In a book there is an expression like '' Many verbs are followed by object + infinitive ''

I want you to listen.

They told me to go.

What is meant by '' object '' in this statement ?

Yes i know these are object pronouns and they are used in the object position in the sentence. Also the object of the sentences are '' me to go and you to listen '' Also, something comes to my mind : one who is affected by the action of the subject. How should I think? I would be very grateful if you could explain with examples.

  • The pronoun "me" and "you" function as a subject of the action indicated by the infinitive "to go" &"to listen" etc.
    – Sam
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 9:58

1 Answer 1


Semantically, "you" and "me" are both the objects of the main verbs, and the subjects of the infinitive verbs that follow them. English grammar doesn't have any way to show a single noun as both an object and a subject, so one form for this "object-subject-noun" had to be chosen, and it was the structure [ transitive verb + object + infinitive ]. This was a good compromise because the infinitive form is always the same, regardless of the subject, so at least it wouldn't appear broken on the surface. Other forms would have sounded terrible:

I want she listens.
I want her listens.

Given the alternatives, to-infinitive is a reasonable compromise.

I'm a language learner too, and I would just love to give you a single definition of the meaning of the object-subject-noun along the lines of, "one who is affected by the action of the subject" that covers all object + infinitive cases, but unfortunately, it's different from one main verb to the next. The structure is simply used places where a noun acts as both object and subject, regardless of the actual relationship of that noun to the rest of the sentence. To show what I mean, I'll break down the two example sentence you provided.

With "want", this structure means something like, the subject of the sentence wants that the object does the infinitive verb.

With "tell", this structure means something like, the object is commanded to do the infinitive verb.

So underlyingly, this structure represents several different meanings. The good news is that in just about every context where it appears, it's pretty easy to figure out what that meaning is because even with just the essential words in their "dictionary form", the meaning is still clear: I, want, you, listen and They, told, me, go.


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