The following sentences seem grammatically correct to me.

These are the vegetables we ate yesterday.

This is the man I saw after the explosion and who came out from that room.

Suppose there are people for which "I don't want they talk to my cousin." or "I don't want they find out where my sister lives." is true, I see them when I taking a walk with a friend of mine. What should I say to my friend when I show him who those people are?

Those are the people […].

I thought of "Those are the people I don't want they talk to my cousin." but the sentence doesn't seem correct or acceptable.

Which sentence should I instead use?


SmokerAtStadium’s answer is exactly right; this is just a supplement to help you with the grammar in future constructions of this sort.

You have three propositions here:

  1. Those are the people.
  2. They have been talking to my cousin.
  3. I don’t want that.

You start by combining (2) and (3) into a single sentence in which (2) replaces that in (3).

The lexical ‘rule’ for want is that it will not take a finite clause as its object—that is, one in which the verb is inflected for tense.

I don’t want that they talk to my cousin.

Want requires a non-finite clause, in which the verb is replaced by either a marked infinitive (to talk) or a gerund (talking). In such clauses the subject is recast in the objective case:

theythem have been talkingtalking/to talk to my cousin
 2a. I don’t want them talking/to talk to my cousin.

Now you combine (1) and (2a) into a single sentence, with (2a) as a relative clause identifying the people in (1).

To do this you replace the personal pronoun them in (2a) with a relative pronoun whom or that, and move that to the head of the sentence:

whom I don’t want them talking/to talk to my cousin.
    ⇦ • • • • • • • ⇦

Note, however, that this is not possible if the pronoun has been cast in the genitive case (see the note below): I don’t want their talking... In that case, the pronoun is a modifier on talking, and has to remain attached to it: whose talking to my cousin I don't want.

Now you simply append the relative clause to the noun phrase it modifies:

 1a. Those are the people whom I don’t want talking/to talk to my cousin.

This is optional: a relative pronoun which (a) is the object of the verb in the clause which it heads and (b) follows the noun or noun phrase it modifies may be deleted:

 1b. Those are the people whom I don't want talking/to talk to my cousin.

marks an utterance as unacceptable
The genitive casetheir talking—is also possible with the gerund (but not the infinitive), and at one time some grammarians insisted it was the only proper construction with the gerund; but that never reflected actual practice, and the objective is often (perhaps even usually) found in even the most formal writing today. By and large, the genitive is used only when the action of the verb is to be stressed and its subject backgrounded. But there are lexical factors in play, too: you are unlikely to see I don’t want their talking..., but I don’t like their talking... is for some reason more acceptable. See this question on ELU

| improve this answer | |
  • The sentence you show in your second point could also be "They need to talk to my cousin," could not it? The reasoning doesn't change whenever they have already talked to my cousin, or they are going to do it for the first time. – kiamlaluno Apr 8 '13 at 14:09
  • @kiamlaluno I'm not sure what you're asking in the need - perhaps you could clarify? I don't want they talk to my cousin is not permitted because there talk is a finite verb: They talk to my cousin is a standalone sentence. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 8 '13 at 16:23
  • The sentence you used (marked as 2.) is "They have been talking to my cousin." which I would understand as saying they already talked with my cousin. It could also be it is the first time they would talk to my cousin, and I don't want that to happen; that doesn't change your reasoning, except that the 2. sentences would be different. – kiamlaluno Apr 8 '13 at 16:31
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno Quite right. I don't want them to talk to my cousin might be slightly more likely if they have never in fact talked to your cousin; but either would be fine. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 8 '13 at 17:42

Those are the people (that) I don't want talking to my cousin.


I don't want those people talking to my cousin.

| improve this answer | |

Note that "I don't want they talk to my cousin." is already ungrammatical: the correct and natural way would be either "I don't want them to talk to my cousin." or "I don't want them talking to my cousin."

Once you fix that, the rest is straightforward: just remove "them" and prepend "Those are the people who1" to get:

"Those are the people who I don't want to talk to my cousin." or

"Those are the people who I don't want talking to my cousin."

(Of course, SmokerAtStadium's and StoneyB's answers are also perfectly correct, just approaching the issue from slightly different angles, and so arriving at slightly different, but essentially equivalent, solutions.)

1) Formally, the interrogative pronoun corresponding to "them" should be "whom", but in practice, this distinction (along with the entire word "whom") seems to be gradually disappearing from the English language, so that most people nowadays would generally just use "who" here. For more information, see e.g. this usage note at Wiktionary.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.