One of the trickiest structures for non-native speakers of English is the following: “Somebody wants somebody else to do something“.
In some languages, this idea is expressed using “that”: “I want that you help me“. This is incorrect in English.
We say “I want you to help me“.
If you have been saying this incorrectly for years, you need to practise the correct structure.
For each of the following sentences, try to change a word or two so the sentence applies to you, that is, is true for your situation. For example, “I want you to learn quickly” could become “I want you to eat quickly“, when you are thinking about your children or your colleagues. Or, “You want me to learn quickly“, if you are looking at your teacher or your boss. How about “I want you to learn thoroughly” if you are training new staff?
This method will help you to use the structure correctly when writing or speaking English. Say the examples, and your own versions of them, aloud as you work. If you’ve always had difficulty with this structure – and many people do – don’t stop at one personalised version of the example. Write as many as you can. Say them out loud repeatedly. Try to use them several times in real life over the next week.
I need you to pay attention.
I’d prefer you to listen, then repeat.
The teacher wants her students to do homework every day.
The teacher needs her students to ask questions if they don’t understand.
The teacher would prefer her students to attend classes regularly and to arrive punctually.
We want you to start work tomorrow.
We need you to arrive by 9 a.m.
We’d prefer you to use British intonation.
The government wants all hospitals to reduce their waiting lists.
The government needs taxpayers to pay higher taxes.
The government would prefer voters to register for postal votes.
Paul wants Anna to leave on Saturday.
Anna needs Paul to explain why.
Paul would prefer Anna to understand.
Theresa May wants Angela Merkel to listen.
Brexit voters want the UK to trigger Article 50.
Remain voters wanted the UK to stay in the EU.
Refugees want borders to be open.
Parents need teachers to help their children.
Doctors would prefer their patients not to smoke.
I don’t want you to smoke.
My son doesn’t want his friends to play with his brother.
My cat doesn’t want her kittens to play with your dog.
Your husband doesn’t want you to work full-time.
You’d prefer your husband to work part-time so you can share childcare.
The King didn’t allow his subjects to vote.
The President allowed his Finance Minister to attend the meeting.
The Prime Minister would prefer the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce taxes.
The First Minister wants Scotland to be independent.
She allows her children to stay out until 11 p.m.
Citizens would prefer the government to reduce taxes.
The police officer told me to stop.
I asked him to read the article to the class.
Do you want the plants to flower in June?
I’d prefer them to flower in May.
This rain will encourage the flowers to grow.
I encouraged her to study hard.
He wants his children to eat green vegetables.
She wants her parents to move to a smaller apartment.
The butterfly needs the sun to shine.
I want you to try this soup. Have you ever tasted anything so delicious? I need Abigail to give me the recipe.
Do you want your son to speak English fluently?
I want him to attend an immersion course.
Does he prefer you to speak to him in French?
No, he always asks us to speak to him in English, but it’s difficult to understand him. He needs a teacher to help him with his accent and pronunciation.
The doctor wanted him to stop smoking, but he refused. He needs someone to persuade him to stop.
I’d like you to write a report on climate change.
The children have asked me to speak to you.
Will the bank allow us to borrow money?
The auditors require us to produce the documents.
Our accountant warned us to reduce our spending.
My accountant persuaded me to organise my files.
Remember: if you’re using wish, think or say, the sentence structure is different.
I wish (that) the government would ban cigarettes.
He says (that) I’m lazy.
My manager thinks (that) I’m the best person for the job.
I think (that) you should practise this.
He said (that) I should start now.
She said (that) we could start immediately.