the difference between words: suggest and recommend

Recently, one of my students asked me what the difference between “suggest” and “recommend” was. I thought that would make a good blog entry, so that’s what I’ll go over today.

We use “suggest” when talking about giving someone an idea in general, and we use “recommend” when telling someone that a certain choice or option is the best one. For example:

I suggest that you wear a nice suit tomorrow. The company president is going to be visiting the office.

If you want to cook delicious dishes, I suggest that you buy fresh ingredients.

My brother suggested a Greek restaurant for dinner tonight. What do you think?

I recommend that you try the chocolate cake for dessert. I think it’s the best dessert on the menu.

My friend recommended that we go to Spain for our vacation. He said it was the best country he’s ever been to.

The clerk in the bookstore recommended this book for people who are interested in Asian culture.

With the words “suggest” and “recommend” it’s very important to pay attention to the grammar because we often use a different verb tense called the subjunctive with these words. For example, many non-native English speakers say things like: “I suggest you to study economics.” or “I recommended my friend to try the apple pie.” These sentences are totally WRONG!

If you look at the example sentences I wrote above, you’ll see that the grammar is different. The grammar is as follows:

subject + suggest/recommend + that + another person + base form of the verb

It’s important to note that the verb which comes after “suggest” or “recommend” is always in the base form, even with “he” and “she”. That’s what makes this the subjunctive tense. We can also use this tense with the verbs “demand” and “insist”. Let me give you some more examples:

My friend wants to lose weight, so I suggested that he join a gym.

The waiter recommended that we not try the curry soup because it’s very spicy.

My customer demanded that I give him a refund.

My boss insisted that Pauline go home because she wasn’t feeling well.

Normally, we would say “he joins” or “Pauline goes” but, as I said before, we must always use the base form of the verb in these types of sentences.

However, if we put a noun directly after the words “suggest” or “recommend”, the sentence is not subjunctive. For example:

My brother suggested a Greek restaurant for dinner tonight. What do you think?

The clerk in the bookstore recommended this book for people who are interested in Asian culture.

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6 Comments »

  1. Klory Said:

    Wow.. That’s awesome. Your explanation is clear and easy to understand.

  2. Guillermo Said:

    can you reccomend a page with a lot of exercises about this? Thanks in advance.
    Guillermo

    • englishhelponline Said:

      The best books with exercises in them that I know of are English Grammar in Use and Essential Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy. There are exercises about all types of grammar.

  3. Erica Said:

    I Googled this question and you were the first blog to come up. Simple explanation that is easy to understand. Thank you for this.

  4. husein sharif Said:

    please what is the difference between identify and suggest? ( when used as in suggest the causes of malnutrion. after bringing out the causes do have to explain them? )

    • The word “suggest” is used when we want to give someone a new idea about something; the word “identify” is used to point out something which already exists.


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