1

Could anyone please explain the differences between the following sentences and tell me whether they are correct or not.

  • sb. requests that sth. is done
  • sb. requests sth. be done
  • sb. requests sth. is done
  • sb. requests sth. is to be done
  • sb. requests sth. to be done

Example sentence without variables:

  • The account manager requests that the account is locked.
  • The account manager requests the account be locked.
  • The account manager requests the account is locked.
  • The account manager requests the account is to be locked.
  • The account manager requests the account to be locked.
  • I like the fifth choice: "The account manager requests the account to be locked". But I am sure somebody will shoot it down... :-/ – Victor Bazarov Nov 6 '15 at 21:48
  • The first sentence without variables has a different structure than the first sentence with variables. "is done" vs "gets done" – Senjougahara Hitagi Nov 6 '15 at 22:31
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First of all, it should be noted that the "that" before a clause is usually optionally when not in an adjective clause. So, we can simplify the options (and introduce more variation). The last one cannot have a "that" because it is not a clause. Note that none of these structures require "to be (or an appropriate form) done", but rather just a verb.

1a. Sb. requests (that) sth. is done.

1b. Sb. requests (that) sth. be done.

  1. Sb. requests (that) sth. is to be done.

  2. Sb. requests sth. to be done.

The first difference to point out is the one between the first two options, 1a and 1b: the conjugation of the verb "to be". "Is" is in the indicative mood, while "be" is an example of the English subjunctive mood, which is used to express wishes or desires. These two are the most normal, and there is no big difference except for which mood you choose to use: the English subjunctive (conjugated in the present using the bare infinitive) has been slowly fading out of use, so it is generally okay to use either one. Different sources may have differing opinions, though. Note that this structure (indicative or subjunctive) often seems formal - "I want that you go."

I suggest you be nice.

I hope that she has friends.

I recommend we go.

The second difference is in the option 2. "To be + (to-infinitve)" is a stylistic way of expressing requirement. It is similar to saying "to be supposed + (to-infinitive)". For example, "I am to go" is like saying "I am supposed to go". Therefore, "Sb. requests (that) sth. is to be done." is like saying "Sb. requests (that) sth. is supposed to be done." It doesn't make much sense.

The last one, option 3, follows a construction very common in English, "sb./sth. to do sth", called an infinitive clause. It is used as the object of a verb or a preposition, like "want" or "for". This is what you would use with verbs like "want" if you didn't want to be formal, e.g. "I want you to go". Since it is used with prepositions at times, it is not limited to right after a verb.

I want you to go. (I want that you go.)

I wish for him to get home safe.

I couldn't wait for it to happen.

In conclusion, any of sentences 1a, 1b, and 3 as I've labelled them would be fine, but sentence 2 makes no sense. 1a and 1b are the difference between indicative and subjunctive, and 3 uses the infinitive clause.

  • Awesome, this was really easy to understand. Thank you! – Max Nov 6 '15 at 22:43
  • This is really good stuff. I was thinking for the longest time why "that sth. is to be done" is allowed, but not "that sth. to be done". I came to the conclusion that "that" requires a clause. If that is true, then why can we say "that sth. be done" ? "sth. be done" is not a clause. – Senjougahara Hitagi Nov 7 '15 at 0:06
1

The account manager requests that the account is locked

This sounds wrong to me because "request" isn't usually paired with the simple present tense.

The Proper Sentence

Below is the pattern for "request":

X requests that [Y (active verb phrase in bare infinitive form)]

OR

X requests that [Y is (passive verb phrase in to-infinitive form)]

Note that the "bare infinitive form" is the just the conjugated verb (e.g. "eat", "walk", "sleep") vs. the "to-infinitive" which includes the verb to (e.g. "to eat", "to walk", "to sleep"). Therefore the proper sentences are:

The account manager requests that we lock the account

The account manager requests that the account is to be locked

Other choices

  1. For the active verb version, it is possible to drop the word "that", dependent on dialect/personal choice. Dropping "that" feels slightly archaic to me.

The account manager requests we lock the account

  1. For the passive verb version, we can drop "is to", although it sounds very archaic to me. If we drop "is to", it feels natural to drop "that" as well. I could imagine someone from the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean" saying this:

The account manager requests the account be locked

  1. For the passive voice version, we could drop "is"

The account manager requests the account to be locked

This also feels extremely archaic. And in this case, it would feel very unnatural to include the word "that". I think I can explain why:

When I parse sentences of this type, I'm looking for the pattern

The account manager requests [subject] [verb phrase]

OR

The account manager requests [that [complete statement]]

You can substitute [verb phrase] with "is to be locked", "to be locked", and "be locked". However, when we use the word "that", the stuff after it should be a complete statement. For example

the account is to be locked.

This is a complete sentence and thus feels very compatible with the word "that".

the account be locked.

This is not a complete sentence in standard English, but it is okay in certain dialects, especially archaic sounding ones. Therefore it is moderately compatible with the word "that".

the account to be locked.

This is not a complete sentence in any dialect or stylized form of English that I know of. Therefore it is incompatible with the word "that".

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