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Chapter 4. Clause structure, complements, and adjuncts. A clause consists of a subject and a clause The head of the predicate is the verb (predicator) The Predicate consists of the verb (predicator) as the head and possibly other dependents. Dependents of the predicate (VP): A. Complements

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Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Clause structure, complements, and adjuncts

A clause consists of a subject and a clause

The head of the predicate is the verb (predicator)

The Predicate consists of the verb (predicator) as the head and possibly other dependents.

Dependents of the predicate (VP): A. Complements

B. Adjuncts


Complements are a type of dependent that are licensed by the head verb.

Licensing is related to what is permitted in a clause. It has to do with grammar and semantics.

Sue used the cheese. Sue used.* object obligatory

Sue ate the cheese. Sue ate. object optional

Sue disappeared the cheese Sue disappearedobjected not permitted

There are several types of complements

  • The subject

  • The object (direct and indirect)

  • The Predicative complement (PC)

  • The prepositional phrase (PP) complement

Subject as a kind of complement
Subject as a kind of complement

Every canonical clause contains a subject. However, certain kinds of subjects are licensed by verbs. Since licensing applies to subjects, they could be considered a type of complement.

Whether we finish early depends on the length of the semester.

Whether we finish early ruined my day.

Subjects are licensed by the verb, so they are a type of complement. Since they are located outside the predicate, they are considered external complements.

Distinctive syntactic properties of the subject
Distinctive Syntactic Properties of the Subject

  • A. Basic position before the verb.

    Sarah played soccer.

  • B. Case – Nominative

    Nominative: I he she we they

    Accusative: me him her us them

    She hit him.

    nominative accusative

  • C. Subject verb agreement

    I drinkcoffee.

    She drinks coffee

  • D. Subject auxiliary inversion

    Are you studying translation?

    Do you drink coffee?


  • The object has the form of an NP, and it is located within the predicate.

  • It is closely related to the verb.

    Syntactic properties

    1. With some verbs, the object is obligatory “licensed by the verb”.

    He wants coffee. “Obligatory for the verb “wants”.

    2. Typically can be the subject in the passive form of the sentence.

    Ed informed the manager. “Active”.

    The manager was informed by Ed. “passive”

  • Objects take the form of an accusative case.

    Ed told him.

  • The basic position is IMMEDIATELY after the verb. For example, no adverbs can come in between the verb and the object.

    Ed told quickly the manager.* ungrammatical

Objects direct and indirect objects
Objects: Direct and Indirect Objects

  • Sue gave Maxthe photo.

    Indrect obj Direct obj

    What is the difference between direct objects and indirect objects?

    • The direct objects are more directly involved in being acted on in the situation. The photo exchanges hands and becomes Max's possession. The answer typically answers the question "what?" What did Sue give Max? The photo

    • The indirect object refers to the recipient or the beneficiary. It typically answers the question Who? Who did Sue give the photo to? Max. The indirect object can also be converted to a PP.

      Sue gave the photo to Max. pp complement

Prepositional phrase complement
Prepositional Phrase Complement

Verbs that license two objects also license a structure with a direct object and PP complement.

Sue gave the phototo Max.

Direct Obj PP comp

We bought shoes for them.

PP complements cannot be considered objects because they cannot be replaced by an accusative pronoun, and they do not correspond to the subject in passive clauses.

Sue gave the photo him* ungrammatical

To Max the photo was given by Sue. ungrammatical

Predicative complements
Predicative Complements

  • Has the form of an NP or AdjP

  • Located within the predicate

  • It describes the subject

    Syntactic properties of the predicative complements

  • PC can have the form of AdjP

  • PC can have the form of a bare role NP (i.e. it lacks a determiner and denotes a role, office, or position)

  • PC does not correspond to the subject of passive clause.

  • PC can have the form of a nominative pronoun


Adjunct do not have to be licensed by the verbs, and they are less closely dependent on the verb. Their occurrence is less dependent on grammatical rules.

Adjuncts cover both modifiers and supplements

How can we identify adjuncts?

You can omit it from the sentence and the sentence is still grammatical.

Adjuncts come as:

  • Adverb or AdvP He thanked us profusely. She barely studied.

  • PP I went home by bus.

  • NP We saw her this morning.

  • Finite clause I couldn’t do it, however I tried.

  • Non finite clause I kept my mouth shut, to avoid giving any more offence.

Semantic kinds of adjuncts
Semantic kinds of adjuncts:

Manner He drove her quite recklessly.

Place They have breakfast in bed

Time I saw her last week.

Duration We lived in London for five years.

Frequency She calls her mother every Sunday.

Degree We very much enjoyed your last novel.

Purpose I checked all the doors to make sure they were shut.

Result It rained all day with the result that they couldn’t work.

Condition If it rained, the match will be postponed.

Consession Although he’s rich, he lives very simply.

Modifiers and supplements
Modifiers and Supplements


They are playing happily outside. Happily, they were playing outside.

i.e.: they are happy while playing i.e.: the speaker is happy they are playing

outside. outside.

Supplements are set apart intonationally and are marked by punctuation.