grammatical word: insist

Today’s blog is about the verb “insist”. This can be a difficult word to use because it can function in different ways depending on the situation. Basically, it means to assert something very strongly and to refuse to accept a negative answer. However, there are three ways in which we use it which are slightly different from each other.

The first way is when one person wants another person to do something and refuses to take no for an answer. For example:

I insist that you try some of this cake. I made it just for you.

I had a cold at work yesterday. I said I would stay at work, but my boss insisted that I go home.

You have a boyfriend now. I insist that he come to our party. I really want to meet him.

Please note that we DON’T say things like “My boss insisted me to go home.”. This is completely wrong! We must use a subject (my boss) + the verb “insist” + that + another person (I) + base form of another verb (go). We always use the base form, even with “he” and “she”. Notice that in the third sentence I wrote “he come”, but NOT “he comes”: the second verb is always in the base form.

The second way is when one person wants to do something himself or herself and won’t take no for an answer. In these cases, we’re talking about only one person in the sentence, not two people. Please note that we always use the preposition “on” in these cases. For example:

My brother insisted on coming with me to the party. I hope it’s ok.

I offered to help Jerry cook the meal, but he insisted on doing everything himself.

Tracy insisted on paying for my dinner. She’s such a nice person.

The third way is when a person says something but others don’t really believe them, so they say it even more strongly to emphasize that what they said is really true. For example:

Nobody believes him, but my friend insists he saw a UFO last night.

Frank insists that he has the best cure for hiccups. I’ll try it the next time I get them.

Eve’s boyfriend got really drunk at the party, but she insists that he doesn’t usually do that.

In this case, the second verb is NOT in the base form for “he” and “she”.

I know this can be confusing, so my advice, as always, is to memorize the example sentences and then change the small details to make your own sentences. Good luck!



  1. Daniel Said:

    Hi again Mike,

    Do we have other verbs too different like that? I mean grammatically (because I thought we use … he comes…, for example).

    Can you give me some examples?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Dan.

      I really don’t know if there is a rational explanation for the subjunctive tense. It’s just the way the language has developed. I’m sure you have it in Portuguese too. I know that French has it.

      The subjunctive includes things like “If I were” (not “if I was”) as well as “I insist that he come to the party.” (not “he comes”)

      There are three other main verbs other than “insist” which use this same grammar: recommend, suggest and demand. For example:

      I recommended that he go to Hawaii for his vacation.

      I suggested that she buy a new textbook.

      I demanded that he give me a refund!

      There might be a few other verbs that use this grammar but these are the main ones that use it.

      I hope that helps.


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