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Limba engleza contemporana - caiet de studiu individual

Limba engleza contemporana - caiet de studiu individual

Universitatea OVIDIUS Constanta

Departamentul ID-IFR

Facultatea de Litere


Sintaxa I

Caiet de Studiu Individual

Specializarea Limba si Literatura Romana si

Limba si Literatura Engleza

Anul de studii II

Semestrul I

Unit 1





The main objectives of unit 1 are:


to define the simple sentence;

to explain the semantic structure of the simple sentence;

to recognize types of predication.


1.1 To define the simple sentence

Key words

sentence, clause, simple sentence, compound sentence, complex sentence.

Traditional grammar defined the sentence in close connection with the idea of thought ‘A sentence is an expression of a thought or feeling by means of a word or words used in such a form and manner as to convey the meaning intended’.

The sentence is a very complex linguistic object with syntactic, semantic, phonological, morphological and pragmatic properties.

At the syntactic level, the sentence is made up of constituents hierarchically organised. The minimal configuration consists of a relation of predication between an NP functioning as the Subject of the sentence and a VP functioning as Predicate of the sentence:


Subject Predicate

Det Noun Verb Particle

The  man ran away.

At the surface structure, the sentence consists of a set of lexical items corresponding to the lexical categories (Noun, Verb, Adjective, Preposition, Adverb) making up the phrasal constituents (Noun Phrase, Verb Phrase, Prepositional Phrase, Adjective Phrase, Adverb Phrase, commonly abbreviated as NP, VP, PP, AP, AdvP).

At the semantic level, a sentence is representable as a logical predication, i.e. a logical relation between a predicate and its arguments. The predicate is ‘run away’ and its only argument is the man.

At the phonological level, each sentence has a phonetic shape, an intonational contour and a graphic form. As a declarative sentence, The man ran away is spoken with a falling intonation.

At the pragmatic level, each utterance is a concrete instance of a sentence which performs a certain function in speech: expressing a wish, commanding, agreeing, etc. An interlocutor uttering The man ran away is actually making an assertion.

At the level of discourse the sentence has a corresponding information/ thematic structure so as to ensure the normal progress of information in the discourse. For instance, the man is information already known, the new information about him is that he ‘ran away’. Thus the sentence is viewed as being made up of new + old information, or THEME + RHEME (or Theme + Focus):

Our main concern is the analysis of the simple sentence at the syntactic level.

Sentence vs. clause.

Distinction should be made between the terms ‘sentence’ and ‘clause’. Sentences are units made up of one or more clauses. Sentences containing just one clause are called simple sentences. Sentences containing more than one clause are called: compound sentences (when there is a relationship of coordination between the clauses) and complex sentences (when the relationship between the clauses is that of subordination).

He went to a pub. (Simple sentence)

[He went to a pub] and [had a pint of beer]. (Compound sentence)

[He went to a pub] [after he finished his work].(Complex sentence)

The main elements of the clause structure are obligatory: Subject, Verb, Objects (Indirect Object, Direct Object, Prepositional Object). The modifying elements are optional: Adverbial Modifiers (of manner, place, time, purpose, etc.) and Adjectival Modifiers (also known as Attributes).

Clauses may be grouped according to the verb form of their predication into: finite, non-finite and verbless.

Finite clauses - whose verb form carries the markers Mood, Tense, and Aspect.

[That he is a good student] is obvious. (that-complement clause).

I do not know [where he lives].  (indirect question).

The girl [who is sitting there] is my sister. (relative clause).

Non-finite clauses - whose verb form is an infinitive, a gerund or a participle:

[To learn a foreign language] is not difficult. (infinitival clause)

[When arriving home] he found a message. (participial clause)

[On arriving home] he found a message. (gerundial clause)

Verbless clauses - whose subject and verb have been deleted.

[When in difficulty] read the book. (= when you are in difficulty)

The classification of the simple sentences according to their communicative function.

Simple sentences may be divided into four major classes that correlate different communicative functions with certain syntactic configurations:

Statements are primarily used to convey information. The subject is always present and it generally precedes the verb:

He will speak to the boss today.

Questions are primarily used to express lack of information on a specific point and to request the listener to supply this information verbally. Syntactically, they are marked by inversion of the subject and operator (auxiliary or modal verb):

Will John speak to the boss? (yes/no question)

Who will you speak to? (wh-question)

Commands are mainly used to instruct somebody to do something. They have no overt grammatical subject and the verb is in the imperative mood:

Speak to the boss today!

Exclamations are primarily used for expressing the speaker’s own feelings. They have an initial phrase introduced by what and how, without inversion of subject and operator:

What a noise they are making!

How noisy they are!

When referring to simple sentences, we use the adjectives corresponding to these four types: declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory.


Self-assessed test 1

Label the following simple sentences according to their communicative function:

What a nice day!

Eat up your vegetables, please!

Who will come later?

He has provided for his family well.

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.

1.2 To explain the semantic structure of the simple sentence


Key words

argument, adjunct, thematic role.

The semantic structure of the sentence is essential for the understanding of the relations between the constituents of the simple sentence.

The argument structure.

Every predicate requires a certain number of constituents to form a correct sentence. The obligatory constituents are called arguments, the optional ones are known as adjuncts:

[The little boy] imitates [his father] [at school].

obligatory constituent oblig. const. optional constituent.

The predicate imitate takes two obligatory constituents, i.e. two arguments (the little boy) and (his father). The arguments are the participants minimally involved in the activity or state expressed by the predicate.

Predicates that require two arguments are called two-place predicates. The two arguments are realised by the subject NP and the Object NP respectively. Thus the transitive verbs (imitate) in traditional syntax correspond to the two-place predicates, the ditransitive verbs (give) to the three-place predicates, the intransitive verbs (sneeze) to the one-place predicates:

imitate: verb 1 2 (two-place predicate)


give: verb 1 2 3 (three-place predicate)


sneeze: verb 1 (one-place predicate)


As a consequence, every predicate has its argument structure that determines which elements of the sentence are obligatory. If a speaker knows the meaning of a verb, he will also know how many participants are involved in the action denoted by the verb, and hence how many arguments the verb takes.

In addition to the arguments of a verb, a sentence may contain optional constituents (at school) known as adjuncts, i.e. constituents that provide additional information with respect to manner, place, time, cause, etc.

The subject is referred to as the external argument (i.e. the argument which is outside the VP), while the objects, which are inside the VP are called internal arguments:

John [VP gave Mary a book].

The Subject NP, John, which is outside the VP, is an external argument, the NP Mary and the NP a book are internal arguments of the verb give because they are inside the VP.

The thematic structure

Let us consider the argument structure of the verb kill:

kill: verb 1 2


The argument structure of the verb kill shows that this verb takes two arguments in order to form a simple meaningful sentence such as:

The lion killed the deer.

In the action of killing two participants are minimally involved: the one that performs the act of killing and the one that suffers the aggression. The two argument NPs (the lion, the deer) in the sentence are intuitively felt to stand in a different semantic relationship with the verb. The argument-NP the lion, in subject position, refers to the AGENT of the action of killing, while the argument-NP the deer, the DO, expresses the PATIENT of the activity.

The semantic relationships between verbs and their arguments are referred to in terms of thematic roles. The main types of thematic roles distinguished by linguists are:

AGENT/ACTOR: initiator or doer of the action;

PATIENT: person or thing which undergoes the action;

THEME: the person or thing moved by the action;

EXPERIENCER: the individual that experiences some emotional or

psychological state;

BENEFACTIVE/BENEFICIARY: the one for whose benefit the event

took place;

GOAL: the entity towards which motion takes place;

SOURCE: the entity from which motion takes place;

LOCATION: the place where something is situated;

PERCEPT: something which is experienced or perceived;

INSTRUMENT: the object with which an action is performed.

Let us illustrate the thematic roles with a number of verbs:

John gave a tip to the waiter.


Boys love adventure.


Jane stayed in Toronto.


The monster frightened the children.


This key will open that door.


Some linguists amalgamate the roles PATIENT and THEME under the role of THEME. The representation of the thematic structure of a verb is given in the form of a thematic grid (written between angled brackets < … >). Thus for the verb send the corresponding thematic grid will be:


An easy way to identify AGENTS is to check whether adverbs denoting volition and intention such as: willingly, deliberately, intentionally can be inserted into the sentence:

a. Tim deliberately rolled the ball towards the fence.

b. The ball deliberately rolled towards the fence.

Since the adverb deliberately is all right in sentence (a), but not in (b), Tim is the real performer of the action, Tim is the AGENT of the verb roll, while the ball is only a PATIENT (or THEME) in both examples.

The thematic structure is very important for the analysis of certain syntactic processes.


Self-assessed test 1.2

I. Identify the arguments and the adjuncts in the following sentences:

Model: They promised John the job last week.

obligatory obligatory obligatory optional.

‘They’, ‘John’ and ‘the job’ are obligatory constituents in the structure of the sentence, therefore they are arguments of the verb. ‘Last week’ is an optional constituent, an adjunct.

The huge bear frightened the spectators during the performance.

The old man walked slowly.

The enemy destroyed the city in a few days.

II. Find out what thematic roles are assigned by the verbs to their arguments:

Model: Mary cooked her father dinner.


The thematic grid of the verb ‘cook’ is.


Betsy went from Montreal to Toronto.

Anne lives in London.

Jane stole a book from Helen.

The radio is sending messages into the air.

This key will open that door.

Lucy saw the monster.

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.


1.3 To recognize types of predication


The classification of sentences according to the type of verb.

The traditional classification of verbs into: copulative, intransitive and transitive (monotransitive, ditransitive, complex transitive) determines a variety of types and subtypes of sentences. The following classification of sentences according to the syntactic properties of the verb gives a sketchy, easy to remember account of all possible sentence configurations. Many of the subtypes of simple sentences mentioned below can be expanded into complex sentences by replacing certain phrasal constituents with clausal ones.

Copulative Predicate Configuration.

In sentences belonging to this type, predication is realized by a copula be or a copulative-like verb: become, taste, remain, etc.

Subtype 1: Subject + cop.V + Predicative.

This computer is better.

A second type of sentences with a copulative type of predication includes in its structure an indirect or a prepositional object:

Subtype 2:

a. With IO: Subject + cop.V + Predicative + Indirect Object

The decision was surprising to us.

b. With PO: Subject + cop.V + Predicative + Prepositional Object

The men were pleased with the news.

Clausal constituents. This subtype of sentences may have one constituent, the Prepositional Object, expressed by a PP or a clause (that-complement clause, infinitival clause or gerundial clause):

He was pleased [with her answer].

He was pleased [to find out the truth].

He was pleased [that we identified the problem].

When the PO is realised by a that-complement clause or an infinitival clause, the preposition is deleted. In the case of the gerundial clause, the preposition is preserved:

That man was afraid [of dogs].

That man was afraid of [being bitten by dogs].

That man was afraid [that nobody would believe him].

Intransitive predicate configurations.

These configurations are predicated by intransitive verbs including the existential be and, depending on the number of their constituents, such sentences can be grouped into three subtypes:

Subtype 1: Subject +Vi

The baby smiled.

The dog barked.

These configurations may include optional Adverbial Modifiers of different kinds: manner, place, time, purpose, cause, etc.:

They were working (hard) (in the schoolyard) (at 5).

manner place time

Clausal constituents. Some verbs such as seem or happen take a clause as their logical subject and the expletive pronoun it as grammatical subject:

It seems [that prices will go down].

It happened [that Gloria was missing].

Subtype 2 Subject + V + IO/PO.

This configuration is predicated by the so-called complex-intransitive verbs. These intransitive verbs take an obligatory PP which may function as an IO, where the preposition is to or for:

They finally submitted [PP to the enemy].

He was looking [PP for a new friend].

A subgroup of prepositional verbs may take clauses functioning as POs:

Jack insisted on [our coming earlier]. (gerundial clause)

Jack insisted [that we should come earlier].

