You are on page 1of 11

I. O.

Macari, Morpho-syntax, Lecture 7

sem I, 2014

4.4. The verb phrase
4.4.1. Definition and structure
Most grammars agree that the verb phrase (VP) consists of a head, which is a lexical or a
primary verb 1 , preceded by the optional elements, the primary and/or modal auxiliaries. A
simple verb phrase consists in the head/main verb only.
The main verb selects the other clause elements that can occur in the clause (see valency). The
auxiliaries further characterize the action, state, or process expressed by the main verb.
Finite verb phrases mark distinctions of tense between present and past and can be preceded by
modal auxiliaries. Non-finite verb phrases are not marked for tense and cannot occur with modal
auxiliaries.
According to Biber, Conrad and Leech (2002, pp. , 42), in two situations verb phrases are
discontinuous/split into two parts:
-

In questions, the subject is placed after the (first) auxiliary verb: What's he doing? (verb
phrase is doing)
Adverbs or other adverbials can interrupt the parts of a verb phrase: He has just arrived.
(just is placed between the auxiliary and the main verb). Notice that this
interposed position of the adverb between the auxiliary and the main verb never occurs in
Romanian (El a tocmai ajuns.).

Kies models the structure of a verb phrase in the following diagram:

Due to its clarity and simplicity, it can be used for future reference, together with Leech's patterns of
verb choices discussed in 3.9.2 and with Biber, Conrad and Leech‟s table of the main forms of the VP
below, illustrated with show as main verb and could as a modal auxiliary (2002, pp. , 43).
simple
perfect
1

present tense
shows/show
has/have shown

past tense
showed
had shown

Lexical, primary and auxiliary verb are discussed in 5.4.

modal
could show
could have shown

I. as we have already seen in Leech's model. 2014 was/were showing was/were shown had been showing could be showing could be shown could have been showing had been shown could have been shown was/were being shown could be being shown As we can see in the table above. is being done.5. The adjective phrase 4. .1. Primary auxiliaries follow modals and. the verb phrase has only one function in the clause and no function in the phrase. a. Thus.3. both the finite (a) and non-finite (b) verb phrases always realise the verbal of the clause they belong to. complements. MODAL + PERFECT + PROGRESSIVE + PASSIVE Nevertheless. Modifiers that precede the head are alternatively called specifiers and those that follow it. more than one auxiliary can occur in the same verb phrase. as in They had powerful cars. if all are present. (preparing – verbal in ing-Cl. The simplest type of adjective phrase consists of an adjective only. finite VP) b. Syntactic functions of verb phrases As we saw in 4. primary and modal auxiliaries can combine in forms like may have done. has been done. Notice that. and they are optional. Like nouns phrases. in both Romanian and English. adjective phrases can be made more complex by adding words that modify/complement the head. Morpho-syntax. O. the verb phrases with four or more verbs (such as could have been being shown) are quite uncommon.2. His friends| were preparing| a surprise party. in terms of structure.4. His friends enjoy || |preparing| surprise parties||. Definition and structure An adjective phrase is a phrase in which the head is an adjective. non-finite VP) 4. they occur in the order shown below. the adjective phrase (AdjP) typically consists of a head. (were preparing – verbal. Macari. Thus. optionally preceded and followed by modifiers. English structure example future perfect will have done modal perfect progressive might have been doing modal perfect progressive could have been being passive made Romanian structure example viitor anterior va fi făcut condițional-optativ perfect ar fi putut face condițional-optativ perfect ar fi putut fi făcut pasiv 4. Lecture 7 progressive passive perfect+ progressive perfect +passive progressive +passive am/is/are showing am/is/are shown has/have been showing has/have been shown am/is/are being shown sem I. Modifiers qualify what is denoted by the adjective.5.

and the postmodifier specifies in what respect: with him.I. such as very. so. Specifiers typically indicate the degree of the quality denoted by the adjective. by specifying the properties or the attributes of that noun. premodifiers and postmodifiers can appear in the following combinations in the structure of AdjPs: adjective phrase structure head example nice premodifier + head very nice head + postmodifier premodifier + head + postmodifier nice of you to come very nice of you to come The structure of the adjective phrase can also be arranged diagrammatically (source. O. too. For example. The most common type of specifier consists of degree adverbs. Morpho-syntax. if we say His mother is very angry. . 2014 Heads. Adjectives are words that typically modify nouns. we mean that the subject is characterized in some respect by a certain state. [NP a [AdjP calm] attitude] His mother is [AdjP very angry with him]. Lecture 7 sem I. Complements mainly take the form of - prepositional phrases (too late for reconciliation) comparative constructions (funnier than the last show) degree adverbs (useful enough) to-infinitive clauses (too poor to feed themselves) comparative clauses (His behaviour was ruder than I could imagine.) Postmodifiers are called „complements‟ because they normally complete what is implied in the meaning of the adjective. etc. He is [AdjP so interested in linguistics]. The elements following the head serve to complete the meaning of the adjective and are generally called complements.com): The head of the adjective phrase is always realised by an adjective. Macari. papyr.

