Among the most basic English grammar puzzlers asked of me over the years, I must admit that this one raised by Forum member Benedict last week has been the toughest and most elusive to explain: “I hope you can help me about my use of the word ‘request’ in this sentence: ‘We would like to request for the following personnel to render overtime services on Sunday.’ Did I use ‘to request for’ correctly or should it be just ‘to request’? Is there a rule to follow when using ‘request’ or ‘request for’?”
Essentially, Benedict wants to know which of these two plausible constructions of that problematic sentence is correct:
1. “We would like to request for the following personnel to render overtime services on Sunday.”
2. “We would like to request the following personnel to render overtime services on Sunday.”
It didn’t take me long to figure out that both constructions are wrong grammatically, structurally and semantically, but to give a quick explanation to Benedict without adverting to some important grammar basics wasn’t possible.
In sentence 1, the subject “we” appears to be correctly addressing and requesting a superior in the organization to authorize or order the personnel concerned to do overtime work that Sunday, but clearly the use of the word “for” throws the sense of the sentence out of kilter, making it wrongly appear that the request is being directly addressed to the personnel concerned themselves and not to their superior. (Recall that when the verb “request” is made for an object, the sentence should be in the form “request + for + object,” as in “We requested for overtime services on Sunday.” The object in sentence 1 isn’t “personnel,” but “overtime services.”)
In sentence 2, on the other hand, the subject “we” appears to be bypassing the superior altogether and directly requesting the personnel concerned to do overtime work that Sunday, which of course is a breach of organizational protocol that leaves a bad taste in the mouth, so to speak.
So, how do we get rid of the problematic elements in Benedict’s two flawed constructions to make them grammatically and semantically beyond reproach?
To begin with, I think it will be ill-advised and really not worth the effort to try to repair sentence 2 to achieve the correct sense for the sentence in question.
The simplest and most straightforward fix that I can think of is to eliminate the troublesome word “for” in sentence 1 and replace it with the conjunction “that” to introduce a subordinate clause expressing purpose or desired result. That way, sentence 1 will then look and sound right as this complex sentence: “We would like to request that the following personnel render overtime services on Sunday.”
Take note though that to make the above fix work properly, the particle “to” in the infinitive “to render” has to be dropped, making it the bare infinitive “render.” For a much clearer understanding why, do take time to check out my two-part essay in the Forum on “When to use full infinitives, bare infinitives, or gerunds” (tinyurl.com/yxkgqegp,tinyurl.com/yxpqzumw).
I trust that this discussion will adequately address Benedict’s perplexity over the usage of “request” or “request for” and clarify the usage for others similarly baffled by it.
In response to my Forum retrospective last October 24 on “Why legal papers and contracts are hard to understand” (tinyurl.com/ny6y3n3), Forum member ImeCerillo wrote: “My mentors trained me to write briefs that a non-lawyer could understand. A judge who I admired admonished a lawyer during oral argument to ‘speak in plain English.’”
I replied: “Good for you, Ime! Frankly, it shows in the quality of your English. How I wish more people — in particular lawyers — would write and speak English like you!”
(Next: Does “nor” always need “neither” to work properly?)
Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum, http://josecarilloforum.com, and on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/jacarillo. Follow him on Twitter.com, @J8Carillo. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.