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Do people say this kind of sentences to others? I don't often see this kind of sentences. I often see sentences like "I would/wouldn't like someone to do something", but not "I like/don't like someone to do something".

  • You're quite right that native speakers avoid using the infinitive after (unmodified) like, but we have no such problem with would like. But this is effectively just "established idiomatic preference" with that particular verb - you can use either the infinitive or a "gerund" with, for example I don't want him to do it / I don't want him doing it. Note that the "idiomatic rule" for like is the same with or without negation, but it can make a difference with want (I want him doing it is relatively unlikely in most contexts). – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '18 at 16:24
  • @FumbleFingers Do you mean "I don't want him to do it" is more formal than "I don't want him doing it" in most contexts? – Relative Clauses vs Participle Dec 21 '18 at 6:59
  • I certainly never said (or at least, never intended to say) that. I hadn't even considered the possibility that either version might be considered more "formal" than the other, when I wrote that first comment. I suppose we'd have to accept that contractions such as wouldn't like / don't want are "informal", and undeniably negation is relevant here (like I said, non-negated I want him doing it is very unlikely compared to I want him to do it). But to be honest, I suspect "level of formality" is an irrelevant distraction in the current context. – FumbleFingers Dec 21 '18 at 14:14
  • @FumbleFingers Sorry, but what do you mean by "I want him doing it is very unlikely compared to I want him to do it"? – Relative Clauses vs Participle Dec 22 '18 at 6:06
  • unlikely = uncommon. See this chart, for example. – FumbleFingers Dec 22 '18 at 16:07
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That construction is OK: "I don't like my students to bother me when I am trying to write."; "I don't like the children to use the oven when I'm not home."; "I don't like my gas tank to get below a quarter full." Also, "I like my dentist to use Novocaine."; "I like a man to be sensitive and caring." Where I come from (Ca, USA), all of those sentences sound natural and correct.

All four of the constructions you mention "I like/don't like [someone or something] to [verb]" and "I would/wouldn't like [S/O or S/T ] to [V]" are acceptable, idiomatic, and sound fine. They usually do have slightly different meanings though. "I like" or "I don't like" is for real situations; "I would like" or "I wouldn't like" is for hypothetical, future, or somehow non-real occurrences.

Consider the pair: "I don't like a visitor to come to my home without phoning first." vs. "I wouldn't like a visitor to come to my home without phoning first." The first sentence is about what a visitor does that the speaker doesn't like. But the second sentence implies a situation that is hypothetical. The speaker doesn't say he doesn't like it, but only that he wouldn't like it (if it were to happen). The first sentence implies visitors sometimes do come without phoning. The second sentence implies that they never do.

Similarly, in the positive sense, "I like my dentist to use Novocaine." implies some experience with a dentist who uses Novocaine, and the speaker likes it that way. But "I would like my dentist to use Novocaine." implies that the dentist does not use Novocaine, and the patient would like it if he did.

  • I'm not sure exactly how it's relevant, but it seems to me I don't like you to go swimming right now (or ...yesterday, in a minute, tomorrow, etc.) are "non-idiomatic" because they identify a single "point in time" - which by implication forces the interpretation that what I'm saying I don't like is a single instance of a specific action. Consider I don't like you to go swimming on Sunday - perfectly valid if we assume Sunday is just an alternative to plural Sundays (a repeated action), but not if we suppose it refers to, say, next Sunday. – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '18 at 17:08
  • ...so to all intents and purposes, I don't like you to go swimming on Sunday is completely unambiguous (you often go swimming on Sundays, but I don't like that). But I don't want you to go swimming on Sunday is far more ambiguous - either it means (almost?) exactly the same as the like version, OR it means I don't want you to go swimming on the specific contextually-relevant Sunday in question. – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '18 at 17:16
  • @Lorel C. Can you give me some examples about "I like someone to do something"? – Relative Clauses vs Participle Dec 21 '18 at 6:53
  • @FumbleFingers So, if I say I don't want you to go swimming right now (or ...yesterday, in a minute, tomorrow, etc.), will that be non-idiomatic too? – Relative Clauses vs Participle Dec 21 '18 at 7:34
  • @RelativeClausesvsParticiple: Negated or not, I [don't] want you to go swimming yesterday is simply nonsensical. There's nothing unusual about non-negated I want you to go swimming in a minute, but you'd need to contrive a context where I don't want you to go swimming in a minute would make sense (such as immediately following it with ...I want you to finish your homework first, and then you can go swimming). – FumbleFingers Dec 21 '18 at 14:22
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It sounds fine to say, "I don't like someone something," when the speaker has control over someone doing something. The speaker is expressing their own preferences and the implication is that they can make it happen:

  • I don't like my students to bother me when I am trying to write. The teacher is in charge of the students, and can tell them not to bother her.
  • I don't like my gas tank to get below a quarter full. I can fill my gas tank sooner.

It it sounds strange if the speaker has no control over the situation:

  • I don't like my neighbors to play loud music at night. I can't control my neighbors, this sounds odd.
  • I don't like the police to arrest an innocent man.

In those cases, what you can do is express how you feel about the event:

  • I don't like it when my neighbors play loud music at night.
  • I don't like it when the police arrest an innocent man.

If you use wouldn't, it can also sound fine, but the implication is again that the speaker has control over this hypothetical action, even if indirectly:

  • I wouldn't like my neighbors to play loud music at night. Could be an answer to, "Would you like...?" or contrasting the choice of living situation of the speaker's neighbors to someone else's
  • I wouldn't like the police to arrest an innocent man. Something you might say when arguing with yourself about coming forward with evidence. Or an opinion you might express about the risks of a poorly worded law.

You can also express how you would feel about the event:

  • I wouldn't like it if my neighbors played loud music at night.
  • I wouldn't like it if the police arrested an innocent man.

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