It doesn't make sense here saying "You don't have enough courage to make a mistake!" I would have think it means "Try to make a mistake and see what will happen!" as there is a entry in dictionary which is "[with obj. and infinitive] defy or challenge (someone) to do something", but the part of speech is a regular verb whereas in the sentence I provided it's a modal verb.

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2 Answers 2


I don't think dare is a "modal" verb in OP's cited context. It's what's called a...

catenative verb
The word catenative comes from the Latin catena meaning "chain". Catenative verbs combine with other verbs and can form a chain of two or three or more verbs. (englishclub.com)

A main verb (ie lexical verb, not auxiliary or modal) that can be followed by another main verb is known as a catenative verb. In the following examples, the verbs want and like are catenative:
I want to eat.
I like eating.

As this chart shows, dare is one of a small number of verbs that can (optionally) be followed by a "bare infinitive" (without the infinitive marker to)...

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Other catenative verbs that don't need to include hear, help, let, make, as described here. Note that Don't you dare [to] be late! is like He helped [to] wash the dishes or He makes me [to] lie down in green pastures, in that the word to is effectively "optional" in such constructions. But with almost all other verbs used catenatively, to is syntactically required.

That's all the syntactic background. For the specific context here, You dare not make a mistake is alternative phrasing for the imperative command You must not dare [to] make a mistake - effectively, Don't be so "brave" as to make a mistake (because the consequences would be dire). But of course, what we actually understand from that is...

Don't be so carelessly foolish as to make a mistake!

  • After a lot of consideration, I realize that since the word "dare" can take "not" directly, the sentence "You dare not make a mistake![1]" is actually a imperative. The subject "you" is merely a intensifier. It's the same when saying "Dare not make a mistake!" Plus the idiomatic expression "don't you dare", the sentence easily becomes "Don't you dare make a mistake!"[2] So these two sentences[1][2] are different ways of saying the same thing, am I right? I think I misunderstood the original sentence by simple present declarative due to the unusual usage of "dare".
    – preachers
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 17:21
  • The causative make can, optionally, take the infinitive marker to? I find that claim dubious. The consensus emerging from this ELU discussion seems to suggest if the infinitive marker to occurs it is not a causative make.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 18:05
  • 1
    @EddieKal: I added a link to my "green pastures" biblical example (as a child I learnt the archaic version maketh me to lie down). I don't deny that most people today wouldn't include the infinitive marker with "causitive make", but having just checked out your ELU "discussion" lnk I think it's mostly at best irrelevant, if not downright misleading. The gist of the relevant full OED entry seems to be that make to verb fell out of use after C17 except with passive constructions. So She was made to scrub floors is perfectly okay (and doesn't mean that was her purpose in life). Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 0:28
  • 1
    @preachers: I don't think any native speaker would utter the command Dare not make a mistake! Feasibly Don't dare make a mistake!, but the vast majority would include the addressee pronoun in Don't you dare [to] [do something]! I'm not sure why that is, given that for most imperative constructions we don't explicitly include you (whether negated or not). Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 0:35
  • @FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Thanks for your explanation. There is still one last thing, if we take "You dare not make a mistake!" as a singleton without considering the context it's in. Can we understand the same sentence to have two completely different meanings? One being the imperative mood meaning "to discourage you to make a mistake" and the other one being a regular declarative simple present sentence meaning "you don't have enough courage to make a mistake".
    – preachers
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 14:36

In this context, it means "don't you dare make a mistake!" meaning that he must not make a mistake.

  • So what's the grammatical logic here? How comes a declarative sentence becomes a imperative one?
    – preachers
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 13:23
  • He didn't dare [to] fail is declarative (reporting a fact), whereas Don't [you] dare [to] fail! is always imperative (commanding the addressee). Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 14:25

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