EVERYTHING (ALMOST) YOU WANTED TO KNOW (WHO WANTS TO KNOW ABOUT THIS STUFF?), BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK. I am totally html inept, but will do my best to keep this blog supplied with plenty of syntax junk. The main aim here is to help my students (my future colleagues, in fact) come to grips with the syntax of English, even if they can't stand it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008



These verbs link the subject to the subject complement. While the most common linking verb is to be, other verbs can work as linking verbs (also known as copular verbs).
In order to check if a verb is a linking verb, merely substitute it with the verb to be. If the sentence reads well, with no drastic change in the sense, the initial verb is a linking verb.

e.g. Africa is a large continent. (linking verb)
· "Africa" (subject) is linked to "a large continent" (subject complement).

e.g. Backpacking has become less popular. (linking verb)
· "Backpacking is less popular" – become can be substituted with the verb to be.
· "Backpacking" (subject) is linked to "less popular" (subject complement).

Other linking verbs, or copular verbs, are: to appear, to seem, to look (like), to sound (like), to feel, to taste (in the sense of having the taste of), to smell (in the sense of having the smell of) etc.

Transitive verbs require the presence of an object. They can be finite or non-finite.

e.g. Juggling three tennis balls and a chainsaw, the clown impressed the huge crowd.
· "three tennis balls" and "a chainsaw" are the direct objects of the verb "juggling"
· "the huge crowd" is the direct object of the verb "impressed"


The classification is very clear for this kind of verb, as it only requires a direct object. There may be more than one direct object, but no indirect object, nor an object complement.

e.g. I love you. Investigators found the evidence. They are going to sell pirated copies of the CD.


While the classification of this kind of verb can be misleading, a ditransitive verb is a transitive verb. However, it requires both a direct and an indirect object. There may be several objects, indirect and direct, but there must be at least one of each.

e.g. The human resources department sent me an insurance policy.
· me – indirect object
· an insurance policy – direct object


This kind of verb is a transitive verb that requires a direct object and an object complement or an adverb.

e.g. The judge found the plea outrageous (direct object + object complement).
· the plea – direct object
· outrageous - object complement*(see explanation below)

e.g. She sent the documents to the government.
· the documents – direct object
· to the government – adverb phrase

In the specific examples above, the verbs "find" and "send" are considered complex transitive verbs. This does NOT mean that "find" and "send" are always complex transitive verbs.

* One way to check if the word/phrase after the direct oibject is really an object complement is to try the following trick: 1) take the direct object and make it a subject...2) put the verb to be after it (conjugated)...3) use the object complement as a subject complement (adjective or noun)...if this makes a legitimate sentence, then you have just proven that the word "outrageous" is truly an object complement (in the first example). See below:

1) the plea... 2) the plea is.... 3) the plea is outrageous (S + V + SubCompl)


Somewhat easier to identify than transitive verbs, intransitive verbs do not require an object nor a subject complement. A clause with an intransitive verb only requires a subject and the verb, however, an adverbial idea is often needed to complete the idea.

e.g. The students have read a lot this year (a lot = adverbial idea of quantity; this year = adverbial idea of time).

e.g. My parcel has finally arrived.

e.g. The participants ran a total of 42 kilometers (a total of 42 kilometers = adverbial idea of quantity).


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