Our brains are incredibly agile machines, and it’s hard to think of anything they do more efficiently than recognize faces.

In this sentence, is the word "recognize" grammatically correct, or should it be "recognizing"?

  • 1
    Welcome to ELL, Ha Huy. That's an interesting question: I think that both are grammatically correct, but I don't know why.. Note that face is countable, so you have to say a face or faces. The latter makes a lot more sense. This NGram shows that the expression is widely used. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – JavaLatte
    Apr 17, 2018 at 9:55

1 Answer 1


Good question! Maybe this example makes it clear:

  1. Brains do recognize faces.
  2. Brains do efficiently recognize faces.
  3. Brains do nothing more efficiently than recognize faces.
  4. It is hard to think of anything they do more efficiently than recognize faces.

The second part of the sentence has no overt subject (after efficiently), therefore it is undetermined which person the verb should inflect. Also there is nothing to indicate in which time this takes place. If there were it would be a a clause and not a phrase, and than would be a conjunction joining two clauses.

I will add onto this later and correct it.

  • Your answer does not address the question about the choice between recognize and recognizing in this context. For instance, would it be wrong to say: She does nothing more attractively than singing folk songs? Apr 17, 2018 at 22:20

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