constituents, where things, him and him respectively is a direct object in the form of an NP, whereas only the remaining structure constitutes a catenative complement in the form of a non-finite clause (without an overt subject)?

As for the construction with that, finally – as in I asked that he call you – I would've thought we're simply dealing with a finite that-clause (which happens to be in the subjunctive rather than in the indicative mood) functioning as a direct object – or am I completely lost here?

  • 1
    A quick observation. There does seem to be a semantic as well as syntactic difference between: I asked him to call and I asked for him to call. In the former he is the person you from whom you request the call >> John, please call me. In the latter this is not necessarily the case >> Please ask John to call me.
    – Shoe
    Jan 21, 2019 at 12:29
  • @Shoe Yes, you're right :) I've taken out the bit about being semantically similar now. Thanks for pointing it out!
    – Hannah
    Jan 21, 2019 at 12:37


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