Let them go home.
*Let them to go home.

*Allow them go home.
Allow them to go home.

Make them go home.
*Make them to go home.

*Force them go home.
Force them to go home.

What is the reason that "let" and "make" don't take "to" before the infinitive and "allow" and "force" do? And what is this phenomenon called?

  • 4
    It's governed by the matrix verb. Modals don't take to, small verbs like let and make (which are almost bleached of meaning and effectively express a category that would be morphological in some other languages), and special constructions like go figure or come sit by me don't take to. Much like the subject marker for largely disappears from infinitive clauses (along with the subject NP), the verb marker to is on the way out, but slowly. Most of the time it's contracted to schwa in speech anyway. Eventually that schwa will be interpreted as epenthetic.
    – jlawler
    Mar 5 at 16:35
  • The auxiliary verb “to do” used in questions and negative forms also governs the following infinitive without “to”: in Do you hear me? Don't go there! “hear” and “go” are infinitives.
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 6 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


It's called subcategorization: particular words (not just verbs) allow or require particular words or structures for their arguments.

There may be some heuristics for determining the allowable structures, but in the end they are arbitrary lexical properties of the words in question.

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