I'd like to ask about the use of the verb "recommend" in the following sentences:

We'd recommend you to book your flight early.

The plumber recommended me to buy a new water heater.

The first sentence is taken from the entry for the verb "recommend" in the online Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary and the other is from a grammar site. I'm still unsure if the usage "recommend someone" instead of "recommend to someone" is widely acceptable. While the first sentence seems have only one possible interpretation: "recommended to you", the other one, although less likely, could also be interpreted like: "The plumber recommended me, not someone else, to buy a new water heater".

My question is whether it is possible to reinterpret the given examples as:

We'd recommend that you book your flight early.

The plumber recommended that I buy a new water heater.

meaning that the interpretation is not that "you" or "me" are the objects of "recommend" but the whole proposition following it: "you to book your flight early" and "me to buy a new water heater", same as "that" clauses are in the rephrased examples?

Edit: Thanks to all the contributors for the help!

The meaning of the rephrases of the examples with "that" clause that I gave do tell essentially the same, but I was looking for the nuance in the interpretation of:

We'd recommend you to book your flight early

by comparing it with "that" clause rephrase:

We recommend that you book your flight early.

The salient reading of the first sentence for me would be : We'd recommend to you..and here is what we recommend.., meaning that there's a prosodic pause between "We'd recommend to you.." and the content of the recommendation which is "to book your flight early", while the second sentence I'd read as "We recommend..and here is what we recommend", which is "that you book your flight early", meaning that now the person who is recommended something is part of the content of the recommendation. In other words, this person doesn't stand prominently as the explicit object of the recommendation as it does in the former sentence.

In brief, I was thinking that sentence 1 above may be interpreted as 2 too, not only as "recommend to you". When I use "for" in between the verb "recommend" and the person recommended this is more clearly shown:

I'd recommend for you to book your flight early.

Here again I'd read the sentence as "I'd recommend..and here is what I recommend". The person recommended is part of the whole proposition recommended — "for you to book your flight early", same as with "that-clause" phrasing, and it is not a clear object of the verb "recommend" as it is in "recommend to you" interpretation . By the way,I'd like to know how acceptable "recommend for someone to do something" construction is to you, as I haven't found it noted in Oxford ALD.

To clarify my question, I'd like to add that in the original sentences "recommend" takes "to-infinitival" complement, not a bare verb which would be understood as a "that"-clause with "that" elided: "recommend you book your flight early", would stand for "recommend that you book your flight early". Again, my question is if "that-clause" complement, (nevermind if "that" is elided or not) is comparable with "you to book your flight early" or "for you to book your flight early" in the given sentence.

Finally, as native speakers you're entitled to question any dictionary or book as it is up to you to decide what works and what not, there's no single ultimate authority for the language people speak, so you can argue even with Oxford guys. "Grammatical" is what is acceptable to the majority of the speakers.

  • When omitting "that", I recommend you also omit "to".
    – yoozer8
    Dec 18, 2011 at 17:52

3 Answers 3


The recommend + person + to-infinitive formulation seems to have been more common in the past, while the recommend that + person + subjunctive appears to be gaining currency. Here's an example of the change using the pronoun him and the verb be.

Data from Google Books Corpus showing the frequency of *recommend him to be* vs *recommend that he be*

  • 1
    Notice that these are both infinitive uses, but the newer construction uses a that complementizer instead of a to, with an obligatory subject before the infinitive. I think calling this construction (or, worse, the verb itself) "Subjunctive" is probably a mistake, since it makes a distinction that isn't present in the verb, which is always an infinitive (uninflected) form. This is after all why be works in both searches. Dec 18, 2011 at 15:41
  • +1 for illustrating an interesting shift. Playing around with NGram for a couple of minutes, I have the distinct impression recommend that is primarily American - though Brits are increasingly adopting the usage. Dec 18, 2011 at 15:51
  • 1
    And now I think about it, there may be a problem here, in distinguishing between constructions with an infinitive complementizer and those with purpose infinitives, like They finally recommended Bill to shut me up, which refers to the reason they recommended Bill, rather than what Bill is sposta do. Dec 18, 2011 at 16:15
  • Sure, this is a quick and dirty search and it will catch some non-relevant items. Dec 18, 2011 at 16:26
  • 1
    The clause is subjunctive, not infinitive. See CGEL p. 994. Dec 18, 2011 at 16:28

I have to admit that it's the first time I see the use of the verb recommend in this way, i.e. recommend + person + to-infinitive. But if it is registered in a reputable dictionary, it means that this use is accepted.

The rephrasing you suggest has the same meaning as the original sentences, in which recommend has two objects, the person (you, me) and the infinitive form following it. Subordinate that-clauses make the meaning more explicit.

  • 2
    +1: Far be it from me to argue with the Oxford dictionary, but that construction feels VERY awkward to me. I would use the rephrased versions with "that" instead.
    – Lynn
    Dec 18, 2011 at 12:36
  • Thanks everyone for the help! I have more to ask, but I'll need to gather a hundred reputation before or wait a few hours before I answer :)
    – tripleowl
    Dec 18, 2011 at 13:03
  • I've only ever heard this construction from non-native speakers.
    – Marcin
    Dec 18, 2011 at 13:54
  • 2
    Per this chart, it seems recommend that is primarily American. Speaking as a Brit, I see nothing wrong with omitting the word "that". Dec 18, 2011 at 15:57
  • 1
    @Peter Shor: But to my British ear, it can just as well be "recommend he go" as "...him to go". To be honest though, I don't much like recommending anyone to do anything. I only recommend a thing/course of action - if I need to mention who the advice is for, I'll probably suggest to or advise him. The semantic fluidity of "Recommend X to Y" doesn't sit well with me. Dec 19, 2011 at 0:21

Yes, the two sentences can be reinterpreted in the ways you suggest.

The direct object of recommend is that which is recommended, as illustrated in this citation from the OED (Oxford English Dictionary):

Most clubs now take a holistic approach to weight loss and are keen to recommend a diet for your individual needs.

The person to whom something is recommended is either an indirect object or the complement of a prepositional phrase. The first is shown in this OED citation:

‘Can you recommend me a nice hotel?’ I was asked.

This further citation illustrates the second:

It's a goldmine of information, highly recommended to anyone with an interest in French pop-fic.


There is one case in which a person can be the direct object of recommend. It’s when someone is recommended for or to do a particular thing, as in I recommend him for the job.

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