I'd like to know whether insist and maintain are both correct in the following:

John insisted / maintained that the patient be treated immediately.

I'd appreciate your help.

  • 3
    Unlike insist, maintain isn't normally used to mean "demand", and hence only the former can be used in the described way.
    – user3395
    Jun 14, 2018 at 15:14
  • 1
    Semantically, insist / maintain are pretty much equivalent in the cited context (but I expect most people would say insist is "stronger" here). Syntactically, though, I don't think the "bare infinitive / subjunctive" be really works with maintain unless you at least precede it with should. To my mind, I insist [that] I be released is perfectly valid (if a little dated/formal), but I maintain [that] I be released doesn't sound much like English to me. Jun 14, 2018 at 15:19

1 Answer 1


The sentence with insist is idiomatic in American English, the one with maintain is not.

To maintain is to make an assertion of fact. No non-actual situation is involved with an assertion of fact. Whereas insist in that context is understood to be a form of demand that something should or must occur. The thing has not actually occurred, hence the subjunctive.

If insisted is used about a past event, rather than about something which should happen or be done, then its meaning shades into that of maintained.

  • I can certainly maintain that you should do something - it's just that I can't (syntactically? validly?, idiomatically?) maintain you do it. Jun 14, 2018 at 16:37
  • Merely to maintain that I should do something is not to adjure or insist that I do it. You can maintain that I should do it and still say "But do as you please".
    – TimR
    Jun 15, 2018 at 15:36
  • I was talking about "idiomatic syntax", not semantics. Jack says it's up to me to fix it, but John maintains you should fix it. I don't think it's idiomatically valid to "delete" the word should there. Jun 22, 2018 at 13:14
  • I would agree. to maintain {something} means to hold the firm opinion that... and it takes a that-clause whose tensed verb is not in the subjunctive, at least in my dialect. We would not say The cap'n maintains that ye be flogged.
    – TimR
    Jun 22, 2018 at 13:20

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