"Dare speak" vs. "dare to speak" vs "dares to speak"



Which is the most appropriate improvement in the following

I am surprised that he dares speak in such a tone to his father.

a) he dares to speak
b) he dare to speak
c) he dare speak

I think the answer should be 'c' but the book says 'a'.


Posted 2016-11-03T09:19:29.207

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– snailplane – 2016-11-03T15:05:19.460



The Cambridge dictionary makes it clear that a) and c) are possible. b) isn't, but that the original "that he dares speak" is.

Edit: BillJ has suggested that that reference does not permit c), because it is an affirmative context.

I disagree: I think that "I am surprised that" establishes a negative context. Compare:

I am surprised that he said anything at all.

"Anything" (with that meaning) and "at all" are both negative-polarity items.

Colin Fine

Posted 2016-11-03T09:19:29.207

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how can c) be correct? "Surprise" does not license a subjunctive complement. – BillJ – 2016-11-03T10:58:33.820

"dare' in a) is used as a main verb, while in c) as a modal verb – SovereignSun – 2016-11-03T11:10:00.097

1@SovereignSun I agree that it's a lexical verb in a), but auxiliary "dare" only occurs in non-affirmative contexts, which is not the case here. – BillJ – 2016-11-03T11:13:06.373

@BillJ Not in this context. You're right! – SovereignSun – 2016-11-03T11:45:55.510


According to:

The verbs need and dare sometimes function as modal (auxiliary) verbs and sometimes as regular (lexical -- which would use an infinitive) verbs. Both verbs are called "marginal modal auxiliaries." In the modal construction, we would write: "He dare not go now." "Dare he go now?" "No solder dare disobey." "No one dare predict." In the lexical construction, you could write: "He dares to go now." "He doesn't dare to go now." "Does he dare to go now?" A University Grammar of English by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum. Longman Group: Essex, England. 1993.

and this http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dare

The correct sentence is:

  • I am surprised that he dares speak in such a tone to his father.

When used as a main verb, dare does agree with its subject (If he dares to show up at her house I'll be surprised), and it does combine with do (Did anyone dare to admit it?). It may optionally take to before the verb following it: No one dares (or dares to) speak freely about the political situation.


Posted 2016-11-03T09:19:29.207

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a) he dares to speak

b) he dare to speak

c) he dare speak

The phrases "a" and "c" are grammatical, whereas the phrase "b" is not so.

The sense of the verb dare in the sentence presented is "to be rude/brave enough to do something". In this sense, the rude can be used either as a main verb or a semi-modal/auxiliary verb.

In the phrase "a", the dare has been used as a main verb. When you use a main verb in the present simple, you add s to the base form of the verb for the third person singular. So the phrase is correct grammatically; you have added s to the main verb as the subject is a third person singular. As for the use of the "to" before the infinitive speak, it's optional. However, the use of the to-infinitive is a bit more common. So the following phrase is also correct:

he dares speak, not the phrase "b" he dare to speak.

Regarding the phrase "c", the dare has been used as a semi-modal verb. Modal verbs such as, can, could, will, would, may, might, must take an infinitive without to. For examples:

He can speak. He might speak. He must speak.

So does the semi modal dare; he dare speak.


Posted 2016-11-03T09:19:29.207

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