which is the normal position the subject complement. Princess Royal. but the members of a small subclass. Notice that. etc. as in the nicest dress imaginable or the best services available. with the exception of the fixed expressions above.I. Such adjectives that take obligatory postmodifiers have verbs with corresponding meanings. head in NP the nicest surprise party possible the blind Subject complement is the most typical role of the adjective phrase in the clause. She is afraid of snakes. Together with other adjectives. governor general. everyone (everyone alive). notary public. Morpho-syntax. The most typical role the adjective phrase at the level of phrase is that of premodifier of NP. in the clause in the phrase syntactic function 1. They are illustrated with examples in the table below. They found him nice. adjective aware fond subject afraid example I'm aware of the consequences. Predicative adjectives occur after a link verb. actually follow the head noun. those (no one responsible). Postpositive adjectives often combine with specifiers in the superlative. She is fond of cats. The resulting noun phrases are fixed „official‟ expressions such as Asia Minor. Attributive adjectives normally occur before the nouns they modify (see examples above). only predicative adjectives can be postposed. attorney general.2. She likes cats. Another situation of postposition is when the head the adjective modifies indefinite or demonstrative pronouns such as something (something nice). afraid. A few examples are provided in the table below. Macari. etc. The head adjective in an adjective phrase functioning as subject complement is classified as predicative adjective. they are grouped in lists labelled 'adjectives with obligatory prepositions' that can be found in usage books such as Raymond Murphy‟s English Grammar In Use with Answers and CD ROM: A Self-study Reference and Practice Book for Intermediate Students of English. verb know like submit fear example I know that there will be consequences. She fears snakes. his closest relative alive→ his closest relative living . postmodifier of a noun or NP 3.5. subject. heir apparent. times past. 4. Syntactic functions of adjective phrases Adjective phrases have syntactic functions both in the clause and at phrase level. O. etc. 2014 Certain adjectives (aware. fond. a special surprise 2.) require the presence of a postmodifier for completeness. called postpositive adjectives. subject complement 2. object complement 1. They submit the proposal for debate. The proposal is subject to debate. where the adjective is classified as attributive adjective. Lecture 7 sem I. premodifier of a noun or NP example That moment was special.

com): . Macari. Much like adjective phrases. (The Sun Magazine) An adjective phrase modifying a noun can be discontinuous. according to Cambridge Dictionaries Online n. which can be reconstructed as follows: the nicest dress imaginable → the nicest dress that was imaginable the best services available → the best accommodations that is available The adjective living (= „alive now‟.6.1. Morpho-syntax. prepositional phrases and adverbial clauses. which is an exclusively predicative adjective. his closest relative living → his closest relative who is living Living should be replaced by alive (as in his closest relative alive. able to mix. The adverb phrase 4. besides the head. that can be expanded to his closest relative who is alive). Mainly one-word adverb phrases modify adjectives (barely alive) or adverbs (very slowly). most adjectives can occur in both the attributive and the predicative positions. Definition and structure The adverb phrase (AdvP) is a phrase in which the head is an adverb. adverb phrases (AdvP) may contain. Nevertheless. so the instance below is ungrammatical. A very long modifying adjective phrase can also be postposed. They can all combine to form the following basic structures: (premodifier/specifier) head separately almost separately (postmodifier/complement) from him The structure of the adverb phrase was arranged diagrammatically by Kies (papyr. as in the following two examples. and cut biscuits as easily as blinking.d. 2014 This happens because they can be expanded into relative clause with subject complement. while the adverbial is a clause element that can be realised by adverb phrases. with the noun head splitting it in two parts: During journeys to and from school Asia was a different sibling than the one I knew at home. one or more modifiers.I. Lecture 7 sem I. (The Sun Magazine) 4.) can be used predicatively only. Adverb phrases (as forms) should not be mistaken for adverbials (as functions). Our mother was a fabulous farm cook. The adverb phrase is a phrase (= a word or group of words which can fulfil a syntactic function in a clause). roll. O. An adverb phrase may consist of one word (an adverb alone) or of two or more words. The modifiers (premodifiers/ specifiers and postmodifiers/complements) in an adverb phrase are optional elements that are dependent on the head.6.