(that complement clause)

Subtype 3 Subject + V + IO/PO + PO.

Complex intransitive verbs may take two prepositional objects:

He will lecture [PP to us] [PP on Greek philology].

We argued [PP with the waiter] [PP about the price].

Transitive predicate configurations

All these predications are two-term configurations, the second term being a DO:

Subtype 1: Subject + V + DO.

Mother sliced the roast beef.

Clausal constituents. The DO may be expressed by a that-complement clause, and infinitival clause, a gerundial clause or an indirect question:

She knows [that you are lying].

They wanted [to see the movie again].

She likes [being praised].

She didn’t know [why she had been punished].

Sub-type 2: Subject + V + DO + IO.

These configurations are predicated by ditransitive verbs i.e. verbs that take both a DO and an IO:

The girl offered [NP the bunch of flowers] [PP to the soloist].

He will buy [NP a silk blouse] [PP for his girlfriend].

With some verbs there occur various types of embedded clauses functioning as DOs. The IO is often deleted:

She promised (me) [that she would leave soon]

(that-complement clause).

He explained (to us) [why the experiment had failed]

(indirect question).

Sub-type 3: Subject + V + DO + PO.

These configurations contain transitive verbs with obligatory preposition:

The jury accused him [PP of murder].

The man took him [PP for his brother].

Clauses may function as Prepositional Objects, with deletion of the preposition before that-complement clauses and infinitive clauses, but not before gerundial clauses:

I reminded him of his promise.

I reminded him of [his having to leave earlier].

I reminded him [that he should leave earlier].

I reminded him [to leave earlier].

Sub-type 4: Subject + V + DO + Adv Place/Direction.

In such configurations the DO is obligatorily followed by an Adverbial Modifier of Place or Direction:

He placed the volume [on the upper shelf].


The purpose of this section has been to define the notion of sentence and to provide an overview of the different types of sentence classifications. Sentences may be classified according to the type of predication into copulative, intransitive and transitive configurations. By replacing one of the constituents with a clause, the simple sentence becomes a complex sentence (which entails a relationship of subordination).


Send-away assignment


Identify the constituents of types of sentences and state what kind of predication they illustrate:

Model: People are complaining about the traffic.

Subject + intransitive Verb + Prepositional Object.

The sentence is an example of an intransitive predicate


The accused convinced the court of his innocence.

Henry taught the children French.

She became a horse race trainer.

He was reasonable about her decision.

He quarrelled with his friends about the projected trip.

Isabel suddenly appeared.

She was convinced of his loyalty.


Answers and comments to self-assessed questions


Answers 1.1

exclamative, 2. imperative, 3. interrogative, 4. declarative.

Answers 1.2


‘the huge bear’ argument, ‘the spectators’ argument, ‘during the performance’ adjunct.

‘the old man’ argument, ‘slowly’ adjunct.

‘the enemy’ argument, ‘the city’ argument, ‘in a few days’ adjunct.









Unit 2





The main objectives of Unit 2 are:


to recognize the syntactic properties of auxiliary verbs;

to identify the syntactic properties of modal verbs.


2.1 To recognize the syntactic properties of auxiliary verbs

Key words

auxiliary verb, modal verb, predication, predicate.

The sentence is made up of a subject and a predicate. The predicate contains two constituents: the auxiliary and the lexical verb. The modal verbs, be, and have occupy a position inside the AUX constituent. Consider the position of the modals and the auxiliaries in the following examples:

John must do his duty.


John may be working in the garden.

modal be-ing

John may have been working in the garden.

modal have-en be-ing

The book may have been written by his sister.

modal have-en be-en

It is obvious that co-occurring modals and auxiliaries appear in a certain order, which has been formalized in the following syntactic representation of the predicate phrase:

(modal) (have–en) (be–ing) (be–en)

where: –en stands for the past participle of the lexical verb

–ing stands for the present participle of the lexical verb

(have–en) are the markers of the perfect aspect

(be–ing) are the markers of the progressive aspect

(be–en) are the markers of the passive voice


Consider the examples:

Jane has written the essay. (perfect aspect)

Jane is writing the essay. (progressive aspect)

The letter is written by Jane. (passive voice)

The auxiliary verb have occurs with the past participle of lexical verbs to indicate perfect (perfective) aspect, be occurs with the present participle (-ing form) to mark the progressive aspect on the lexical verb, and with the past participle (-ed form) to mark the passive voice.

The auxiliary verbs have and be take part in the syntactic processes of interrogation and negation.

1. The auxiliary is moved in pre-subject position in yes-no questions, wh-questions and tag questions, except when the question is addressed to the subject of the affirmative sentence:

Has he seen Mary? yes -no question

Whom has he seen? wh-question

Who has seen Mary? wh-question addressed to the subject

He has seen Mary, hasn’t he? tag-question

Are you writing a letter? yes -no question

What are you writing? wh-question

Who is writing a letter? wh-question addressed to the subject

You are writing a letter, aren’t you? tag-question

2. In negative sentences the negative marker not is inserted after the auxiliary:

You have not seen Mary.

You are not writing a letter.

When the negation occurs in its contracted form n’t, it is attached to the auxiliary with which it forms a single phonological unit:

You haven’t seen Mary.

You aren’t writing a letter.

It is also possible to combine the pronominal subject with the contracted form of the auxiliary, while the negator remains in its full form:

You’re not ready.


DO is an auxiliary verb which helps or ‘supports’ certain syntactic processes on the lexical verb when there is no already available auxiliary in the sentence, i.e. when the lexical verb is in the present and past simple tense. DO-support is required in: interrogation, negation, ellipsis and emphasis:

The auxiliary DO precedes the subject in yes-no questions, in wh-questions, tag questions:

You like my new hat. Do you like my new hat?

What do you like?

You like my hat, don’t you?

The negative word not is attached to the auxiliary DO, with which it can appear in a contracted form:

I don’t like your new hat.

Negative imperatives also require do-support:

Don’t worry!

Don’t move!

The auxiliary DO is used in ellipsis. When repetition must be avoided, the auxiliary verb DO replaces a whole sentence in the following structures:

a. In short answers to yes-no questions, DO stands for the whole predicate:

Do you like my new hat? Yes, I like your new hat.

Do you like my new hat? Yes, I do.

b. The auxiliary DO substitutes repeated material in coordinate structures introduced by and so, and neither:

[I arrived late] and [my friend arrived late, too].

[I arrived late] and [so did my friend].

[He didn’t like coffee] and [his wife didn’t like coffee, either].

[He didn’t like coffee] and [neither did his wife].

c. DO is inserted to avoid repetition in comparative clauses introduced by the conjunction than:

Mary works harder [than her sister works].

Mary works harder [than her sister does].

The auxiliary DO is used as a means of emphasizing in the following constructions:

a. DO emphasizes a positive statement, often introduced by the coordinating conjunction but, in contrast with a preceding negative one:

My teacher thinks I didn’t study for my test, but I studied.

(neutral statement)

My teacher thinks I didn’t study for my test, but I did study.

(emphatic statement).

b. The emphatic auxiliary DO co-occurs with a negative expressions such as the adverb never:

The letter we were expecting never arrived.  (neutral statement).

The letter we were expecting never did arrive.(emphatic statement)

c. DO appears in the main clause when it stands in contrast with a concessive clause:

Although I have little time for entertainment, I go to the theatre once in a while. (neutral)

Although I have little time for entertainment, I do go to the theatre once in a while. (emphatic)

He has money, but it’s all tied up in property. (neutral)

He does have money, but it’s all tied up in property. (emphatic)

d. DO co-occurs with emphatic adverbs (definitely, positively, certainly) in answers to yes-no questions:

‘Do you remember how beautiful she was’?

‘Oh, I remember.’ (neutral)

‘I certainly do remember.’ (emphatic)

e. An affirmative imperative does not allow do-support unless it is emphatic. Emphatic imperatives occur especially in British English to express an entreaty:

Come to the party tonight! (neutral)

Do come to the party tonight. (emphatic)


Self-assessed test 2

Identify auxiliary verbs in the following sentences and state what tense, aspect and voice they indicate:

The cashier is taking the money from the customers.

We have been looking for those papers for hours.

The ship sank four hours after it had hit the iceberg.

The report was written yesterday.

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.

2.2 To identify the syntactic properties of modal verbs


Key words

modal verbs, periphrastic modals.

Modals add to the lexical verb a special semantic component such as ability, obligation, possibility. Syntactically they have certain properties that make them similar to auxiliary verbs. The most striking characteristics of the English modals are the so-called NICE properties, where NICE is an acronym of negation, inversion, code, emphatic affirmation.

Negation can attach to the modal, in an uncontracted or in a contracted form:

I cannot swim.

I can’t swim.

Inversion of the subject with the modal is possible in yes-no questions, wh-questions, tag questions:

Must they leave?

When must they leave?

They must leave, mustn’t they?

Modal verbs appear in coordinate clauses introduced by and so (also known as ‘coda’ or coordinate so-clauses):

She can come and so can Bill.

She can come and so does Bill.

Emphatic affirmation is also possible:

You will have the money by tomorrow.  (neutral statement).

You shall have the money by tomorrow. (emphatic statement).

Such properties clearly show that modal verbs behave like the class of auxiliaries verbs.

Modal verbs also evince other syntactic properties which qualify them as a distinct class of verbs. All examples marked by an asterisk (*) are ungrammatical.

5. They are incompatible with non-finite forms, i.e. they cannot appear as a present participle, a past participle, or as an infinitive:

*They are canning to speak English now.

*To can or not to can, that is the question.

*They have canned speak English for a long time.

6. They are incompatible with agreement, i.e. they do not bear the -(e)s or -ed ending marking agreement with the subject in person and number:

*He cans speak English.

7. They always select a short infinitive as their complement:

*They can to speak English.

8. They have no passive form:

*English is canned by millions of people.

9. They do not occur in imperative sentences:

*Can speak English, please!

10. They cannot co-occur, with the exception of certain dialects, that allow the use of two modal verbs in the same sentence:

You might would say that. (Southern US dialect).

I don’t feel as if I should ought to leave. (Southern US dialect).

11. Some modals have two tense forms (present and past: can-could, shall-should, will-would):

He can swim.

He could swim when he was younger.

He says he will come in time.

He said he would come in time.

Some have a past tense form which can only be used in reported speech:

She may leave immediately.

The boss said [she might leave immediately].

Others have only one form which can be used in past contexts (in reported speech) as well, but under certain conditions:

They must leave immediately.

The boss said [they must leave immediately].

12. The modal is always the first verb in a finite verbal group, i.e. it cannot be preceded by any other auxiliary:

They may have been punished for what they have done.

We might have gone about half a mile.

All these properties clearly point out the fact that modals have a non-lexical status, although they have a semantic contour, i.e. they can semantically cover such notions as possibility, probability, necessity, volition, obligation and permission.


Self-assessed test 2.2

Comment on the syntactic properties of the modal verbs in the following:

1. You can’t eat all those sweets.

2. I should have listened to them, shouldn’t I?

3. Alcoholic drinks may not be sold anywhere without a licence.

4. How could you improve this land?

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.




Instead of summary

You have come to the end of Unit 2.

I recommend to you that you revise the main topics of this unit. It is time for you to do the send-away assignment and hand it to your course instructor.


Send-away assignment


I.         Which are the main syntactic features of the auxiliary verbs?

II.       To what extent are modal verbs similar to auxiliary verbs?

III. Discuss the status of the verb HAVE: lexical, auxiliary or semi-modal.

My friend has a new car.

My library card has to be renewed.

I have always worked in the morning.

I will marry her tomorrow if she will have me.

IV. Decide whether BE is used as an auxiliary (marker of aspect or voice), a copulative verb or a lexical verb:

They will be having dinner at this time tomorrow.

The air was full of thunder.

There were no footsteps to be seen.

