In an effort to assist a Japanese speaker learning English I was asked a grammar question that I was not easily able to explain. The question was a "why" question, specifically with causative verbs. The example used was:

* I made him go.
* I let him go.

These use bare infinitive verbs. In these two cases, the word "to" is not needed.


* I made him to go.
* I let him to go.

Then there was the question with the words order and ask.
With the following two sentences, the word "to" is required:

* I ordered him to go.
* I asked him to go.

In these cases it is not correct to say:

* I ordered him go.
* I asked him go.

Now comes the hard part.

1. Why? What's the difference?
2. Are causative verbs so special?

Easy answers:

1. There is a rule with certain words like ask and order.
2. Yes.

Harder question:

1. Why is there a rule with order and ask?
* Note that with most answers given you will be able to say, but you don't use "to" with made or let or but you must use "to" with ordered and ask, so what's the difference?

There is one observation I did make that may not explain the why part but since it was a difference between the two examples, this appeared to help the person understand.

I the case of ("made" him go) or ("let" him go) I believe it can be assumed correctly that the person "went". However, with I ordered, or I asked (him to go) the result of if he went is not 100% known. This is a difference, yet I do not know if it explains the why part. I also thought that the "to" was needed to connect the action (ordered/asked), but then why is "to" not needed to connect the action in the case of (Made him go/Let him go)? I thought maybe "to" is implied with made and let, but then thought, why is it not implied with ask and order? Maybe because the result is not known?

For an English speaker it is easy to say what just sounds correct because it is our own language and we can associate the sounding and feeling of "correctness" but to try to explain the reasoning to a non-native English speaker, the challenge becomes increasingly difficult. Maybe there is an answer somewhere. I can say the answer is probably that "It was decided at some point in time." This answer would be correct in most cases for any question but the follow-up question of course is "Why?"
It's not just causative verbs like 'make' and 'let' that use 'object + bare infinitive'. Others include 'see/hear/feel/watch/notice', and in some cases 'help/have/know'.

There are lots and lots of verbs that take 'object + infinitive with to'. Just a sampling includes 'advise / forbid / invite / remind / want / warn.'

Personally, rather than trying to find a rationale for this, I'd approach it by asking the person if the Japanese language is completely logical and explicable. I'd be very surprised if the answer were 'Yes'.

Best wishes, Clive
Anonymousin AsiaMy boss ordered me to finish this proposal. -----> it means i need to finish it.in westernMy teacher ordered me to finish this homework ----> it doesn't mean i have to finish it
In your language, you may have a verb, roughly translated into English as 'order', that means that not only is the order given but it is also obeyed. Fine.

The English verb 'order' does not, in itself, mean that the order is obeyed.

The general ordered me to shoot the prisioner, but I refused.
The general ordered me to shoot the prisoner, and so I shot him.

These two sentences are possible in English. They may not be possible in your language with the verb you choose as a translation of 'order'. All this means is that the verb you have chosen does not convey all and only the same meanings as 'order'.
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seraglyphbut to try to explain the reasoning to a non-native English speaker, the challenge becomes increasingly difficult.
Sometimes there is no reason. Stop banging your head against a wall. It's a waste of time.

Research "catenative verbs" and you will find that, while there are some vague principles underlying the differences you're interested in, there is hardly ever a clear reason that might be pedagogically useful. Save such discussions for very advanced linguistics students. Less advanced students only need lists of verbs that fit into each pattern. And practice. Emotion: smile

In my point of view the verb "order" is 100% know. what I mean is:

I ordered him to go home. the verb "order" has a very strong meaning, which you have to obligate.
I made him go home. the verb "made" is consider a tipicall causative construction verb, which means he has gone home.
I let him go home. the verb "let" is a very weak verb, which let doesn't mean he has to do, I let him go home doesnt mean he will listen and go home.
I asked him to go home. the verb "ask" has the meaning of invite. i asked him to go home, may has the meaning of I invite him to go home. that person finally go home or not? we don't know.

so it means only the verb "ordered" and "made" have strong meaning, the others dont. i think what you have to do is to start with the japanese culture.

I am also a student, and I am also learning the causative verb, it is very difficult. I am living in China, i think Asian People and western people see the causative clause very different, for example:

in Asia

My boss ordered me to finish this proposal. -----> it means i need to finish it.

in western

My teacher ordered me to finish this homework ----> it doesn't mean i have to finish it

why it is so different, i think is because the western education is very different from the Asian Education, because the subordinate have to listen to the superior. the superior has power.

it is only a discussion. maybe all that i am thinking is wrong
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.

If someone orders you to do something, do you have to do it?

This is an interesting topic, but it is more related to culture than to language..Emotion: smileEmotion: geeked

 fivejedjon's reply was promoted to an answer.