I recently had a query from one of my students which went a bit like this…
“I have understood all the corrections you’ve made, but I have a doubt with the verb “recommend”. I thought it could be used as I did in the writing “I recommend you to read this book” now I know that I have to say “I recommend that you read this book” but my doubt is: in which cases can it be used with the form “recommend+object+to+infinitive”?
Ah ha…good question I thought.This is a perfect example of why I recommend (!) that my students avoid using the verb ‘to recommend’, at least at certain levels of their understanding.I suggest that they use ‘to suggest’ or even advise them to use ‘advise’ as alternatives.
The student had written…
“For all the aforementioned reasons I strongly recommend you to read this masterpiece, so if you have the chance, don’t hesitate to read it!”
I had subsequently corrected it to…
“For all the aforementioned reasons I strongly recommend that you read this masterpiece, so if you have the chance, don’t hesitate to read it!”
So when they queried this my response was that the error was not with `recommend`, it was actually with `to read`. Whilst it is sometimes suggested that ‘recommend’ can be followed by ‘to + infinitive’, it really shouldn’t. We recommend you use our new software. not: We recommend you to use our new software.
Whilst the following structures related to the verb recommend are often noted as grammatically correct….
(1) verb + object + to-infinitive –> I recommend you to use
(2) verb + -ing form (without object) –> I recommend using
(3) verb + present subjunctive –> I recommend *(that) you use
(4) verb + should + bare infinitive –> I recommend (that) you should use
* that is optional in this case
… my opinion is that “I recommend you to read” is bad English. We say “I advise you to…”. With “recommend” it just sounds wrong (to me).
Therefore I always think it is best for some levels of ESL students to actually use ‘advise’ or ‘suggest’ than ‘recommend’ in the their writing and so you avoid the problem! Yes I know that some teachers would say that you should ‘resolve’ the problem but I really cannot explain how ‘it just sounds wrong’. So best, for now, to work around it! (Until I find a better explanation!)