Be positive. There is always the chance that it may get better.

The letter was written by Kate.

That museum of archaeology is in London.

V. State whether DO is used as an auxiliary or as a lexical verb:

I’ve finished the phone calls and I’ll do the letters tomorrow.

The company didn’t do very well last year.

She doesn’t do much but what she does do, she does very well.

Victor said he would phone when he was done.

What did you do yesterday?

‘Laura swims very well’. ‘Yes, she does swim well, but I can swim



Answers and comments to self-assessed questions


Answers 2.1

1. is: present tense, progressive aspect.

2. have: present tense, perfect aspect; been: progressive aspect.

3. had: past tense, perfect aspect.

4. was: past tense, passive voice.

Answers 2.2

1. can: negative marker attached in a contracted form.

2. shouldn’t: inversion with the subject in a tag question, contracted negation.

3. may not: negative form uncontracted.

4. could: inverted in wh-question.




1. Avram L., English Syntax, The Structure of the Root Clauses, Bucuresti: Oscar Print, 2003.

2. Baker C. L., English Syntax, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1995.

3. Downing A., Locke P., A University Course in English Grammar, Phoenix ELT, Hertfordshire, 1995.

4. Serban D., English Syntax, vol. I, Bucharest: Bucharest University Press, 1982.


Unit 3





The main objectives of unit 3 are:


to define copulative predication;

to distinguish between types of intransitive verbs;

to recognize the syntactic and semantic classes of transitive verbs.


3.1 To define copulative predication


Key words

copulative predication, link verb, predicative

The structure of the copulative predicate

A copulative predicate consists of a copulative (link/ linking) verb and a predicative. The Predicative may be adjectival or nominal:

a.        Mary is [AP buxom].  (be + AP)

b.       Mary is [NP his fiancée].  (be + NP)

c.        Mary is [PP of his age]. (be + PP)

d.       Mary’s hobby is [collecting stamps]. (be + Gerundial Clause)

e.        Her dream is [to marry my son]. (be + Infinitival Clause)

f.        The trouble is [that they are too young]. (be + that-Compl. cl.)

The adjectival predicative it is expressed by an Adjectival Phrase in (a). The nominal predicative is realized by a Noun Phrase in (b), a Prepositional Phrase in (c) or a clause (gerundial clause, infinitival clause or that-complement clause) in (d,e,f).

The copulative/link verb

The first component of the copulative predication is the link verb, which fulfills certain functions in the predication:

John is rude.

John was/ will be/ has been/ had been/ is being rude.

The role of the copulative verb be as a part of the predicate is threefold:

1. to ‘link’ or connect the Subject to the Predicative;

2. to realize agreement with the Subject NP in person and number;

3. to indicate Tense and Aspect.

There are two types of copulative verbs:

a. Semantically empty/dummy: be

b. Semantically poor verbs: become, go, rum remain, rest, lie, stand, etc.

A list of semantically poor linking verbs would also include: appear (happy), become/ come (true), fall (sick), feel (annoyed), got (ready), go (sour), grow (tired), look (dejected), remain (uncertain), run (wild), seem (restless), smell (sweet), sound (surprised), taste (bitter), turn (sour), etc. Obviously, the copular uses of these verbs must be distinguished from their intransitive uses:

She sat tight for fear. (link verb)

She sat in an armchair. (intransitive verb)

The horse ran wild. (link verb)

The horse ran into the woods. (intransitive verb)

Her parents grew old. (link verb)

Her parents grew vegetables. (transitive verb)

The Predicative.

The second component of the copulative predication is the Predicative The predicative is referentially dependent on the NP-Subject, to which it assigns an attribute or an identity. The identifying predicative is typically reversible:

The usherette was very nice. (attributive predicative)

The usherette was Jane. (identifying predicative)

Subject Predicative

Jane was the usherette.

Subject Predicative.

The Adjectival Predicative

The adjectives that are used predicatively may be non-derived or derived: deverbal or denominal. Deverbal adjectives that appear in Predicative Adjective positions are: adjectives converted from present or past participles (-ing or -en) or derived by suffixation or prefixation.

a.        The task has been easy. (non-derived adjective)

b.       His attitude has been hypocritical. (denominal adjective)

c.        His answer was amazing. (deverbal adjective)

d.       She was disappointed. (deverbal adjective)

A series of Predicative Adjectives are derived by suffixation from transitive verbs (to forget, to envy, to hope, to provoke, to regret) whose DO thus becomes PO: forgetful about something, envious of something, hopeful of/about something, provocative of something, regretful about something, etc. These adjectives are more frequently used in formal style:

Mary regretted [the incident].


Mary is regretful [about the incident].


There are certain adjectives in English that can only occur as predicatives. They indicate state or condition, are prefixed by a- and may take a preposition: ablaze, afraid, aghast, akin, ajar, alike, alive, alone, ashamed, askew, asleep, averse, awake, etc.

The man was alive.

The town was ablaze [PP with lights].

He is averse [PP to hard work].

Such adjectives cannot be used as attributes (*an alive man,*an ablaze town).

The Nominal Predicative may be expressed by a NP, a PP or a clause.

Nominal Predicatives realized by an indefinite NP such as: a shame, a pity, no wonder, no doubt, etc. express the speaker’s attitude:

It is a pity [that he should have behaved so rudely].


Nominal predicatives realized by a PP take an obligatory preposition, i.e. the preposition is fixed, it cannot be replaced by any other preposition. Often, nominal predicatives introduced by a preposition are parts of idioms:

above: His behaviour was [PP above reproach].

between: This is [PP between you and me].

beyond: The car was [PP beyond repair]. (idiom)

on: The drinks were [PP on the house]. (idiom)

with: We shall be [PP with you all the time].

within: These facts are [PPwithin the scope of our inquiry].

The nominal predicative is quite well represented in English particularly in the idiomatic area.



Self-assessed test 3.1

State how the predicatives in the following sentences are realized:

The city by night looked medieval and cosmopolitan.

What I don’t enjoy is standing in queues.

Now the only thing to do is to admit the error.

Now the danger is that no one will hear a cry for help.

Their concern is where the conference is going to take place.

Within two years the pact lay in ruin.

Helen is a good student.

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.



3.2 To distinguish between types of intransitive verbs



Key words

intransitive verb, phrasal verb, prepositional verb.

Intransitive predications minimally contain the Subject of the sentence and the intransitive verb:

The baby was sleeping.

Subject intransitive verb.

Intransitive verbs are of two types: simple and complex. Simple intransitive verbs require the presence of only one obligatory constituent of the sentence, the Subject. Complex intransitive verbs take, in addition to the Subject, a Prepositional Object, an Adverbial Modifier or a Predicative Adjunct.

Syntactic configurations with intransitive verbs.

1. Simple intransitive verbs appear in structures with only one other constituent, the NP subject. However, they may take optional constituents: Prepositional Objects, as well as Adverbial Modifiers of various kinds:

Daffodils and crocuses bloom in the spring. (adverbial of time)

Our troops have advanced two miles. (quantifying adverbial)

The baby was crying bitterly. (adverbial of manner)

His health collapsed under the pressure of work.(adverb. of cause)

The thief vanished into the crowd. (adverbial of place)

Simple Intransitive verbs + Particle (also known as Phrasal Verbs) evince a high degree of idiomaticity and may be grouped according to the meaning of the particle:

a. The Particles with the strongest meaning are the locative and directional ones (along, away, back, by, down, forth, forward, in, off, on, out, past, round, through, under, up, etc.):

The price of food will go up.

To complete the ceremony, a hundred planes will fly past.

Several trees fell down in the last night’s storm.

b. Aspectual particles refer to the temporal dimension of the event, i.e. they indicate the beginning, the continuation or the ending of an activity). The same particles as above are used to suggest the ingressive (incipient) character of the event:

All the villagers have set out looking for the missing child.

The next morning they set about cleaning the house.

He set off on a trip to Mexico.

The durative aspect is rendered by on and away which indicate the continuation of the event. Most verbs combine freely with on (to speak on, work on, walk on, eat on, read on, etc.). Away is more limited contextually.

Let us walk on a bit further before we stop to eat.

I'm sorry I interrupted. Please, read on.

You have been working away since the early hours of this morning.

The terminative (egressive) aspect is rendered by combinations of intransitive verbs with the particles: out, away, through, off and up:

That style of music died out ten years ago.

The storm should pass away before dark.

Eat up your vegetables, there's a good girl!

Simple intransitives + reflexive pronoun.

Simple intransitives which take a reflexive pronoun are called reflexive verbs. English has few inherent reflexive verbs and these are rather obsolete (to comport oneself, to demean oneself, etc.). Most verbs that take a reflexive pronoun can also be used as simple transitive verbs:

She washed herself. (reflexive verb)

She washed the shirt. (transitive verb)

Reflexive verbs that occur in configurations with obligatory prepositions are also called prepositional reflexive verbs. The following inherent reflexive verbs co-occur with a PP: to absent oneself from something, to pride oneself on something, etc.:

He deliberately absented himself from the meeting.

She prides herself on her skill as a gardener.

There is a subclass of prepositional verbs that can appear either as reflexive verbs or as (in)transitives:

to accustom oneself to sth. - to accustom sb to sth.

to acquaint oneself with sth. - to acquaint sb. with sth.

to abandon oneself to sth. - to abandon sb. to sth.

to congratulate oneself (up)on sth.- to congratulate oneself (up)on sth.

The lawyer acquainted himself with the details of the case.

Please, acquaint me with the facts of the case.

He abandoned himself to despair.

They abandoned their lands and property to the invading forces.

2. Complex Intransitives.

Complex intransitives are two-place predicates, i.e. they take the Subject as a left neighbour of the verb and a Prepositional Object or an Adverbial Modifier as a right neighbour. Complex intransitive verbs can be grouped into the following:

Prepositional Intransitives are verbs obligatorily followed by a PO:

A young West German broke [PP into military computer networks].

He has provided [PP for his family] well.

Intransitives + Particle + Preposition are phrasal verbs that take a fixed preposition followed by its Object:

Modern medicines have not done away [PP with disease].


Everyone comes up [PP with discrimination] sooner or later.


I cannot put up [PP with your behavior] any longer.

Intransitives with Prepositional Indirect Object marked by the preposition to. These are eventive verbs (happen to sb.), verbs of seeming (seem to sb., appear to sb.), verbs of mental process (occur to sb.), of perception (sound, taste) and relational verbs (that express possession: belong, pertain or inferiority relations: submit to sb./sth., yield/succumb to sth.):

What has happened [to the old man]?

It seems [to me] that she is a bright student.

That possibility had never occurred [to anyone].

The cake tastes funny [to me].

This myth belongs [to some tribe in Western Australia].

The protesters surrendered [to the police] after about an hour.

Intransitives with two Prepositional Objects. A first subclass includes verbs with an IO and a PO (which indicates the topic, the cause or the purpose of the action):

He lectured [PP to undergraduates] [PP on Economic History].

Those women appealed [PP to the President][PP against deportation].


Another subclass includes verbs that take as a first Object a with-NP, indicating a human participant in the respective activity:

We argued [PP with the waiter] [PP about the price of the meal].

He discussed [PP with his friends] [PP about the game].




Self-assessed test 3

Identify the type of Adverbial Modifiers taken by the simple intransitive verbs in the following examples:

The performance lasted for three hours.

The house stands by the hill.

I think he has acted quite well.

He has always behaved decently.

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.



3.3 To recognize the syntactic and semantic classes of transitive verbs



Transitive verbs require the obligatory presence of a Direct Object in the sentence. Transitive verbs are of two types: simple and complex. Sentences with simple transitive verbs have the structure Su + V + DO. Complex transitive verbs take, in addition to the Direct Object another obligatory constituent, which can be a Prepositional Object or a Predicative. The structure of sentences with complex transitive verbs would be: Su + V + DO + PO/Predicative.

