Catenative Verbs

Catenative verbs, also known as chain verbs, are followed by other verbs to form a chain of two or more verbs. In this lesson, we will discuss them in detail.

Catenative Verbs in the English Grammar

What Are Catenative Verbs?

Catenative verbs (also known as chain verbs) link with other verbs and form a chain of two or more verbs.

Catenative is derived from the Latin word 'catena.' It means 'chain.'

Any main verb (not auxiliary or modal verbs) that can come after another main verb is a catenative verb.

What Can Follow a Catenative Verb?

Verbs that can follow a catenative verb are:

Take a look at an example:

I want to dance.


Theoretically, a large number of catenative verbs can come in one chain.

He decided to agree to start learning to bake German pastries.

Catenative Verb Complement: To-infinitives

Most of the catenative verbs can be followed by a to-infinitive, such as:

  1. agree
  2. want
  3. ask
  4. decide
  5. demand
  6. choose
  7. dare
  8. expect
  9. hope
  10. happen

Take a look at some examples:

He expects to complete the project in June.

We agreed to meet the following day.

I chose to learn Spanish rather than French.

Catenative Verb Complement: Bare Infinitives

an example of three verbs in a row

A limited number of catenative verbs can be followed by bare infinitives, such as:

  1. hear
  2. make
  3. help
  4. let

I learned that you just have to let go sometimes.

I'm coming to help wash the dishes.

He didn't have any money so he just had to make do.

Catenative Verb Complement: Present Participles

Many catenative verbs can be followed by the present participle, such as:

  1. go
  2. suggest
  3. admit
  4. stop
  5. avoid
  6. consider
  7. help
  8. enjoy
  9. look forward to
  10. mention

I couldn't help thinking about that night.

The bullet went flying over my head.

I stopped smoking and looked at him.

Catenative Verbs + To-infinitive or Present Participle

Some catenative verbs can be followed by the to-infinitive or the present participle. Sometimes there is a change in meaning, sometimes not.

  • Verbs with no significant change in meaning:
  1. love
  2. start
  3. begin
  4. continue
  5. hate
  6. prefer
  7. like

They continued working on the project. = They continued to work on the project.

I love hanging out with you. = I love to hang out with you.

  • Verbs with significant change in meaning:
  1. go on
  2. regret
  3. need
  4. come
  5. remember
  6. try

He tried to quit smoking. ≠ Have you tried eating sushi?

I remembered to say goodbye. ≠ I remember saying goodbye.

Catenative Verb Complement: Past Participles

One catenative verb can be followed by the past participle:

Get lost!

Let's get started.

False Catenatives

Every verb following another verb cannot automatically be considered a catenative structure. Let's take a look at the example:

He trained to improve his performance. = He trained in order to improve his performance.

Here, 'to improve' is an infinitive of purpose, rather than a to-infinitive that serves as the complement of a catenative verb.

I stopped to buy some fruit. = I stopped in order to buy some fruit.

Complex Catenative Structure

If a catenative verb has an object, usually the object comes between the catenative verb and the second verb. It is still considered to be a catenative structure, for example:

He wants me to try harder.

In this sentence, the object 'me' is placed between the catenative verb 'wants' and the to-infinitive verb, 'to try'.

I prefer you to wear clean clothes all the time.


Catenative verbs are verbs that work as a chain. They follow each other to make meaningful sentences. Verbs that can follow a catenative verb in the set of verbs are:

  • to-infinitives
  • bare infinitives
  • present participles
  • past participles


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