What are the names of the these following verbs in bold?

I want to eat food
I have to buy shoes
I like to know things
I need to find love

They are all verbs that, as far as I can tell, can precede other verbs and make complete sense.

  • They are called catenative verbs. Here are some examples: englishclub.com/grammar/verbs-catenative.php
    – Shoe
    Nov 19, 2020 at 18:53
  • 1
    Catenative verb just means 'verb that can take a clausal object'. And not all of the examples you give would be called 'catenative' even by those who use the term -- have to in I have to buy shoes is a fixed phrase and not a combined verb. Most abstract verbs (which is most verbs) will fit this pattern. The discussion at English Club is useless, since it doesn't explain why, and gives the impression there's only one pattern, when there are dozens. Nov 19, 2020 at 19:18
  • @John Lawler. Agreed on "have to". The English Dictionary of English Grammar (Bas Aarts) defines a catenative verb as a "verb that forms a chain with one or more subsequent verbs". The English Club page has four patterns. Could you suggest a resource which lists some of the other patterns.
    – Shoe
    Nov 19, 2020 at 19:31
  • I would not assume that the definition referred to an actual set of real verbs, instead of a figment of some teacher's imagination. I'm sure Bas has a definition of chain to go with that, since the phrase is as question-begging as catenative verb. Since predicate adjectives and nouns can have complements, one wonders if there are catenative adjectives and nouns, too. And I'm not interested in what the English Club has to say. Why are they involved (aside from being free)? Nov 20, 2020 at 0:31
  • There are things called "serial verbs", like go eat and come sit by me. They're all idiomatic constructions in English, but many languages have productive systems where one can say the equivalent of Bill went cut stacked carted the wood home. Nov 20, 2020 at 0:37

1 Answer 1


Besides the the term given in the comments the arrangement of verbs shown is referred to as a (verbal) construction or pattern, called "verb + to-infinitive" (ref.), or sometimes "verb + infinitive". This latter way to refer to it still permits to distinguish it from the construction where the verb follows without "to", as then this pattern is referred to as "verb + infinitive without "to" or "verb + bare infinitive". (There is but a few of these verbs, the most important ones being the modals; the use of the infinitive without "to" is characteristic of every instance of use of modals. (ref.))


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