I don't really know where exactly to start, but it's a matter too hard for me, A non-native, to comprehend, so please bear with me.

  1. He asked me to do.

  2. He Threatened me to do.

I was told that the second example is wrong because "you can't threaten a direct object," so I should say: he threatened to.

My questions are: why isn't the first example wrong and the second one is? And can anyone tell me what is the name of that problem, if you find it as such, in grammar terms? What books can be helpful as far as this is concerned?

Thanks in advance.

  • Your examples make no sense. He asked / threatened me to do what?
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 15:16
  • Do can be replaced with bla bla bla.
    – AN24
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 19:32
  • @AbdelrhmanNoureldeen Your example is so unclear we don't even know what bla bla bla could be. Is bla bla bla something bad he's going to do to me? Or is he threatening me to make me bla bla bla? Please, give one clear example of what you mean.
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 23:20
  • That's the thing. The "do" part isn't the point of my question, or the thing I am concerned with. What concerns me is what verbs can take an object before a to-infinitive clause. I don't even know if writing a complete sentence in that case would make anything clearer. That's how baffling it is to me.
    – AN24
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 13:26

2 Answers 2


You need to pay attention to the particular requirements ("[subcategorization frames][1]") of the particular words.

Ask in the sense you are using it takes the patterns:

  1. ask [somebody] for something
  1. ask [somebody] to-infinitive clause

where the [] mean that the somebody is optional. (It takes other patterns in other senses, eg "ask [somebody] a question").

Threaten takes the patterns

  1. Threaten somebody [with something]
  1. Threaten to-infinite clause
  1. Threaten that finite clause

Your question was about putting the somebody argument in 4. To my ear, that is ungrammatical, and I find it dubious in 5.

Looking at the iWeb corpus of English, I do find some instances of "Threatened pronoun to" - 166 of them, compared with 47169 of "Threatened to". [1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subcategorization


There is a difference between the two sentences; in the first, the speaker was asked to do something, while in the second 'he' threatened the speaker that 'he' would do something.

It's not true that 'you can't threaten a direct object'. Oxford Languages gives as an example How dare you threaten me? However, when a particular bad action is threatened, we say either

He threatened to [verb] OR

He threatened me with [a noun].

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .