What's the difference in meaning between the two alternatives of A's question?

A: Who do you recommend to fill in for John when he's on leave? / Who would you recommend as a fill-in when John's on leave?

B: Peter would be my top choice.

Note that the first alternative undergoes a kind of transformation from "you recommend...to fill in..." whereas the second comes from "you would recommend...as a fill-in." I'm particularly interested in this difference between the two verb patterns. (Please ignore the modal would for the moment.)

I'd appreciate your help.

1 Answer 1


Almost no difference in meaning.

Asking "who would you recommend..." implies an (unspoken) conditional clause "... If you had to make a recommendation". As such it is a little less direct, and so more polite, than directly asking "Who do you recommend".

Use the first question when the person's job is to make a recommendation. Use the second if you are asking for help or advice.

However, the difference is nuanced and not enough to cause offence.

I also see little difference in meaning between "recommend to fill in for John..." and "recommend as a fill-in..." I suppose in the first case it asks for someone who can cover John's jobs in addition to their own (do the filling in). In the second case it might be asking for someone who can take all of Johns tasks (be the fill-in). The recommended person gets labelled as a "fill-in" Again, nuanced and likely not noticed.

On first reading I didn't even notice the difference between the use of the verb "fill in" and the noun "fill-in". This part of the sentence meant the same to me.

  • +2.............. (extra point for 'unspoken')
    – TimR
    Mar 6, 2018 at 22:43
  • I've made some modification to the question to reflect my actual concern.
    – Apollyon
    Mar 6, 2018 at 23:08
  • So your question is about the difference between recommend to fill in and recommend as a fill-in? Is the question about the nuances of labeling a person (a fill-in)?
    – TimR
    Mar 7, 2018 at 0:36
  • I'm wondering what the pattern"recommend someone to V" means. Does it mean "to advise someone to V"? If so, it the two alternatives in the OP don't mean the same.
    – Apollyon
    Mar 7, 2018 at 11:36
  • Consider "The doctor recommends his patients to take the medicine." Communication between him and the patients is implied. Is that the case too in "recommend someone to fill in...:?
    – Apollyon
    Mar 7, 2018 at 12:01

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