1 Simple transitive verbs.

The great majority of transitive verbs in English express human activities, events in which humans play the AGENT role. The typical thematic role of the Direct Object is that of THEME, but other thematic roles may be assigned, as well:

They decorated the house.


The news surprised Mary.


Mary loves dogs.


The museum acquired a new painting.


That bomb destroyed the whole city.


Transitive verbs that take a DO and an IO are called ditransitive verbs. Some of these verbs (give, send, offer) allow the DO to change positions with the IO. This is called the dative alternation:

John gave a book to Mary. (oblique object construction)


John gave Mary a book. (double object construction)


In the oblique object construction the IO follows the DO and it is introduced by the preposition to, while in the double object construction the IO occurs immediately after the verb without a preposition. Other ditransitive verbs (buy, cook, make) take a DO and an IO with the thematic role of Beneficiary, which can change positions. This is called the benefactive alternation:

John bought a book for Mary.

DO IO Beneficiary.

John bought Mary a book.

IO Beneficiary DO

Not all ditransitive verbs allow the alternation of the objects. There are ditransitive verbs like explain, recommend, prescribe, describe as in (a), that can only occur in the oblique object construction, while other ditransitive verbs like spare, cost, envy as in (b) appear only in the double object construction:

a) He recommended the book to his students. (oblique object constr.)

*He recommended his students the book.(double object constr.)

b) The judge spared John the ordeal. (double object construction)

*The judge spared the ordeal to John. (oblique object construction)

Simple transitive verbs (also known as monotransitive can be grouped according to the type of Object or Subject they select.

Types of monotransitive verbs grouped according to the Object they select.

a. Transitives with affected object.

This group includes monotransitives which indicate activities associated with affected objects: break (a china, a bowl, a window), brush (a hat, a coat), burn (paper, oil), catch (a ball, a train), clean (a room, a skirt), clear (a desk, the table), close/shut (a door), eat (vegetables), etc.

The students carried banners.

The woman cleared the table.

A group apart includes verbs which take as Direct Objects nouns denoting parts of the human body. The respective NPs are determined by possessives which are co-referent with the NP-Subject of the sentence: bump (one’s head), clap (one’s hands), clean (one’s nails), close (one’s eyes), drag (one’s feet), fix (one’s hair), shrug (one’s shoulders), snap (one’) fingers, etc.

The childreni clapped theiri hands.

Many peoplei shrugged theiri shoulders when asked their preferences.

The index attached to the possessive indicates co-referentiality with the NP-Subject (i.e. the subject NP and the possessive refer to the same human being).

b. Transitives with effected/resultative object often take a PO, to which they assign the role of the BENEFICIARY: build (a shelter), carve (a statue), compose (music), cook (cakes), erect (a monument), make (a toy), manufacture (goods), produce (goods), write (poems):

Grandma is knitting a shawl for her niece.

They erected a monument to the regiment.

Su DO PO (Beneficiary)

With some transitive verbs the effected object may also be a [+abstract] noun: to build (up) (a scheme, business, reputation), to clear one’s conscience, to embroider a story, to manufacture (an excuse, a story), to frame a plan/theory.

They constructed a raft.

The allies constructed a new strategy.

They manufacture goods.

They had manufactured the terrorist story.

A special type of effected object is the so-called ‘Cognate Object’ taken by inherently intransitive verbs which are reinterpreted as transitive verbs: to smile a smile, to dream an melancholy dream, to sleep the sleep of the just, to live a myriad lives, etc.:

They live entirely artificial lives.

He smiled an amiable smile.

Types of monotransitive verbs grouped according to the Subject they select.

Monotransitive verbs can be grouped according to the type of Subject they select.

a. The subject may be expressed by a [+/-human] noun with verbs such as: elucidate, illustrate, rationalize, solve, etc. or a [+abstract] noun with verbs like: denote, imply, presuppose, entail, etc.

The boy couldn’t solve the puzzle.


His suggestion finally solved the problem.


His deficit presupposes an increase in government revenue.


b. Psychological verbs may have the EXPERIENCER role in Subject position: love, admire, adore, despise, appreciate, respect, etc., or in Object position: entertain, surprise, amaze, astonish, embarrass, bore, please, etc., hence the label used for such verbs: Subject Experiencer and Object Experiencer verbs, respectively:

People adore political leaders. (Subject Experiencer verb)


The clown entertains the children. (Object Experiencer verb)


The speech surprised the audience. (Object Experiencer verb)


With Object Experiencer verbs the NP in Subject position has the role of AGENT, when it is [+human], or CAUSE, when it is [-human].

Types of monotransitives grouped according to their verbal meaning.

According to the meaning they convey, monotransitive verbs are of two types: relational and causative.

a. Relational verbs express symmetric or asymmetric relations between their arguments.

Symmetric relations are expressed by reciprocal verbs (marry, divorce, embrace, kiss, meet, resemble, etc.). They allow the Subject and the Object to change positions:

Mary resembles Jane. He divorced his wife.

Jane resembles Mary. His wife divorced him.

The asymmetric relations express inclusion (contain, hold, comprise, include), possession (have, own, possess) and acquisition (get, acquire, receive, appropriate):

The chapter comprises/includes 3 sections.

The dog has fluffy ears.

He acquired the necessary information.

b. Causative verbs are transitive verbs that express direct causation of an event (cause, make, get) or an event in which causation is implied: kill (cause sb. to die), teach (cause sb. to learn), etc. Syntactically causative constructions are all transitive, owing to the fact that causation implies two participants/roles: a causer and an affected or an effected (resulting) entity.

The war caused great human losses.

Causer effected (result).

The war caused numberless people to die.

Causer affected.

Causative verbs are of three types: periphrastic, lexical and morphological.

a. Periphrastic causatives. This group of verbs includes: cause, determine, make, have, get, which have a very general causative meaning. The verb cause is the most general causative:

a. The computerization of industry caused unemployment.

b. The argument caused a sudden parting with his friends.

Semantically, they render the idea of causation neutrally, with the exception of have and get which may have an additional tinge of compulsion or order:

I’ll have the gardener plant some trees.

(= I will order him to plant some trees).

She gets Stuart to help her. (= She will ask Stuart to help her).

b. Lexical causatives. This group includes causative verbs that express causation indirectly. They can be paraphrased by means of the periphrastic causative verb to cause:

Brutus killed Caesar. Brutus caused Caesar to die.

The causative verb kill has the intransitive pair die, which denotes the final stage into which the PATIENT, Caesar, gets. Other examples of lexical causatives are:

convince (cause sb. to believe) entertain (cause sb. to rejoice at sth.)

give (cause sb. to have sth.)  persuade (cause sb. to believe or act)

propel (cause sth. to advance)  put (cause sth. to be (in a place)

ruin (cause sth. to collapse)  remind (cause sb. to remember)

send (cause sb. to receive) teach (cause sb. to learn)

c. Morphological causatives are causative verbs derived either from adjectives or from nouns by means of two word-formation processes: conversion and affixation.

A great number of causative transitive verbs are converted from adjectives which denote an attribute acquired as a result of a cause.

Conversion: to bare, better, calm, clean, clear, dirty, dry, dull, empty, free, tidy.

She cooled the soup. (Adj. coolàV to cool)

(=She caused the soup to come to be cool).

Affixation produces causative verbs by attaching prefixes, suffixes or both of them to adjectives:

a. prefixation:

dis-: disable, discontent, disjoint, disquiet

en-: enlarge, enrich, ensure, entame

b. suffixation:

-ize: americanize, civilize, clacissize, commercialize

functionalize, humanize, legalize, popularize, urbanize

-en: blacken, broaden, darken, deepen, harden, lessen, lighten,

shorten, smoothen, soften, thicken, whiten

Similar causative derivatives have nouns as their sources. The same word-formation processes: conversion and derivation produce a great number of causative verbs.

Conversion: to age, to cream, to decay, to heat, to ornament, to plant;


a. prefixation:

de-: decolour, deforest, deform, defrost, derail, dethrone

dis-: disarm, discourage, discover, discredit, disfavour

dishonour, disillusion, disinterest, displace, disregard

en-: encage, encode, encourage, enslave, entitle

b. suffixation:

-en: hearten, heighten, strengthen, swiften

-ify: acidify, beautify, personify

-ize: carbonize, computerize, idealize, jeopardize, robotize

standardize, summarize, etc.

Both derivational processes (prefixation and suffixation) yield causatives such as: acclimatize, deactivate, decentralize, demoralize, denaturalize, devitalize, enlighten, dishearten, etc. As concerns productivity, morphological causatives are only mildly (quasi) productive today, with the exception of derivatives ending in -ize (computerize).

2. Complex transitive verbs.

Complex transitive verbs take a Direct Object followed by a Prepositional Object, an Adverbial Modifier or a Predicative.

a.       Transitives with Prepositional Object.

Verbs belonging to this group take a [+human] Subject NP, a [+human] Direct Object NP and a [+/-abstract] Prepositional Object NP: accuse sb. of sth., acquaint sb. with sth., advise sb. of/about sth., blame sb. for sth., bully sb. into sth., charge sb. with sth., congratulate sb. on/for sth., convince sb. of sth., discourage sb. from sth., inform sb. of/about sth., instruct sb. in sth., notify sb. of sth., remind sb. of sb., reproach sb. with sth., suspect sb. of sth., thank sb. for sth., warn sb. of/about sth.:

The lawyer will acquaint you with the facts.

The men blamed him for his failure.

Semantically most of these verbs denote inter-human relationships.

b.       Transitives with Adverbial Modifier.

Some motion verbs take a Direct Object and an Adverbial of Place. They indicate a change of position, caused by a movement performed by an Agent:

She laid the blanket over the sleeping child.

Mother removed the dishes from the table.

c.        Transitive verbs with Predicative Adjunct.

Verbs belonging to this class take an affected Direct Object followed by a Predicative (also known as Object Complement):

She painted the door white.

(=She painted the door. The door was white).

Helen shot the man dead.(=Helen shot the man.The man was dead)

DO Predicative.

With the causative verbs (appoint, designate, name, christen, nominate,etc.) the Predicative denotes the name, title, or position acquired by the protagonist as a result of the naming:

We appointed him Secretary of State for India.

The people elected him Mayor.



Instead of summary

You have come to the end of Unit 3.

I recommend to you that you revise the main topics of this unit. It is time for you to do the send-away assignment and hand it to your course instructor.



Send-away assignment



Which is the role of the copulative verb?

Define and illustrate in examples morphological causative verbs.

Decide whether the following transitive verbs take effected or affected direct objects:

She was pressing the juice for her kids.

He never dared to press the trigger.

Nobody offered to dig the land in winter.

The soldiers were digging a deep trench.

He paints surrealist portraits of his friends.

You’d better paint this door anew.



Answers and comments to self-assessed questions



Answers 3.1

medieval and cosmopolitan: adjectival phrase.

standing in queues: gerundial clause.

to admit the error: infinitival clause.

that no one will hear a cry for help: that-complement clause.

where the conference is going to take place: indirect question.

a good student: noun phrase.

Answers 3.2

for three hours: adverbial modifier of time.

by the hill: adverbial modifier of place.

quite well: adverbial modifier of manner.

decently: adverbial modifier of manner.


Unit 4







The main objectives of unit 4 are:


to define passive voice;

to identify classes of verbs that can be passivised;

to explain when the Agent by-phrase can be deleted.


4.1 To define passive voice

Key words

voice, active voice, passive voice, passivisation, Agent by-phrase.

Traditionally, the passive voice has been analysed as a form of movement in which the subject and the object are exchanged:

The boy broke the window. (active voice).


active Subject Direct Object.

The window was broken by the boy. (be-passive).


passive Subject Agent by-phrase.

The window got broken. (get-passive).


The passive voice is a complex linguistic phenomenon which manifests itself at morphological, syntactic and semantic level.

