I would like to ask if the following sentence is grammatically correct.

My parents promised me to buy a new car.

I searched it and found out that some native speakers find it acceptable but some not. On the other hand, I couldn't see this structure given as an example in any dictionary I checked out. Longman dictionaries especially warns not to use in this way in its grammar anecdotes.

Google Ngram "promise me to be"

So what do you think and if it is grammatically wrong, why?

  • @FumbleFingers This is what I read on the other languages websites when I googled it..So this is not an information I get at first hand. – Mrt Dec 11 '16 at 17:57
  • @FumbleFingers "You promised me to make me your queen" by Shakespear – Mrt Dec 11 '16 at 17:59
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    @FumbleFingers so it is archaic and wrong but still in use to some extent. – Mrt Dec 11 '16 at 18:22
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    @JohnLawler I see your point. In the example sentence, adding indirect object pronoun, me, after infinite verb, buy, sounds good because it fits grammatically but there are some other examples I saw in use, such as "promise me to be careful" or " I want you to promise me to remember these promises no matter how busy and crazy our life and schedule get" . I don't want to try to push the use in that way. I just want to ascertain why or how this rule developed in this way. – Mrt Dec 11 '16 at 19:50
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    It isn't a rule; rather, it's an exception to the usual rule of Equi that only occurs with promise. What you're noticing is that it's exceptional, and that it isn't totally ungrammatical, even so. That's how one starts to think about rules and exceptions, by noting the differences. – John Lawler Dec 11 '16 at 19:54

You could say "My parents promised to buy me a new car" or you could say "My parents promised me a new car". Both are acceptable in the US.


The statement

My parents promised me to buy a new car.

is at best confusing, at worst misleading. Such is because it could suggest that the subject (the parents) want the object (me) to buy a new car. This is due to it's similarities with other common statements using the same construction, but different verbs; verbs such as ask and want:

My parents asked me to buy a new car.

My parents wanted me to buy a new car.

So, is the original statement it grammatically wrong? No, it isn't, but it's definitely confusing, and would benefit from being rephrased to something such as:

My parents promised to buy me a new car.

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