An ELT Glossary : Catenative verbs


Catenative verbs are verbs which are followed directly by another verb, in the bare infinitive, to + infinitive or V+ing form. Catenative literally means "chaining". Some examples :

a) Catenative verb followed by bare infinitive


All modal verbs fall into this category :


He can speak three languages.
You should leave before lunchtime

Lexical verbs following this pattern are rare but include help :

They helped clear up the kitchen


b) Catenative verb followed by to + infinitive

We decided to wait.

He expected to win.
We agreed to lower the price.
I want to see you about something


c) Catenative verb followed by V + ing

She loves reading.

Have you finished eating?
I'd suggest waiting for a while.


Some verbs can be used in more than one of these patterns with no change of meaning - eg help and start

They helped clear up the kitchen.
They helped to clear up the kitchen

It started raining at about two
It started to rain at about two