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- I found the guard sleeping in the barn.

Does that mean "I found the guard who was sleeping in...", Or does that mean "I found the guard while he was sleeping in..."?

I was reading about the verbs that can take object complements. I found the that example sentence here: https://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/object_complement.htm

Is it possible to use a present participle phrase as an object complement, as shown in that example sentence? Or do we only have to have an adjective or a noun there?

Thank you!

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I found the guard sleeping in the barn.


No, it's not an object complement. Such complements consist of either a noun phrase (They elected him president) or an adjective phrase (I consider Ed untrustworthy), but not normally a clause.

It's tempting to say that the underlined element is a so-called reduced relative clause modifying "guard", where the meaning is the same as the relative clause who was sleeping in the barn.

It could be, but I don't think that is the salient interpretation here. I'm inclined to see it as a complement in a catenative construction, where "find" is a catenative verb and the -ing clause is its catenative complement.

In the catenative interpretation, "the guard" is the syntactic object of "find", and the semantic (understood) subject of the "sleeping" clause:

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Laborious

- I found the guard sleeping in the barn.

Does that mean "I found the guard who was sleeping in...", Or does that mean "I found the guard while he was sleeping in..."?

Most people would interpret it as the second one, i.e., as a catenative construction. I'd say "while" is unnecessary in the paraphrase. It's not exactly that two activities were going on at the same time.

I found the guard. He/She was sleeping in the barn.
OR
I found the guard, and (I found that) the guard was sleeping in the barn.

It's most probably not a matter of finding a certain guard — that particular guard who was sleeping in the barn, and not another guard who might have been annoying the cows in the field.

Laboriousobject complements

No. That's something different. That website is including far too many constructions under the heading of "object complement". Most grammar books don't lump all those things together.

LaboriousIs it possible to use a present participle phrase as an object complement, as shown in that example sentence?

No. That's not the way most grammarians would explain it.

LaboriousOr do we only have to have an adjective or a noun there?

Only an adjective or noun. See difference between "consider" and "consider to"

CJ

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Comments  

Doesn't it answer the question "which guard"?

Thanks!

Jigneshbharati

Doesn't it answer the question "which guard"?

Thanks!

As I said, it's tempting, but in this instance I think the catenative interpretation is the more salient one. The logical interpretations are

[1] "I was looking for the guard who was sleeping in the barn, and I found him".

[2] "I came across the guard in the barn and he happened to be sleeping".

If [1] is the correct interpretation, then the clause does modify "guard"; it identifies which guard I was looking for. But if [2] is the correct interpretation, then it's a catenative construction.

More context would be helpful, though, to be absolutely certain.

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Laborious I found the guard sleeping in the barn.

The plain meaning of that absent context is "I went looking for the guard and discovered him in the barn asleep."

anonymous
Laborious I found the guard sleeping in the barn.

The plain meaning of that absent context is "I went looking for the guard and discovered him in the barn asleep."

Yes, but I may not have gone looking for the guard. I may have just stumbled upon him in the barn, and he happened to be sleeping.

BillJYes, but I may not have gone looking for the guard. I may have just stumbled upon him in the barn, and he happened to be sleeping.

I see what you mean, and that is true, but to my way of thinking, it defaults to "I found that the guard was …." It's a guard. He should not be sleeping at all. He should be guarding. Where is the doggone guard?

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- She picked up the child crying.

= She picked up the child who was crying. / She was crying when she picked up the child.

- They could see the man running towards the White House.

= They could see the man who was running? / While they were running towards the White House, they could see him?

- The mob beat the man shouting.

= The mob beat the man who was shouting? / When the mob beat the man, it was shouting?

Are those examples ambiguous, too? I've learnt that a modifier has to be placed as much close as possible to the thing it modifies. Is this right?

 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.