At the morphological level, the specialized Passive Voice markers are attached to the verb: the auxiliaries be or get and the affix-en (standing for the past participle of the lexical verb).

At the syntactic level, the active Subject and Object change their positions and status. The active Object is moved to sentence initial position, while the active Subject is converted into a prepositional by-Object which is placed in post-verbal position and under certain circumstances may become deletable.

At the semantic level, there is a change in the relation between the two thematic roles. The Agent ceases to be the ‘central hero’ allowing the Patient to become the protagonist of the passive sentence.


Self-assessed test 4.1

Rewrite the active sentences using the passive voice.

The parents had brought the child up well.

They gave up the search after three hours.

No one brought up that question at the meeting.

Someone should look into the matter.

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.

4.2 To identify classes of verbs that can be passivised


Key words

passivizable verbs, passive counterpart

Classes of verbs that allow passivization.

The classes of verbs (mostly transitive and a few intransitive) that allow a passive counterpart of their active sentences are:

a.      Passivizable transitive verbs are simple or complex:

Simple transitive verbs allow the active Direct Object to be promoted to passive Subject position.

They have decorated [the house]. (simple transitive verb)

Su V DO.

[The house] has been decorated recently.

Complex transitive verbs that can be passivised may be further grouped into those that allow one passive counterpart and those which permit two passive constructions:

Complex transitives with one passive are of three types:

prepositional transitives: They accused him of cheating.


He was accused of cheating.

transitives with adverbials: They threw the papers into the basket.

S V DO Adv.Mod.Place

The papers were thrown into the basket.

transitives with predicative adjuncts: They shot John dead.

S V DO Predicative

John was shot dead.

Complex transitives with two passives are typically ditransitive verbs which may appear in two alternative constructions, either with the IO placed immediately after the verb (also called the double object construction) or after the DO (also known as oblique object construction):

a.      John gave Mary a book. (double object construction).


b.     John gave a book to Mary.(oblique object construction).


In the oblique object construction the IO is introduced by the preposition to.

When passivised these constructions yield the following versions:

a. Mary was given a book by John.

A book was given Mary by John.

b. A book was given to Mary.

Mary was given a book to by John.

It can be noticed that the double object construction allows a passive configuration with the former IO Mary functioning as a passive Subject, while the oblique object construction yields a passive sentence with the former DO a book functioning as a Subject. What these two objects have in common is that they are adjacent to the ditransitive verb in the active voice. To put it shortly, only objects that are adjacent to the verb can become Subjects in the passive voice.

Additionally, there are some idiomatic phrases which allow two passive counterparts: to take strong exception to sth., to make an example of sb., to pin one’s faith on sth., to keep tabs on sth., to take advantage of sth., etc.

These idiomatic phrases have the following structure:

to take notice of something.

V + DO [+abstract] noun + PO.

I have taken careful notice of your remarks.

Careful notice has been taken of your remarks.

Your remarks have been taken careful notice of.

We notice that either the active DO careful notice or the active Object of the Preposition your remarks can appear as a Subject in the passive sentence. In the second passive sentence, only the Object of the Preposition moves to front position, while its preposition of remains in situ (i.e. in its initial position).

b.     Passivizable intransitive verbs are prepositional verbs, i.e. they take an obligatory preposition. Such verbs allow the active Object of the preposition to become a passive Subject. The preposition remains after the verb, in situ:

-prepositional verbs: The Chairman ran [through the main points] briefly.

Su V PO.

The main points were run through (by the Chairman).

-verbs with particle and preposition (i.e. prepositional phrasal verbs):

They put up with these interruptions cheerfully.

Su V PO.

These interruptions were put up with cheerfully.

Classes of verbs that do not allow passivization.

Most transitive verbs qualify for a passive construction, however there are a few transitive verbs that resist passivisation. These verbs have different semantico-syntactic properties:

The transitive verbs resemble, marry, divorce, etc. express a reciprocal relation between the Subject and the Object of the sentence. They form symmetric predicates, i.e. they allow the Subject and the Object to change positions:

Jane resembles his wife. (active voice)


His wife resembles Jane. (active voice)


*His wife is resembled by Jane. (passive voice)

Reciprocal verbs cannot be passivized, but in the active voice they allow the subject and the direct object to change positions.

The transitive verbs have (got), possess indicate a relation of possession between the subject and the object. They also resist passivisation, probably on account of their semantico-syntactic unidirectionality. The BENEFICIARY role is always assigned to the argument in Subject position, while the thing possessed functions as DO:

Jane has (got)/ owns/ possesses a car.


Stative verbs, among which verbs denoting a mental process (know, believe, consider, think) and verbs of perception (see, hear, perceive, etc.) may undergo passivisation when the DO is a clause, as in (b):

a. She knew the poem Kubla Khan.

The poem Kubla Kahn is known to her.

b. Everyone knew [that Bill was tall].

[That Bill was tall] was known by everybody.


Self-assessed test 4

Complete the sentences with a passive verbal form:

  1. The man who (bite) by a snake (give) a serum. (past perfect, past)
  2. Many slums (demolish) to make way for new buildings. (present progressive)
  3. The worker claimed that he (victimize) by his employers. (past progressive)
  4. Three hundred new houses (build) by the end of the next year. (future perfect)
  5. (Threaten) by a blackmailer, he immediately informed the police. (perfect participle)
  6. Was he very upset at (not offer) the job? (gerund)
  7. The man was sent to prison for six months, (find) guilty of fraud. (perfect participle)

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.


4.3 To explain when the Agent by-phrase can be deleted


Passive sentences differ by the presence or the absence of the agentive by-phrase. Passive sentences with a deleted Agent are called agentless passives. Language users resort to agentless passive sentences in the following circumstances:

The passive sentence is agentless:

a. when the identity of the Agent is unknown to the speaker:

John was killed in the war. (by the enemy, a shell, poison gas)

b. when the Agent is indefinite:

Pets are rarely ill-treated. (by people who keep them)

c. when the Agent is not relevant for the topic:

Has the doctor been sent for?

d. when the speaker feels no need to name the Agent, because it is well known:

Eventually the thieves were caught and severely punished.

e. when the speaker does not wish to name the Agent, the identity of the Agent is considered to be a secret:

A confidential plan has been recently entrusted to me.

The agentless passive is frequently used in scientific or technical texts:

The positive atoms are attracted to the negative oxygen atoms.

In fictional texts the agentless passive may be used for rhetorical and stylistic purposes. One effect commonly obtained is that of an objective, detached point of view.



Instead of summary

You have come to the end of Unit 4.

I recommend to you that you revise the main topics of this unit. It is time for you to do the send-away assignment and hand it to your course instructor.


Send-away assignment


Provide a definition of the passive voice.

What types of verbs can be passivised?

In the following sentences the AGENT by-phrase is absent. Explain why and provide a suitable AGENT:

The man was kept in custody.

The Prime Minister was attacked last night in the debate.

Jack fought Michael last night and Jack was beaten.

He was rushed off to hospital.

A lot of this scrap metal can be melted down and used again.

Those pyramids were built around 400 AD.


Answers and comments to self-assessed questions


Answers 4.1

The child had been brought up well by the parents.

The search was given up (by them) after three hours.

That question was not brought up by anyone at the meeting.

The matter should be looked into.

Answers 4.2.

had been beaten, was given

are being demolished

was being victimized

will have been built

having been threatened

not being offered

having been found


Unit 5





The main objectives of unit 5 are:


to define the subject;

to identify the grammatical and the logical subject in existential


to identify types of Objects: direct, indirect, prepositional.


5.1 To define the subject

English identifies the Subject by the position it has in the sentence: initially in affirmative sentences and in wh-questions in which the wh-element questions the Subject:

[All guests] left early.

[Swimming in cold water] may affect your health.

[Who]won the competition?(wh-question addressed to the Subject)

[How many] gave up the race?

In yes-no interrogative sentences the auxiliary (or the modal) precedes the Subject:

Did you know the answer?

Could you find out the truth?

In wh-questions that do not question the Subject, but other parts of the sentence, the Subject is preceded by the wh-element and by the operator:

Whom did [you] meet yesterday?

How does [swimming in cold water] affect your health?

The Subject plays an important part in the formation of tag-questions. Pronouns refer back to the Subject of the basic clause:

Your brotheri goes in for bungy jumping, doesn’t hei?

Not many peoplei would attend such a meeting, would theyi?

Agreement features

NPs functioning as Subjects agree with the verb in number and person. When the head of the Subject NP is a collective noun, agreement with the verb depends on how the referent is visualised by the speaker: as a whole or as individual members of a group, each involved in a certain action.

[My family] have decided to move to London. (all members)

[The average British family] has 3.6 members. (as a whole)

The Subject determines the number in reflexive pronouns and the number of predicative NPs:

[They] enjoyed themselves at the party.

[NP Joe] and [NP Tim] are my brothers.

The realization of the Subject

The Subject may be realised (expressed) by various types of phrases:

1. a simple NP (containing a noun, a deverbal noun, a pronoun, an adjective, a numeral):

The museum was the main repository for the country’s antiquities.

Everything went on just as before.

The poor will still have hoe in the justice of the revolution.

Will the accused please, stand?

The first stopped before the door.

Smoking damages your health.

The pleonastic pronouns IT and THERE can only occur in Subject position. They are felt to be semantically empty, i.e. they lack meaning. They function as grammatical subjects that anticipate the real (logical or semantic subjects) of the sentence:

[To leave] is easy. [It] is easy [to leave].

Subject gr. Su logical Su

[That he is right] is obvious. [It] is obvious [that he is right].

Subject gr. Su logical Su

[A man] was at the door. [There] was [a man] at the door.

Subject gr. Su logical Su.

[A beautiful woman] came. [There] came [a beautiful woman].

Subject gr. Su logical Su.

2. A complex NP (which contains a noun modified by PP or a clause):

[NP The girl [PP with a funny]] hat is my friend.

[NP The excerpts [PP from the Bible]] impressed the audience.

[NP The topics [we discussed]] were well above the average.

3. A clausal NP (i.e. a that-complement clause, an infinitive or a gerundial clause standing for an NP):

[That he had no chance] is clear to everyone.

(that-complement clause)

[To run away from responsibility] is cowardice.

(infinitival complement clause)

[Showing tourists the sights of the city] is her job.

(gerundial clause)

Thematic roles of the subject.

The Noun Phrase functioning as Subject typically bears the role of AGENT, but other thematic roles are also available for the Subject NP:

The boy kicked the ball. Agent

The ball was kicked. Patient (affected participant)

New houses were soon built. Patient (effected participant)

Jane could admire the landscape. Experiencer

The living-room reeked of tobacco. Location

The bomb destroyed the city. Instrument


Self-assessed test 5

Identify the subject and state by what kind of phrase or clause it is expressed:

The pale moon rose.

Whoever did that will suffer.

It is kind of you to ask.

He who hesitates is lost.

Anything will do.

Run for President is what he may do.

To take such a risk was rather foolish.

By plane costs more than by train.

From here to Barcelona is eight hundred kilometers.

The handicapped are given special facilities in public places.

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.

5.2 To identify the grammatical and the logical subject in existential constructions


Key words

existential constructions, expletive pronoun, logical vs. grammatical subject.

Sentences containing the expletive (pleonastic) pronoun THERE as an anticipatory Subject are known as existential constructions. Such constructions are produced by moving the indefinite Subject after the verb and inserting in initial position the expletive pronoun THERE to function as a grammatical Subject:

An old lady lived in this flat.

_____ lived an old lady in this flat.

[There] lived [an old lady] in this flat.

gr. Su logical Subject

The result of this movement is a construction with two subjects: one grammatical (or formal), expressed by the expletive pronoun THERE, and the other one logical (real or semantic).

Verbs occurring in existential constructions are intransitive and belong to the following semantic groups:

existential verbs: be, happen, occur, exist, live, etc.

aspectual verbs: seem, appear, happen.

ingressive verbs: emerge, burst, arise.

verbs of motion: come, arrive, run.

positional verbs: stand, lie, hang.

