Submitted by abbeautiful  •  December 6, 2011

make it work

For the phrase (idiom?) “to make [something] work,” what part of speech is “work” functioning as?

My initial instinct is to say verb, since the something is actively working now.

As a follow-up, why don’t we conjugate “work” or keep it in the infinitive? For instance, why are the following sentences wrong?

Jane’s boss makes the schedule works for everyone.

Jane’s boss makes the schedule to work for everyone.

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Your initial instinct is right. We have lots of so-called causative verbs which take an object plus second verb in the infinitive, eg - tell somebody to do something - that second verb never changes - but three verbs lose the 'to', and take 'bare' infinitives - make, let and have - let her do it, make him do it, have somebody do it (US). With causatve verbs, the object is normally a person; you have found one with a non-human object. But the principle is the same. Try googling 'causative verbs'; you might even get my blog post.

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"Jane’s boss makes the schedule works for everyone."

This is wrong because the third-person-singular inflection "-s" only applies to the main verb (in this case, "make").

Just like in other sentences:
"This helps him perform better"
"I saw her get on the bus"

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Warsaw Will-- Thanks! I was trying to look for a more general rule, but we all know English doesn't work like that. Causatives makes perfect sense.

Chris -- I asked more because different verbs have different rules (e.g. ask + infinitive, get + past participle), and wanted to know the rule for "make." Conjugation depends on the verb being used and on how it is used, rather than whether it is the main verb.

For example, consider auxiliaries. Here, you conjugate the auxiliary (i.e. do, have, be, modals) rather than the main verb. For example:
She has been to Costa Rica three times.
James doesn't like eating meat.

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"As a follow-up, why don’t we conjugate 'work' or keep it in the infinitive?"

And as a postscript, "work" is just that - an infinitive verb - in this example.

What some would call the "bare infinitive" because it lacks "to".

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JJM, I would have to disagree here. "Work" would not be considered an infinitive, though yes, I will concede to "bare infinitive." (In my school, we teach "base verb.") But if both "work" and "to work" were labeled as the infinitive, it would cause too much confusion when speaking about different formulas.

For example, if we were to say, "When using modals, the main verb goes in the infinitive," and also, "With the verb "to agree," we use the infinitive of the second verb rather than the gerund," the results could be "I can to go to the mall today," and "I agree go to the mall today," both of which would be incorrect.

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A couple of interesting things in Chris's comment. I had mentioned the three causative verbs which were the exception to the 'to' infinitive norm: 'let', 'make' and 'have'. I'd forgotten about 'help', the verb that likes to swing both ways. We can equally say:
"This helps him perform better" or "This helps him to perform better"

In his second example, "I saw her get on the bus", there is a similar pattern, but with a verb of perception rather than a causative verb. Swan (Practical English Usage) calls this second verb phrase the object complement (complementing "her"), and it could equally well be a present participle, "I saw her getting on the bus", albeit with a possible subtle difference in meaning.

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Well, "work" is the infinitive. The fact that it often requires the prepositional marker "to" doesn't change that.

By the way, my preference would be to use the term "base verb" as well.

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