I've only started my own studies on grammar recently and as I was reading CoGEL by Randolph Quirk, I came across this category called 'Catenative verb constructions'. According to the analysis used in the book, catenative verb constructions cannot be interpreted as verbs followed by a nonfinite clause acting as a direct or prepositional object. However, 'manage to' is also included yet when I look up the dictionary, 'manage' can be transitive even when used with the meaning 'to succeed in doing something, especially something difficult' like in these examples:

In spite of his disappointment, he managed a weak smile.

I don't know exactly how we'll manage it, but we will, somehow.

Shouldn't 'manage to' be listed elsewhere then ? Or am I misinterpreting something ?

  • 2
    Dictionaries and grammars are two different things. Expecting them to agree, or be organized along the same lines is a recipe for frustration. Various grammars don't even agree on the proper categorization for items like these, so why would one expect a certain dictionary's listings to reflect a particular grammar's categories?
    – DW256
    Jul 6, 2023 at 7:10
  • 2
    In your example, "a weak smile" and "it" are objects of "managed". "Manage to" is not a verb; it's just manage that is the verb,; the "to" is part of the clause that is complement of "manage". "Manage" is only a catenative verb when it has a to- infinitival clause as complement, as in "I managed [to find my wallet]". Note that non-finite clauses do not function as objects.
    – BillJ
    Jul 6, 2023 at 7:57
  • Lots of catenative words can be used in non-catenative senses, e.g. "try" is catenative in "He tried to open the door" but not in "He tried the fish".
    – Stuart F
    Jul 6, 2023 at 8:50
  • 'He helped wash up'/'He helped to wash up' // 'He helped us to wash up' //// 'He helped all of us.' Jul 6, 2023 at 10:31
  • to is not part of manage to; it’s the particle of whatever to-infinitive will follow manage: He managed [to attempt] [to smile]. (In traditional grammar, the infinitives function like direct objects — He managed what? To attempt. He attempted what? To smile.) Jul 6, 2023 at 16:10

2 Answers 2


If we use the old-school definition of transitive as "taking a direct object" then He managed a smile could be regarded as transitive. To paraphrase the meaning: He produced a smile. Making an effort to remain in control of his face, he smiled, though he didn't really feel like smiling.

But manage can be complemented by a non-finite clause, similar to want and try.

He wanted to smile and tried smiling but the trip to the dentist had left his jaw in too much pain for him to manage a smile.


... in too much pain for him to manage to smile.

A verb needn't fall into one or the other category exclusively.


Manage (to) is an Implicative verb, semantically.

It entails its A-Equi complement clause, and presupposes some effort on the part of the agent subject of manage.

  • He managed to open the door, and it creaked loudly.
  • *He managed to open the door, but it wouldn't budge
  • *He managed to open the door by waving his hand

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