There will be a supply of goods. (existential BE)

There was a new cushion on one of the settees. (locative BE)

There appeared some marks on the X-ray plates.

There were arising new progressive forces in those years.

There ran a wall round the place.

Passive sentences may be turned into THERE constructions owing to the presence of the auxiliary BE:

A deer has been killed by a poacher.à

There has been a deer killed by a poacher.

A sonata was being played by a famous cellist.à

There was a sonata being played by a famous cellist.

Sentences with verbs in the progressive (continuous) aspect may also be turned into THERE constructions:

A lady was asking for help.àThere was a lady asking for help.

Someone is coming upstairs.àThere is someone coming upstairs.

The indefinite logical Subject.

The main condition for a sentence to become an existential construction is that the Subject should be indefinite.

a.        The indefinite subject may be realized by indefinite Determiners (a, an, any, some) and ‘zero’ article:

There is [NP an apple] on the table.

There are [NP some girls] in the bookshop.

There are [NP students] in that room.

b.       The NP functioning as logical Subject may incorporate the negation, a numeral or an indefinite Quantifier:

There will be [NP no other] changes in the document.

There are [NP two cakes] on the table.

There is [NP much noise] in the street.

c.        Indefinite pro-forms (anything, something, everything, nothing) may function as logical Subjects of THERE constructions often followed by APs:

There is [something wrong] in her behaviour.

There are rare instances, however, when the logical Subject is allowed to occur as a definite NP, i.e. with the definite determiner the:

a.        When the subject NP includes the determiners same and other:

There was [NP the same man] in front of the gate.

There is [NP the other delegate] taking the floor.

b.       When there is a postnominal modifier expressed by a gerund or a that-complement clause:

There is the possibility of [his having seen the thief].

There is the possibility [that he has seen the thief].

c.        In exclamatory sentences with a NP Subject modified by an AP in the absolute superlative:

There’s [NP [AP the nicest] girl] waiting for you in the hall.

d.       In answers to existential questions, when the answer contains an enumeration of definite Subject NPs:

Q: What else is there in that drawer?

A: There’s the rubber, the red pencil, the writing paper.

The grammatical Subject

The expletive pronoun THERE simply occupies the Subject position. It does not convey meaning, but it participates in certain syntactic processes, just like an ordinary subject. For instance, the grammatical Subject THERE undergoes inversion with the auxiliary verb in questions (yes-no questions, tag-questions).

There was an oak-tree on the hill.àWas there an oak-tree on the hill?

There followed an argument.àDid there follow an argument?

There was a picture on the wall, wasn’t there?

THERE can be used in negative sentences:

There has never been such an opposition.

In emphatic negative sentences the grammatical Subject is inverted with the auxiliary:

There has never been such an opposition. (neutral statement)

Never has there been such an opposition. (emphatic statement)

There was hardly any time left. (neutral statement)

Hardly was there any time left. (emphatic statement)

Thus, it is obvious that the grammatical subject THERE takes on most of the subject properties, except that of agreement. Agreement in existential constructions is not between the grammatical subject and the verb, but between the verb and the logical Subject:

There are some cakes on the plate.

Furthermore, there is a tendency in colloquial and dialectal English for speakers to use the singular form irrespective of the number of the NP functioning as logical Subject:

There’s some cakes left on the tray.


Self-assessed test 5

Turn the following into existential constructions:

A hole is in my pocket.

Many people are in the waiting room.

A girl was water-skiing on the lake.

More Americans have been killed in accidents than in all wars

since 1990.

Somebody will be meeting you at the airport.

Another plane was hijacked yesterday.

You can find the answer at the end of this unit


5.3 To identify types of Objects: direct, indirect, prepositional




The main syntactic function of the NP constituents at the level of the VP is that of Object. The Object is of three types: direct, indirect and prepositional.

Bell invented [the telephone]. DO

This book belongs [to Mary]. IO

He relies [on his friends]. PO

The Direct Object.

In traditional grammar the Direct Object was frequently labelled the Accusative Object. The Direct Object appears after all types of transitive verbs:

He drove a new car. (simple transitive verb)

John gave a book to Mary. (ditransitive verb)


They accused him of incompetence. (complex transitive verb)


Semantically, the DO expresses the object affected by the activity or the result of the activity, hence the distinction between the affected and the effected object:

They built a house. (effected object).

They painted a house. (affected object).

The typical thematic role assigned to the NP in Object position is that of Patient.

Direct Object deletion.

The Object may be deleted after certain classes of verbs or deletion may be due to the context in which the sentence is uttered:

They waved their hands at us from the window. (instrumental object)

When he entered the room, greeted everybody. (locative object)

Deletion may occur in contexts where the DO has been previously mentioned:

He said he would explain. (the whole matter)

I saw the guests approaching. (the house)

The committee decided to adjourn. (their meeting)

Under the circumstances, I shall have to cut. (my expenses)

He will exhibit at the Tate Gallery. (his paintings)

The Indirect Object.

The Indirect Object is known in traditional grammar as the dative object. Indirect Objects occur with simple intransitive verbs and with ditransitive verbs:

What happened to the old man? (simple transitive verb)


She sent a message to her friend. (ditransitive verb)


He bought a bunch of flowers for Jane. (ditransitive verb)


The noun phrase functioning as Indirect Object may bear the thematic role of Recipient, Beneficiary or Experiencer.

Semantically there are two distinctions to be made concerning the function of the Indirect Object:

a.       The Dative of Reference.

It denotes a personal point of view with respect to the meaning of the whole sentence:

To me, he is a hero.

That is nothing to her.

Sometimes the Dative of Reference is movable from sentence initial to mid-sentence or final-sentence position:

For him to submit would be quite shameful.

To submit, for him, would be shameful.

To submit would be shameful for him.

b.       The Dative of Interest.

The NP in the dative may also express the person to whose advantage or disadvantage an action takes place. The for-NP Object usually expresses advantageous events and only rarely a disadvantage:

Before you disappear I want you to do an errand for me.

His heart beat for all humanity.

The to-NP Object occurs with both semantic values. The idea of loss or disadvantage is expressed by the prepositions from and on:

He stole a purse from the old woman.

(cf. Rom dative: I-a furat batranei portmoneul).

He shut the door on me.

He has raised the rent on us.

The Prepositional Object.

The prepositional Object is introduced by a preposition (other than to or for) and it appears after adjectives or verbs with obligatory preposition:

He is afraid of dogs. (prepositional adjective)

She depends on a grant. (simple intransitive verb)

He argued with the waiter about the price. (intr. with two POs)

They accused him of murder. (prepositional transitive verb)

You have come to the end of Unit 5.

I recommend to you that you revise the main topics of this unit. It is time for you to do the send-away assignment and hand it to your course instructor.


Send-away assignment


State by what kind of phrase the subject of a sentence can be expressed.

Briefly comment on the distinction between the grammatical subject and the logical subject in existential constructions

The logical subject-NP in an existential construction is usually indefinite. Find the indicators of indefiniteness:

There appeared a completely new problem.

There are signs that the rich nations are waking up to the problem.

There are some people outside.

There was something strange about the flickering blue light.

Is there anything the matter?

Was there any genuine prejudice?


Answers and comments to self-assessed questions


Answers 5.1

‘The pale moon’ NP, 2. ‘whoever did that’ relative clause, 3. ‘it’ grammatical subject, ‘to ask’ logical subject, 4. ‘he who hesitates’ complex NP (the pronoun ‘he’+ relative clause), 5. ‘anything’ NP, 6. ‘run for President’ infinitive clause, 7. ‘to take such a risk’ infinitive clause, 8. ‘by plane’ PP, 9. ‘from here to Barcelona’ PP, 10. ‘the handicapped’ NP (verbal noun).

Answers 5.2

There is a hole in my pocket. 2. There are many people in the waiting room.3. There was a girl water-skiing on the lake. 4. There have been more Americans killed in road accidents. 5. There will be someone meeting you at the airport. 6. There was another plane hijacked yesterday.


Unit 6





The main objectives of unit 6 are:


to identify types of yes-no questions;

to derive wh-questions.


6.1 To identify types of yes or no questions

Types of questions.

The syntactic analysis of questions makes use of the partial similarity of questions and declarative sentences. Two main types of questions are derived from declarative sentences yes-no questions and wh-questions:

John will tell the truth.

Will John tell the truth? yes-no question

What will John tell? wh-question (or constituent question)

Other types of yes-no questions and wh-questions can be formed from the same basic sentence. Since these are less frequent, they are also called minor types of questions:

John will tell the truth? declarative question

Won’t John tell the truth? negative question

John will tell the truth, won’t he? tag question

John will tell what? echo-question

Who will tell what? multiple wh-question

Questions can also appear in coordination or in subordination:

[Will he talk to me] or [will his dad tell the truth]?

alternative yes-no questions

[Who will he talk to] or [what will his dad do]?

alternative wh-questions

I wonder [whether John will tell the truth].

indirect yes-no question

I wonder [what John will tell].

indirect wh-question question

Types of yes-no questions.

Typical yes-no questions are derived from declarative clauses by moving one constituent, the auxiliary (or the modal) to pre-subject position. In traditional grammar this is called inversion of the auxiliary with the subject:

She has written an essay. Has she written an essay?

She can speak Japanese. Can she speak Japanese?

When the lexical verb is in the present simple or past simple, do-support (or ‘do insertion’) is used.

He plays the violin. Does he play the violin?

He told the truth. Did he tell the truth?

1. Declarative questions.

In declarative questions there is no inversion of the auxiliary with the subject or do-support (when the lexical verb is in the present simple or past simple):

You’re working late tonight? (no inversion).

She came home late? (no do insertion).

The only marker of interrogation is the rising intonation attached to the declarative sentence. Declarative questions are typical of spoken language and are used when the speaker thinks he/she knows or has understood something, but wants to make sure or express surprise:

This is your car? (= I suppose this is your car, isn’t it)?

That’s the boss? I thought he was the cleaner.

‘We’re going to Paris for our holidays.’ ‘You’re going to Paris?’

2. Negative questions.

A negative clause has not after the auxiliary or the modal. If the contracted form -n’t is employed, it is always attached to the auxiliary. Thus the contracted form becomes part of the operator and is fronted with it in a negative question:

Hasn’t Joe attended the course? + inversion.

+ negative contraction.

If it is not contracted, the auxiliary moves without it, the result being an extremely rare kind of question, dubious for most speakers:

Has Joe not attended the course? + inversion.

- negative contraction.

In very formal British English, some speakers allow the uncontracted not to follow the auxiliary to pre-subject position:

Has not the Prime Minister attended the press conference?

Such a question is more likely to be rhetorical rather than information seeking. In general, the contraction is used instead of not in negative questions.

Tag questions.

Tag questions consist of a declarative clause followed by a tagged-on yes-no question. The tag has a repetition of the auxiliary (or the modal) in the declarative clause and a pronoun referring to the subject:

He will find a well-paid job, won’t he?

If the declarative clause has no available auxiliary or modal, i.e. when the lexical verb is in the present simple or past simple, the operator do is inserted in the tag:

Mary bakes the apple pie, doesn’t she?

Mary baked the apple pie, didn’t she?

If the declarative clause is affirmative, then the tag is normally negative. If the declarative clause is negative, then the tag question is affirmative. The negative marker in the tag is always the contracted form n’t:

Harry gave you a cheque, didn’t he?

positive negative

Harry didn’t give you a cheque, did he?

negative positive

Following the analogy of positive and negative poles in electricity, the clauses and their tags are sometimes said to have affirmative or negative polarity. If the declarative clause has negative polarity, then the tag must have affirmative polarity, and vice versa. Such sentences are said to have reversed polarity.

