As it is well known, among other meanings "make" means force someone to do something and searching on Google shows that the sentence "The boss made me work an extra day" is grammatical (68,500 hits). Nevertheless, the phrase "people were made to wait" is grammatical (907,000 hits), too.

Clearly, there is no parallelism between the two structures because in the first one "work" is in the - so-called - bare infinitive form while in the second one the mentioned verb is used as an infinitive ("to work").

Question is, is there a rule governing this matter?

Yet, if so, can such a rule be extended to verbs which are different from the verb "make" because they do not support a direct object?

2 Answers 2


I'm afraid this is simply a matter of historical contingency.

In older English you will find made me to VERB alongside made me VERB, just as in present-day English you find help me to VERB alongside help me VERB.

Likewise, older English allowed dared me VERB and commanded me VERB and compelled me VERB, where present-day English requires dared/commanded/compelled me to VERB.

Some require the to-marker, others don’t; there’s no general rule.

I believe, however, that where the object does not intervene between the main verb and the complement (as in your examples with the passive), present-day English always requires the to-marker.

I cannot offhand think of any exceptions. But I will be happy to retract this answer if anyone comes up with one.

Verbs which “do not support a direct object”—intransitive verbs—can’t be cast into the passive, so the ‘rule’ (if indeed it is a rule) does not apply.


This article suggests:

An infinitive will almost always begin with to.
Exceptions do occur, however. An infinitive will lose its to when it follows certain verbs.
These verbs are feel, hear, help, let, make, see, and watch.
The pattern looks like this: special verb + direct object + infinitive - to

When there is no direct object after the special verb, to is not omitted. Compare:

People were made to wait;
I make people wait;
The boss made me work an extra day;
I was made to work an extra day;
This book helps to study;
I helped him study;
I see you run in the mornings;
You are seen to run in the mornings;

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