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it seems to me it never does. any situation I can think of, what might be interpreted as the patient is always actually an adjective or adverb.

example:

"This is most evident in 2008 where the reduction from 350 grams in April to 250g in May and to 150g in June through September coincided with the onset of the lean season (between May and July) in most parts of the country"

'this' is a pronoun standing in as the agent

'is' is the predicate

confusingly (to me) evident is an adjective, not a patient. I'm guessing it modifies (from a distance) 'this'. I guess if you were Yoda you could say: "evident this is", or to make its adjectival nature more explicit "evident this, it is", but that's sort of non-grammatical.

'most' is an adverb

'in 2008' is a preposition phrase acting as an adverb

'where' is a conjunction, and from there we start a new set of phrases.

If I didn't know 'evident' had to be an adjective, I would have thought it might be the object of 'this is'. I can pull up a million more examples of where it almost looks like the verb 'to be' has an argument structure like <to be>(agent, patient), but it in fact never does.

can I safely make the universal statement that 'to be' can only ever have one argument? Also, is this argument an agent or a patient?
Comments  
Anon:
I am a bit puzzled by your terminology - what source are you using for the vocabulary?

The word "patient" does not have a grammar-related definition in the dictionary I consulted, but it does have this definition which could be applied: a person or thing that undergoes some action.

The verb "be" is not a verb of action. It is a copulative or linking verb. What follows is either a predicate adjective or predicate noun, which modifies (or restates) the subject.
English has a number of these kinds of verbs.

Regards,
A-Emotion: stars
Sorry, but what is a patient?
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Grammar Geek and AlpheccaStars, thanks for your replies

sorry on the terminology, it comes from the Lexical Functional theory of grammar (LFG)

LFG uses 'agent' and 'patient' as well as 'subject' and 'object' to denote the function of a word in a sentence. An agent is almost always the subject. A patient is the object in active voice, but the subject in passive voice; in passive voice there generally isn't an agent. The terms come from a 'doer of an action', and a 'reciever of an action' (ie. an agent and a patient).

consider this sentence:

"The kitchen garden is a very important source of household food access"

what is 'a very important source' in this sentence? Is it a predicate noun and, if so, is it right to refer to a predicate noun as an object?

Also, I find deciding what is an adverb and an adjective confusing with 'to be'. I would parse 'of household food access' as an preposition phrase acting as an adjective modifying 'source'. Is this correct? I think I get confused because I envision 'to be' as an action of 'existing' and I'd think whatever properties something has in existing would be brought about by the verb creating the existence, making those things adverbs. That's just my goofy mind though.

also, considering my first sentence again:

"This is most evident in 2008..."

is 'evident' a predicate adjective?
Grammar GeekSorry, but what is a patient?
Not completely identical to, but very close to the "old-fashioned" term direct object. Emotion: smile (direct object is a syntactic role; patient is a semantic role.)

CJ
Anonymous it almost looks like the verb 'to be' has an argument structure like <to be>(agent, patient), but it in fact never does.
It never does as far as I know. The closest case of it that I can think of is in the pattern He is being a jerk today, where "he" is "taking the role of a jerk", so to speak. Even so, I don't think this is exactly a case of agent (he) and patient (jerk), so unless someone can come up with a better example, I'd have to say that be never has an agent or a patient that goes with it. Rather, it forms an "equative" structure.

CJ
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Thanks for the new word. I've certainly used "agent" but then I tend to use "doer" and "receiver" for the actions of the sentence when talking about the passive. Is "patient" commonly used in grammar discussons, or does it live more often in the linguistics field?
Grammar GeekIs "patient" commonly used in grammar discussons, or does it live more often in the linguistics field?
It comes up occasionally in grammar discussions, but it's mostly a term in linguistics, specifically semantics if I'm not mistaken. It makes a pair with "agent". Dumb term in my opinion, but it's well established in the field. Emotion: smile

CJ