If this restriction is not observed, the sentence is likely to be interpreted not as a question, but as a reflective statement to one self, or perhaps a sarcastic or threatening remark:

She has told a lie, has she?

positive positive

I see. You don’t like my cooking, don’t you?

negative negative

Sentences with similar polarity are rarely used in British English because they are felt to be aggressive. Learners often ‘improve’ English by using a simpler tag, for example:

You like foreign movies, yes?

In fact, native speakers often use simpler tags like: is that right? or just right?:

Torik won’t leave the palace, right?

4. Alternative yes or no questions.

Alternative questions, also known as either-or questions, have either the structure of a general question. Alternative questions present options to choose from:

[Will she talk to me] or [will her father go to the police department]?

Such questions are clauses conjoined with or, which allows omission of repeated material in the second conjoined question:

[Are you leaving today] or [are you leaving tomorrow]?

Are you leaving today or tomorrow?

[Should we tell the truth] or [shouldn’t we tell the truth]?

Should we tell the truth or not?

5. Indirect questions.

Indirect yes-no questions depend on a main clause, being typically introduced by the conjunction whether. They are characterized by the absence of inversion. They are usually employed in reported speech:

He wondered [whether they would get there in time].


Self-assessed test 6

Analyse the polarity features of the following examples:

Model: You won’t say a word, will you?

negative positive

Reversed polarity. The speaker’s attitude is neutral.

There won’t be room for everyone, will there?

So you believe in democracy, do you?

And you’ve lived in this village all your life, have you?

Most people enjoy a beach holiday, don’t they?

So you are getting married, are you? How nice!

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.

6.2 To derive wh-questions


Key words

wh-questions, wh-word, preposition stranding

A wh-question is also known as a constituent question because the wh-element questions one constituent. Wh-questions are used freely when a speaker needs some information. Such questions are defined as constructions involving movement of the wh-element and of the auxiliary.

The wh-phrase.

Wh-questions are introduced by question words that fall into several categories:

a.     Interrogative pronouns: what, which, who.

[NP What] will he disclose?

b.     Interrogative adverbs: where, when, why, how.

[AdvP How] does she sing?

c.      Determiner: how in Quantifier Phrases (how much, how many), in AP or AdvP:

[QP How much] did it cost?

[QP How many students] attended the lecture?

[AP How clever] is he?

[AdvP How quickly] did you read it?

Determiners: what, which, whose in NPs:

[NP Which story] did you like?

[NP What book] did you read?

[NP Whose pen] is this?

d. The wh-phrase may also start out as a PP in the declarative sentence:

I can rely [pp on my friend].

I can rely [pp on whom].

The presence of the obligatory preposition allows two types of constructions:

a.      Who can I rely on? (preposition stranding).

b.     On whom can I rely? (pied-piping).

The construction in which a preposition is left behind, ‘orphaned’ or ‘abandoned’ after its complement has been moved out is called preposition stranding.

In (b) the preposition is moved along with the wh-word to the front position of the question. This phenomenon is referred to as pied-piping: the preposition is pied-piped with the NP. The general idea behind this metaphor being that prepositions can follow their wh-Objects to the front of the clauses in much the same way that the rats followed the Pied Piper out of Hamlin in a medieval German legend.

Questioning the constituents of a simple sentence.

The questioned constituent may be an argument of the verb (i.e. an obligatory constituent of the sentence: the Subject, the Object, the Predicative). The place from where the wh-constituent has been moved is marked by a dash:

He will disclose the secret. [What] will he disclose __?

He sent the letter to his friend. [To whom] did he send the letter __?

John will see her to the station. [Who] will see her to the station?

Or an adjunct in the structure of the sentences (i.e. an optional constituent such as the Adverbial Modifier, the Attribute):

She will live in London. [Where] will she live __?

The train arrives in time/early. [When] does the train arrive __?

He has gone bankrupt because he couldn’t pay his debts.

[Why] has he gone bankrupt __?

Questioning the Direct Object.

NPs functioning as Direct Objects appear after transitive verbs: simple or complex.

Jane will meet [NP her aunt]. simple transitive verb

Astronauts burn up [NP a lot of calories]. phrasal transitive verb

They accused [John] of theft. prepositional transitive verb

In order to derive questions from these declarative clauses, the Object is replaced by a corresponding wh-phrase which is moved to front position after inversion takes place:

Jane will meet whom?

Astronauts burn up what?

Whom will Jane meet? + inversion.

What will astronauts burn up? + wh-movement.

Do-insertion occurs if the lexical verb is in the present or past tense:

What do you prefer?

2. Questioning the Prepositional Object.

It is well-known that Prepositional Objects occur in the frame of: prepositional transitives (accuse sb. of, blame sb. for, etc.), prepositional intransitives (apply for, insist on, etc.), prepositional adjectives (afraid of, ashamed of, etc.), idiomatic constructions with obligatory prepositions (get to the bottom of, take advantage of, etc.):

They blame him [PP for his failure].

I can depend [PP on my friends] in this matter.

Governments are afraid [PP of strikes].

They got to the bottom [PP of the whole story].

As far as the movement of the Prepositional Object is concerned, English provides a choice between two constructions, one more formal, the other one more colloquial. In more formal style, the preposition moves with the interrogative pronoun, in the so-called pied-piping construction:

For what do you blame him [PP __]?

On whom can I depend in this matter [PP __]?

In colloquial style, only the wh-constituent moves, leaving the preposition behind, in the construction known as preposition stranding:

What do you blame him [PP for [NP __]?

Whom can I depend [PP on [NP __] in this matter?

The type of structure in which the preposition is left behind, stranded, is vary rare.

It is well-accepted that Preposition Stranding is characteristic of English, being a marked structure.

However, an obligatory preposition cannot be moved, when the preposition is part of an idiom: do away with, put up with, make sure of, let go of, get hold of, get free to, make use of, take charge of, etc.:

I am trying to get hold of that man.

Who are you trying to get hold of? (preposition stranding)

*Of who are you trying to get hold? (pied-piping)

She took advantage of her former husband.

Who did she take advantage of? (preposition stranding)

*Of who did she take advantage? (pied-piping)

With idiomatic constructions pied-piping leads to ungrammatical questions.

3. Questioning the Indirect Object.

Ditransitive verbs (give, offer, send, promise) are followed by a DO and an IO in oblique (prepositional) object constructions or by an IO and a DO in the so-called double object constructions:

He gave Mary a book. (double object construction)


He gave a book to Mary. (oblique object constructions)


If the Indirect Object NP is replaced by a wh-phrase, then we notice that wh-movement is possible with prepositional IO, but it is rather restricted with prepositionless IO:

He gave a book to whom. [NP Who] did he give a book to _?

[PP To whom] did he give a book _?

He gave whom a book. Who did he give a book?

To put it differently, the IO can be questioned only in the oblique object construction.

Minor types of wh-questions.

1. Multiple questions

Mutiple questions have been defined as wh-questions containing more than one questioned element (phrase). The wh-elements may remain in situ, or one of them moves to front position:

Who gave what to whom?

Who left before doing what?

Where did you buy what?

Who got his answer when?

What did you do where?

If the multiple wh-question is a complex sentence, i.e. if there is a relationship of subordination in the sentence, then only one of the wh-elements may move to pre-subject position in the subordinate clause:

John remembers [he bought bread at the baker’s]. (complex sentence)

main clause complement clause.

Who remembers [he bought what where]? (no wh-word moves)

Who remembers [where he bought what]? (one wh-word moves)

Who remembers [what he bought where]? (one wh-word moves)

Only one of the wh-constituents moves to pre-subject position in the complement clause, while the other wh-word remains in situ.

Echo questions.

An echo question is used as a reaction to a declarative sentence by a speaker who wishes the interlocutor to repeat part of the declarative sentence. Echo questions are formed by simply substituting a question word for a constituent. The speaker may question a constituent (Su, O, etc.), a verb or a whole question.

This type of question refers back to all or part of the previous utterance (made by someone else), which the hearer either does not understand or finds difficult to believe:

‘I’ve bought an electric tooth-brush.’

‘You’ve bought what’?

‘Did the Vice-Dean leave a message?’

‘Did who leave a message’?

To question one constituent, the whole sentence is repeated and the wh-element replacing the questioned constituent is stressed:

‘Just take a look at that.’

‘Take a look at what’?

To question a verb, the auxiliary do is used to replace the verb:

‘She set fire to the garage.’

‘She did what (to the garage)’?

A speaker may question a question, by repeating it with a rising intonation:

‘What does he want?’

What does he want? Money, as usual’.

‘What did you say to him?’

What did I say to him’?

‘Have you finished with the hair-dryer?’

Have I finished with it’?

3. Emphatic Questions.

Questions may be made more emphatic if the question word is strengthened by the addition of certain phrases. All interrogative words may be strengthened by adding ever spelt separately or together with interrogative words (whoever, whatever, wherever called compound interrogative pronouns and adverbs):

Whatever is the matter?

Wherever have you been?

Whoever could that be at this time of night?

A question is often emotionally strengthened by a strongly stressed PP after the interrogative:

What [PP in God’s name] have you told him?


Self-assessed test 6

Ask a wh-question to each of the underlined constituents:

John will buy that book tomorrow.

Helen has helped her sister.

He drove carefully.

She relies on her family.

You can find the answer at the end of this unit



Instead of summary

You have come to the end of Unit 6.

I recommend to you that you revise the main topics of this unit. It is time for you to do the send-away assignment and hand it to your course instructor.


Send-away assignment


Define and exemplify tag questions.

Give examples and comment on questioning the Prepositional

Object and the Indirect Object.

Suggest answers to the following multiple wh-questions:

Who remembers where we bought what?

Who remembers where we met who?

Who remembers what we bought when?

Who remembers what we bought why?

Who remembers what we bought how?


Answers and comments to self-assessed questions


Answers 6.1

negative + positive = reversed polarity (neutral attitude)

positive + positive = similar polarity (sarcastic remark)

positive + positive = similar polarity (sincere interest)

positive + negative = reversed polarity (neutral statement)

positive + positive = similar polarity (sincere interest)

Answers 6.2

Who will buy that book?/What will John buy?/When will

John buy that book?

Who has helped her sister?/Whom has Helen helped?

What did he do carefully?/How did he drive?

Who does she rely on?/On whom does she rely?




1. Avram L., English Syntax, The Structure of the Root Clauses, Bucuresti, Oscar Print, 2003.

2. Baker C. L., English Syntax, Massachusetts, MIT Press, 1995.

3. Downing A., Locke P., A University Course in English Grammar, Phoenix ELT, Hertfordshire, 1995.

4. Jacobs R., English Syntax, A Grammar for English Language Professionals, OUP, 1995.


Unit 7





The main objectives of unit 7 are:


to recognize types of coordinators

to identify types of ellipsis


7.1 To recognize types of coordinators

Key words

coordination, conjoined clauses, coordinator.

Coordination is the linking together of two phrases of the same type or two clauses of equal rank:

Smith must [hit the ball] and [run to first base]. conjoined VPs

The baby seemed [very tired] and [somewhat cross]. conjoined APs

[John] and [that man] share the same surname. conjoined NPs

[John might take her by car], (or) [she might go by bus].

conjoined main clauses

I believe [that Mary is in London] and [that John is in York].

conjoined that-complement clauses

The term coordination is used by some grammarians for both syndetic coordination – when explicit indicators of coordination are present – and asyndetic coordination – when the relationship of coordination is not marked overtly. The following example illustrates coordination of two AdvPs:

[Slowly] and [stealthily], he approached his victim. (syndetic)

[Slowly], [stealthily] he approached his victim. (asyndetic)

Explicit indicators of coordination are called coordinating conjunctions (or coordinators). Not all juxtaposed phrases or clauses are in a relationship of asyndetic coordination. The construction is asyndetic coordination only when the insertion of the coordinator and is allowed.


