#228: Recommend vs. Suggest in English | Understand Confusing Word Pairs

Jan 12, 2022 | Advanced Vocabulary, Confusing Words in English, Grammar

After years and years of learning English, do you occasionally realize that you’ve made a mistake while speaking but… you’re not really sure what the mistake was?

Perhaps something just sounded off. Or someone looked at you with that “Hmm, that didn’t sound correct but I understand what you’re saying” kind of look.

For example, how do you differentiate between the correct and appropriate use of the words ‘recommend’ and ‘suggest’ when offering advice to others?

You may use ‘recommend’ and ‘suggest’ interchangeably and struggle to clearly offer recommendations or suggestions by using the appropriate grammatical structures.

Let’s fix that.

By the end of the lesson, you will learn the clear differences between ‘recommend’ and ‘suggest’, including how and when to use them and the sentence structures you can follow for accuracy. 

Then, at the end, I have a quiz for you. So join me from start to finish.

Recommend vs. Suggest in English [Fix Common Misktakes]

Subtle Differences in Meaning

Recommend means to present something as advisable and worthy of favorability, confidence, and/or acceptance.

Most importantly, we use the verb on a more personal level, when expressing opinions based on personal experience or preferences:

Ex. I recommend watching The Queen’s Gambit; it keeps you at the edge of your seat!

Suggest: means to mention or introduce something for consideration or as a suitable option.

Unlike recommend, we use ‘suggest’ when there’s less of a personal investment and to simply express a thought

Ex. I suggest moving the launch date to next month to ensure our manufacturers are able to produce the targeted number on time. 

Scenario #1: To Share Thoughts About Something

When you want to provide an opinion related to something, the word you use will depend on whether it’s an opinion stemming from personal preferences or simply a generic thought. 

Either way, both words will use the following grammatical structure:

Recommend/Suggest + Noun Object

  • Imagine a tourist stops you to ask whether any good cafes are in the area. You might say, “I recommend the cafe down the street”.
  • On the other hand, you might be at work and think of a fitting course of action and say, “I suggest a meeting to finalize the details of the contract”.  The meeting isn’t exactly a PERSONAL recommendation, but it’s something you suggested because it seemed necessary in this situation.

Scenario #2: To Recommend/Suggest An Action

Sometimes, providing an option or an opinion may fall in the realm of a possible action. In this case, there are two structures that would be useful: 

Recommend/Suggest + Gerund


Recommend/Suggest + That + Subject + Verb


Let’s take a look at the gerund structure. 

Recommend/Suggest + Gerund

We use the gerund structure when suggesting or recommending a course of action that you hope will occur in the immediate future. 

  • I recommend ordering the house special; it never fails to please me. (The recommended action is to order)
  • The forecast shows a big storm headed this way; I suggest waiting until the storm passes before heading up north. (The suggested action is to wait.)

Once again, ‘recommend’ is used when there’s some personal investment in your advice. 


Recommend/Suggest + That + Subject + Verb

Similarly, we use the ‘that’ structure when you want to emphasize by whom the action should be completed. 

  • I recommend that you focus on doing more fieldwork before you write your dissertation.
  • I suggest that everyone uses their vacation days before the end of the year; HR will not be carrying unused days forward. 

For both structures, we use ‘suggest’ only when something is heavily based upon fact, rather than personal opinion.

Scenario #3: To Recommend Something/Someone to Someone

The final situation is specifically for using ‘recommend’. When we want to redirect someone or refer them to something, we use the following structure:

Recommend + Object + For Something/To Someone

For example, maybe you’ve read a fantastic book and want to share it with your friends. In this case you may say, “I recommend The Alchemist for your next book-club pick; it’s beautiful.

On the other hand, someone may have come to you for advice that is completely outside your level of expertise. At that point, you may choose to say, “I recommend Isabella for more information on this client; she has worked with them in the past.”

In either case, you’re using ‘recommend’ to share a personal opinion.

It’s Time for a Quiz!

Now that you’re familiar with the subtle differences and accurate structures for using recommend vs. suggest, let’s practice.

I have 4 quiz questions for you. You can share your answers in the comment section below. That is also where I’ll share the answers.

  1. The lawyer _______ that we review the proposal carefully before finalizing the terms and signing.
  2. I ________ visiting the new Holiday Market; it’s absolutely magical! 
  3. My daughter ________ the Dyson hairdryer; she said it was worth it. 
  4. Please ______ any alternative times for the meeting via email.

I look forward to hearing your responses.

~ Annemarie


P.S. Are you looking for a community to provide support, help you stay motivated, and guarantee that you grow? Check out our Confident Women Community.

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