Correctness (3)


As legal writers, you undoubtedly frequently advise your clients on a particular aspect of the law or on a course of legal action. You could be forgiven for wondering what’s so
difficult about that; especially if you think the following sentences are correct:

  • I suggest you to reconsider their offer.
  • I advise to reconsider the offer.
  • We would recommend you to not enter the debate.
  • I suggested her to plead guilty.
  • We recommend Mr Jones to submit a patent application.
  • They recommended to appeal the judgment.

Well, I’m afraid this is another pitfall of English that non-native (and more native speakers than I care to admit) fall foul of. Take a look at this.

The grammatical rules surrounding the use of the verbs advise (the verb is spelt with an ‘s’ and the noun ‘advice’ with a ‘c’), suggest and recommend are as follows:

1. If recommend, suggest or advise are followed by another verb, this second verb takes the gerund form i.e. verb + -ing

  • I recommend following your lawyer’s advice.
  • I suggest following your lawyer’s advice.
  • I advise following your lawyer’s advice.

In other words, it is incorrect to say or write I recommend/suggest/advise to follow your lawyer’s advice.

2. The verbs recommend and suggest cannot be directly followed by an object (pronoun). Instead you need to use ‘that’.

  • I recommend that you follow your lawyer’s advice.
  • I suggest that you follow your lawyer’s advice.
  • I recommend that she follow her lawyer’s advice. (see 3)
  • I suggest that he follow his lawyer’s advice. (see 3)

You cannot say or write: I recommend/suggest you to follow your lawyer’s advice.
However, ‘advise’ is the exception to this rule. You can say or write:

  • I advise you to follow your lawyer’s advice.
  • I advise her to follow her lawyer’s advice.
  • I advise him to follow his lawyer’s advice.

3. If you would really like to impress, you could use what is known as the subjunctive when writing your recommendations, suggestions and advice. The subjunctive is used in ‘thatclauses’, after verbs, adjectives or nouns.

  • We recommended that he consider his situation carefully. (NOT: ‘considers’)
  • She suggests that he consider his situation carefully. (NOT: ‘considers’)
  • They advised that he consider his situation carefully. (NOT: ‘considers’)
  • It is important that she be admitted to hospital immediately.

If this is too much of a good thing, you can avoid the subjunctive by using should in the ‘that-clause’.

  • They suggested that he should consider his situation carefully.
  • They recommended that she should be admitted to hospital immediately.

There are a number of verbs that follow the subjunctive rule and these include:
to advise (that) / to ask (that)/ to command (that) / to demand (that) / to desire (that)/ to insist (that) / to propose (that) / to recommend (that)/ to request (that) / to suggest (that) / to urge (that)

So, thinking back to the sentences containing mistakes at the beginning of this blogpost, how would you correct them? Bonus points for anyone who can use the subjunctive. Mail your answers to


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