definition 1: to put forth for consideration; propose.
example: The guidance counselor suggested several options.
example: He suggested that they go to lunch now and resume the meeting later.
example: I suggested that he limit the letter to one typed page.
example: She suggested getting outside help on the project, but nobody listened.
example: Has anyone suggested scrapping the idea and starting all over again?
definition 2: to propose as suitable for some purpose.
example: I suggested light blue for the curtains.
example: Can you suggest a good dentist in the area?
definition 3: to state as a possibility or bring to mind indirectly; imply.
example: By that remark, are you suggesting that I’m stingy?
example: This passage in the story suggests a deeper meaning.
example: The results of the study suggest that this gene is the trigger.
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Collocations: Words often used in combination with the transitive verb suggest
suggest + NOUN: ~ solution, ~ way, ~ possibility, ~ idea, ~ alternative, ~ change, ~ improvement, ~ option, ~ approach, ~ modification
Grammar note: You may have noticed that there are many examples listed for the first sense of “suggest.” The examples are there to show how the word functions grammatically. Sometimes the word “suggest” is followed by a simple noun, such as “solution,” or by a verb in its noun (-ing) form, but often it is followed by a clause beginning with “that.” It’s important to note that “suggest” does not follow the pattern used by verbs like “want” and “need.” We can say “I wanted him to do something,” but we can’t say “I suggested him to do something.” What we say is: “I suggested that he do something.”
You may wonder about the form “do” instead of “does” in the above sentence. It may not seem correct, but it is. The form being used here is an example of what is called the “subjunctive mood.” The use of the subjunctive is often to signal an action or state that is considered desirable or imperative by the subject of the sentence but is not necessarily bound to become a reality. In the example “I suggested he limit the letter to one typed page,” the subject of the sentence thinks limiting the length of the letter would be a good thing, but he or she cannot control whether or not the other person carries out the suggestion.
The subjunctive mood is not as active in English as it is in some other languages such as French or Spanish, but it does operate in English to some degree. “Present” subjunctive forms look like the infinitive form of a verb without “to.” Here are some examples that show verbs in the subjunctive. They all appear in the clause beginning with “that.”
- They demanded that she leave immediately.
- She asked that he be more punctual in the future.
- The council proposed that the city expand its bus service.
- The school requires that each student provide proof of immunization.
The third meaning of “suggest” listed above is an important one in academic writing. “Suggest” is often used, in particular, in reporting the findings of research studies. Because in the sciences it is not considered possible to absolutely prove a claim, especially by the evidence of one research study, it is common to say that the findings “suggest” a particular conclusion, as in “The results of the study suggest that this gene is the trigger.” In the clause beginning with “that,” the verb takes the typical indicative mood rather than the subjunctive. Note the use of “is” in the clause beginning with “that.” The modal verbs “may” or “might” are also common in the clause following “suggest,” as in “The results suggest that this gene may be the trigger.”