The main coordinators are: and, or, but. Both, either and neither are used as the first element in a correlative pair with and, or and nor, respectively.

and, or, but.

As clause coordinators, and and or are only allowed to appear before the second coordinate clause:

[John plays the guitar] and [his sister plays the piano].

*[John plays the guitar] [his sister and plays the piano].

Clauses beginning with and or or are sequentially fixed in relation to the previous clause. The transposition of clauses produces unacceptable sentences:

[They are living in England] or [they are spending a vacation there].

*[Or they are spending a vacation there], [they are living in England].

Related to the fixed position of clauses is the fact that a pronoun in the first clause cannot have cataphoric (i.e. forward) reference to a noun in the second clause. For example, she cannot refer to Mary, but to a different person:

She was unhappy, and Mary stayed the whole evening.

And and or allow ellipsis of the subject of the clause they introduce, if the subject is co-referential with that of the preceding linked clause:

[John read the book] and [he saw the film].

As well as linking two main clauses, and and or can link subordinate clauses of the same type (for example, adverbial clauses of cause or reason below):

He asked to be transferred, [because he was unhappy] and

[(because) he saw no prospect of promotion], and [(because)

conditions were far better at the other office].

I wonder [whether you should go and see him] or [whether it is

better to write to him].

The subordinator (because, whether) always follows the coordinator. In each case the second and subsequent subordinators may be omitted.

When the same coordinator links more than two clauses, the coordinator is usually omitted in all but the final instance:

[Attend all the lectures], [(and) write full notes on them], [and read

the prescribed books], [or you’ll be in trouble at the examination].

Correlatives pairs of coordinating conjunctions.


The correlative both … and is allowed in clause coordination only when there is a kind of ellipsis. Ellipsis occurs when either the subject NP or the VP is repeated:

[Mary washed the dishes] and [she dried them].

Mary both washed the dishes and dried them.

[John washed the dishes] and [Mary washed the dishes].

Both John and Mary washed the dishes.

In the first example the same person performs two different activities, in the second two different persons are involved in the same activity.

Neither … nor …

This correlative pair negates two clauses conjoined by and. For example, the following compound sentence can be negated in two ways:

David loves Joan and wants to marry her.

David does not love Joan and does not want to marry her.

David neither loves Joan nor wants to marry her.

Thus two affirmative clauses in coordination can be negated either by inserting the negator not after the auxiliary verb or by using the correlative pair neither … nor ….

The first member of the correlative pair, neither is mobile, its position reflecting the scope of negation:

John neither has long hair, nor does he wear earrings.

Mary was neither happy, nor was she sad.

The second member of the correlative pair, nor is usually followed by subject-auxiliary inversion:

Neither Peter wanted the responsibility, nor did his wife.

Other correlatives pairs of coordinating conjunctions.

The correlative not only … but also is used when the content of both clauses is felt to be surprising:

They not only broke into his office and stole his books, but they

(also) tore up his manuscripts.

The correlative just as … so is used when the second clause makes a point similar to the first:

Just as they must put aside their prejudices, so we must be

prepared to accept their good faith.


Self-assessed test

Identify the types of phrases or clauses that can be linked by a coordinator:

Model: Smith hit the ball and ran to first base.

Smith [VP hit the ball] and [VP ran to first base].

Trudy is in Atlanta and Bob is in Houston.

The baby seemed very tired and somewhat cross.

John and the man from Houston share the same surname.

We saw many students of chemistry and doctors of medicine.

He thinks that the player and his friends should write a book.

Martha has put the chairs on the lawn and on the patio.

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.

7.2 To identify types of ellipsis


Key words

Ellipsis, gapping, long-distance ellipsis.

When two or more clauses are coordinated, certain clause constituents are often deleted from all but one of the clauses. Ellipsis avoids repetition:

[We can go for a walk] or [we can watch TV].

The syntactic rules that allow the deletion of something which is identical to something else in the sentence are called ellipsis rules. English has several important rules of this type.

a)       The Gapping rule.

The gapping rule applies to conjoined clauses and it has the effect of removing an identical middle part from the second conjoined clause:

Kevin likes dancing and Annie likes athletics.

Kevin likes dancing and Annie, athletics.

Pete must eat meat, and Fred must eat bread.

Pete must eat meat, and Fred, bread.

This rule works only in conjoined sentences. When applied to embedded clauses, the gapping rule yields ungrammatical examples:

Sam encouraged Pam because Willis encouraged Phyllis.

*Sam encouraged Pam because Willis, Phyllis.

Note that when gapping applies, a comma is used instead of the deleted item.

b)      Long-distance ellipsis rules.

These rules delete repeated material at the end of the second conjoined clauses. For each example, we will specify the type of phrase that has been deleted and the constituent which occupies the final position after deletion has taken place.

Ellipsis after Auxiliary Verbs, To, and Not.

Repetition can be avoided by using an auxiliary verb instead of a complete VP, if the meaning is clear. The deletion of identical APs, VPs and NPs is allowed after the copulative BE (in a., e.), the auxiliaries BE (in b.) and HAVE (in c.) and the modal verbs:

a. John appears to be fond of sweets, but I’m not sure that he really is fond of sweets.

b.     We thought that Fred would be working hard on the project, but it turns out that he hasn’t been working hard on the project.

c. Whenever Martha has drunk a beer, Fred has drunk a beer, too.

d.     Carter said that he wouldn’t sign the bill, but I bet that he will sign the bill).

e. Martha once thought that George would soon be the richest man in Texas, but now it’s doubtful that he ever will be the richest man in Texas.

In each example, the deletable phrases are marked by a strikethrough, while the constituents that allow deletion are written in bold letters.

Deletion after the auxiliary verb DO is also possible, if there is no other auxiliary to repeat:

Mary speaks French, and Jerry speaks French, too.

Mary speaks French, and Jerry does, too.

The infinitive marker to can be used instead of the whole infinitive of a repeated verb (and a following complement):

I don’t dance much now, but I used to dance a lot.

I’m not positive that John knows the answer, but he certainly

seems to know the answer.

If you ask Martha to add your name, I’m sure that she’ll be glad to

add your name.

In some cases the whole infinitive can be left out after nouns, adjectives and verbs that can stand alone (without a following infinitive):

He’ll never leave home; he hasn’t got the courage (to).

You can’t force him to leave home if he’s not ready (to).

‘Can you start the car?’ ‘I’ll try (to)’.

A similar kind of ellipsis is possible after an occurrence of not that accompanies an auxiliary verb:

James is conscientious, but Billy is not conscientious.

Sam will read your reports, but Harold will not read your reports.

Summarizing these observations, the long-distance ellipsis rule involves the deletion of the second of two identical phrases that comes after:

copulative BE

auxiliaries: perfect HAVE, progressive BE, DO


the infinitive marker to

the negative word not

This rule is called long-distance ellipsis rule because the second occurrence of the repeated phrase can be quite far away from the first.

2. So/neither constructions.

In certain cases an ordinary ellipsis after an auxiliary verb may be replaced by a structure introduced by so or neither which trigger inversion of the NP with the auxiliary verb:

a. [David knows how much money was taken], and [Bill knows how much money was taken].

b. [David knows how much money was taken], and [Bill does __, too].

c. [David knows how much money was taken], and [so does Bill].

Thus, if the second conjoined clause undergoes long-distance ellipsis as in (b), then insert so and invert the subject NP with the auxiliary as in (c). This applies to affirmative clauses in coordination.

But now consider the following example with conjoined negative clauses:

a. [James didn’t erase the blackboard], and [Bob didn’t erase the blackboard].

b. [James didn’t erase the blackboard], and [Bob didn’t __ either].

c. [James didn’t erase the blackboard], and [neither did Bob].

If the second conjoined negative clause has undergone long-distance ellipsis as in (b), then use neither (the negative of either) and invert the subject NP with the auxiliary as in (c).

Ellipsis in Indirect questions.

English allows for the deletion of repeated material after a questioned phrase:

Someone’s been stealing our flowers, but I don’t know [who has

been stealing them

I asked somebody to bring a dictionary, but I don’t remember

[who(m) I asked].

Somebody’s car is parked on the lawn, but we don’t know [whose

car is parked on the lawn

Thus, long-distance ellipsis in the second conjoined clause deletes an indirect question, preserving only the wh-phrase, if there is a preceding clause earlier in the discourse that duplicates the meaning of this question.

4. Ellipsis in NPs.

Another kind of long-distance ellipsis involves deletion that occurs within an NP after one of its constituent elements:

determiners: demonstratives (these), possessive adjectives (my, his, etc.), indefinite quantifiers (some, many, few):

Those are [NP Helen’s gloves], and [NP these gloves] are mine.

[NP Many animals] were saved, but [NP many animals] were lost.

[NP Some people] say one thing, [NP some people] say another.

Nora fed [NP her dog], and Danny fed [NP yours dog].

-’s genitives:

You take [NP Pete’s car] and I’ll take [NP Susie’s car].

In all NPs affected by ellipsis, the deleted item is the noun.


Self-assessed test 7

Comment on the type of ellipsis:

Max prefers whisky and Charles brandy.

Teddy relies on me and I on him.

Peter must have broken in and stolen the papers.

Max will buy flowers for his mother and Bill for his wife.

He hasn’t phoned her yet, but I will.

I wanted to see your parents last week, but didn’t get to.

Someone has brought me the letter, but I don’t know who.

You can find the answer at the end of this unit.




Instead of summary

You have come to the end of Unit 7.

I recommend to you that you revise the main topics of this unit. It is time for you to do the send-away assignment and hand it to your course instructor.


Send-away assignment


I.         State which are the main types of ellipsis in English.

II.       Rephrase so as to avoid repetition. There may be more than one solution:

I plan to spend the weekend studying and my room-mate plans to spend the weekend studying, too.

There were a few acceptable sculptures at the exhibition; there were far more appalling sculptures at the exhibition.

III. What kind of ellipsis has occurred:

John should clean the shed, and Peter, mow the lawn.

They are able to make a contribution, but probably won’t.

Brenda was the winner in 1971 and Robert in 1972.

The suggestion made Alice happy and Marcia angry.

Jack was given a railway set, and Jimmy, a baby giraffe.

George told us that he had discovered something interesting,

but never told us what.

Several of John’s jokes are as long as yours and as stale as


My parents hoped I would study medicine, but I didn’t want to.


Answers and comments to self-assessed questions


Answers 7.1

two main clauses are coordinated. 2. two Adjectival Phrases.

4. 5. two Noun Phrases, 6. two Prepositional Phrases.

Answers 7.2

1. gapping, 2. gapping, 3. subject ellipsis, 4. gapping, 5. long-distance ellipsis, 6. long-distance ellipsis, 7. ellipsis in indirect question.



1. Avram L., English Syntax, The Structure of the Root Clauses, Bucuresti: Oscar Print, 2003.

2. Baker C. L., English Syntax, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1995.

3. Biber D. S., Johansson G., Leech S., Conrad E., Finnegan, Longman Grammar of Spoken and

Written English, Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited, 2000.

4. Downing A., Locke P., A University Course in English Grammar, Phoenix ELT,

Hertfordshire, 1995.

5. Graver B. D., Advanced English Practice, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.

6. Greenbaum S., The Oxford English Grammar, Oxford: Oxford University Press,1996.

7. Greenbaum S., R. Quirk, A Student’s Grammar of the English Language, Harlow, England:

Longman, 1991.

8. Huddleston R., Pullum G. K., A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar, Cambridge

University Press, 2005.

9. Jacobs R., English Syntax, A Grammar for English Language Professionals, Oxford

University Press, 1995.

10. Nelson, G. & Sidney Greenbaum., An Introduction to English Grammar. London: Longman,


11. Serban D., English Syntax, vol. I, Bucharest: Bucharest University Press, 1982.

12. Swan M., Practical English Usage, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

13. Thompson A. J., Martinet A. V., A Practical English Grammar, Oxford: Oxford University


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