Dear teachers,

Here is another problem I'm faced with would you please help me sort it out?
How would you analize the following:

Example 1: I gave my sister a cat for her birthday.

Parsing (correct ?):

I = subject
gave = ditransitive verb
my sister = indirect object
a cat = direct object
for her birthday = adverbial of purpose / time ?

Example 2: I gave a cat to my sister.

I = subject
gave = complex-transitive verb
a cat = direct object
to my sister = adverbial (??)

The pattern SVOdOi doesn't exist, doest it? (cf. Greenbaum & Quirk)
How do you pronounce "Greenbaum"? /gri:nbaum/ or /gri:nbɔ:m/ ?

Example 3: The senator asked a question of the Supreme Court Justice.

The senator = Subject
asked = Ditransitive verb or Complex-transitive verb ?
a question = Direct Object
of the Supreme Court Justice = Indirect Object or Adverbial ??

and if of the Supreme Court of Justice was an adverbial it would be an adverbial of what?

Thank you for your help.
1 2
Hello, Hela.

Your analysis of the first sentence (I gave my sister a cat for her birthday) is correct. I'd be happy with calling the prepositional phrase "for her birthday" an adjunct (adverbial) of time, though some more accurate label may exist.

It's true that R. Quirk does not consider the sentence pattern SVOdOi. He'd call "to my sister" in your sentence #2 an adverbial. I am no grammarian, but I disagree. If "my sister" is the I.O. in the first sentence, why can't it still be I.O. in the second? There has been only a change of position of that noun phrase, but that does not involve a change in the meaning of the sentence. The indirect object needs to be introduced by a preposition (usually "to" or "for") when it is places after the D.O. To me, "to my sister" in sentence #2 is exactly the same I.O. as "my sister" in sentence #1.

The verb "give" in your second sentence is not complex transitive. Complex transitive verbs take both a direct object and an object complement, which is not the case here. If we follow Quirk and say that "my sister" is an adjunt (adverbial), then "give" is a monotransitive verb. If we say that "my sister" is the I.O. of give, then the verb is ditransitive: it takes two objects.

Your example #3 could be analysed in the same way, I think. "Of" is not the usual preposition that will introduce an I.O., so you can say that "of the Supreme Court Justice is an adjunct (adverbial). However, that structure might also be considered the I.O. of the sentence. You have two possible passive counterparts for your sentence: "The Supreme Court Justice was asked a question" and "A question was asked of the Supreme Court Justice!.

That said now, I think you can make your choice (I.O. or adverbial) and either should be ok, since both can be accounted for.

As a side note here, I'll mention that Quirk also poses a dilemma when it comes to analysing certain verbs such as "look at". He says that, in a sentence like "I'm looking at you", you can consider the preposition part of the verb, in which case "you" would be D.O. But, he says, you can also consider "at you" as a prepositional phrase, in which case it would be an adjunct (adverbial) modifying the verb "look".


P.S. If "of the Supreme Court Justice" were an adverbial, as you say, I'm not sure what type it would be, but you can have adverbials of almost anything (yes, this is a bit of an overgeneralisation!). Perhaps one of target or goal if such things actually exist?
Dear Miriam,

I'm so happy to find somebody who understands exactly what I'm talking about as far as sentence analysis is concerned.

But doesn't Quirk say that when the pattern is SVOiOd the verb is ditransitive and when it is SVOdA or SVOdCo (i.e. in BOTH cases) the verb is complex-transitive? Would you be so kind as to check that for me, please?

Thank you very much for your explanations which confirm what I already thought; that is, even authoritative grammarians do not know exactly how to analyse some patterns of speech!Emotion: big smile

See you soon on these pages.

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
You're most welcome, Hela. I love everything connected with English grammar, and syntactic analysis is my favourite topic!

I have A Grammar of Contemporary English and A University Grammar of English with me, so I can even give you page numbers to go with my words this time!

In A Grammar of Contemporary English you read, on page 38, that there are two types of complements: subject complement and object complement. There are examples of both and, on page 39, you have the following examples of object complement:

"They make him the chairman every year" and "they made him happier".

On the same page, you read: "A few verbs take an object complement as in #6 (this is the sentence about making someone the chairman) and these will be referred to as complex-transitive."

In A University Grammar of English you find the same definition/explanation together with the chairman example on page 14. Complex transitive verbs are mentioned again, and more examples are provided, in Ch. 12 ("The verb and its complementation"), in both books.

There is nothing about adverbials being object complements. By definition, adverbials modify either a verb or an entire clause (these are called "sentence adverbials").

I hope this helps. Emotion: smile

Thanks a lot, Miriam. I don't know why I thought that the verbs withing this sentence pattern:

SVOdA = subject / verb / direct object / adverbials were also considered complex-transitive verbs. I am wrong then?

Best regards,

Hello again, Hella, and you're welcome.

I cannot say you are wrong because I haven't read everything there is to read about English grammar. What I can say is that none of the authors I've read in the past 15 or 20 years consider that adverbials have anything to do with transitivity. The "transitivity" or "intransitivity" of a verb is directly related to the presence or absence of objects, respectively, respectively.

Transitive verbs (those that take an object) can be classified into monotransitive ( = 1 object), ditransitive ( = 2 objects), and complex transitive and complex-transitive (object + object complement.

Again, I've never heard of, or read about, anything or anyone that considers adverbials as either objects or object complements. Adverbs, adverbial phrases and and adverbial clauses cannot be either objects or object complements.


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Thanks again, Miriam. You're really helpful! Emotion: wink

Best wishes,

"They make him the chairman every year" and "they made him happier".

I understand the chairman and happier in the sentences quoted aboive are object complement. But in the following sentences, can the infinitive be taken as object complement?

They made him to leave.

They asked him to go.
Hello Ethanw.

This is not a reply to your question but merely my tip about it.

First of all, please allow me to say your first sentence is wrong. It should be "They made him leave". This is a special structure called as "causative construction". This sentence can be parsed as "They {made [him leave]}" or "They made him-leave". The point of this parsing is that the object of the verb "made" is "him leave". Some grammarians call this "him leave" as "small clause". It is because "him" and "leave" is in a subject-verb relation, and so"him leave" can be taken as a sort of contracted clause. In another words, semantically speaking, we can rephrase it as "They caused an event that he left". If you take this view, the sentence can be classed into the sentence pattern of SVO (=subject-verb-object). However, some grammarians claim that most of English sentences can be classed into five patterns: SV, SVC, SVO, SVOO and SVOC. Such grammarians define an object complement as any syntactic unit that describes the state or action of the object. If you adopt this sort of theory, "leave" is indeed an object complement because it describes the action of "him". On the other hand, Quirk excluded infinitives from the category of object complements, and to compensate it, in addition to the five patterns, he provided a sixth pattern "SVOV" to explain such sentences like "They made him leave" (and "They asked him to go).

So, as a conclusion, I think the answer to your question would depend on what kind of grammar you like best. I'm sorry I couldn’t give you a definite answer but I hope it will help you someway.

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