They are illustrated with examples in the table below. almost all right out of sight. a very pleasant surprise party almost surprisingly the then Minister of Health. I don’t know when. Syntactic functions of adverb phrases Adverb phrases have syntactic functions both in the clause and at phrase level.2. . The most common intensifier is very. rather more interesting Functions and examples 2 to 4 in clause and 3 to 10 in phrase are adapted from Downing and Locke (English Grammar .6. pp.A University Course. in the clause in the phrase 2 syntactic function2 1. just down the road much too short. subject complement 3. modifier of determiners 5. O. while postmodifiers are typically realized by prepositional phrases or comparative clauses (She did not manage as smoothly as she had expected). modifier in PpP 6.I. . modifier in AdjP 2. submodifier in AdjP example They had a surprise party yesterday. 2nd edition. modifier in AdvP 3. most of the premodifiers are intensifiers that express the degree of the characteristic expressed by an adjective or adverb. They didn’t tell me why. Lecture 7 sem I. Here are some examples of possible structures of adverb phrases: adverb phrase structure head premodifier + adverb adverb + postmodifier premodifier + adverb + postmodifier Example separately almost separately separately from him almost separately from him 4. roughly half. a nearby hotel about double. Premodifiers are usually realized by degree adverbs. 2014 Semantically. direct object 4. That’s quite all right. 2006. Today is the last Friday in the month. Macari. 509). subject (marginally) 1. modifier in NP 4. Morpho-syntax. adverbial 2.

post-modifier in NP complement in PpP sem I. and. very beautiful indeed quickly enough. while in She totally agreed with him.7.7. totally is an adverb phrase functioning as an adverbial in the clause. Definition and structure The prepositional phrase is a phrase consisting of a preposition followed normally by a noun phrase called either prepositional complement or the object of the preposition. 1990. 188). never again the journey back. The same structure is also called the „object of the preposition‟ because “a prepositional complement is „object territory‟ and personal pronouns are therefore in the objective case” (Greenbaum & Quirk. unlike the heads of all the other phrase types. totally is a premodifier for the head adjective satisfied. Nevertheless. Many adverbs can function both as modifiers in phrases and as adverbials at clause level. post-modifier in AdvP 10. Lecture 7 7. without its complement. in contemporary English. the preposition can be seen as a link that connects the noun phrase and the preceding units. due to the semantic association between the preposition and the following NP. the most common syntactic roles of the adverbial phrase are 1 in the clause and 1 and 2 in the phrase. The order of the constituents in the prepositional phrase can be inferred from the name of the word-class the head word belongs to: the preposition („foregoing position‟) normally comes before its complement. 2014 (not) all that easily. The structure following a preposition is called a „complement‟ because it completes the meaning of the preposition. through there. O. they are frequently optional in the sense that they can be omitted without the clause becoming ungrammatical. In the clause He was totally satisfied with the party. The prepositional phrase 4. p. from inside. it cannot occur by itself.1. submodifier in AdvP 8. till now In the enumeration in the table above. When adverb phrases realise adverbials. far too often quick enough. Morpho-syntax. structures with stranded prepositions have become the rule (or at least a popular alternative) in the following situations:  The stranding is obligatory when the prepositional complement becomes the subject of the clause. the way ahead over here. 4. Macari. Much like in Romanian. post-modifier in AdjP 9. .I. nicely indeed. The prepositional phrase is a structure with three parts: (modifier/specifier) head into right towards complement/object the car her The head of a prepositional phrase is always a preposition. according to Greenbaum and Nelson (2002) and Swan (2005).

with great patience. The prepositional complement is typically realised by a noun phrase. pp. o During which period did it happen? (not Which period did it happen during?) o Since when have you been working for her? (not When have you been working for her since?) The modifier is normally a degree object and it is the only optional element of a prepositional phrase. in a temper) in which „the preposition is closely connected with the noun and is kept as near as possible to it. for ever. (see 4 and 5 below). prepositions go with their verbs: o She likes to be looked at. madam? (not For whom is it?) The structures where…to. etc.  „common adverbial expressions‟ consisiting of preposition + NP (e. the preposition is normally stranded.] Notice that in formal style the preposition is fronted with its complement. for good. [In relative clauses the pronoun may be omitted. Lecture 7        sem I. o Carol was operated on last night. In that case. O. o I’ve got lots of music to listen to. o For whom are you waiting? o I am the person for whom you are waiting. prepositions cannot be moved away from passive verbs: o In my family. money was never spoken about. o I admired the patience with which she spoke. prepositions are not often put at the beginning of questions which have be as the main verb. In passive structures. 3 Realizations and examples are adapted from Downing and Locke (English Grammar . 2014 o Your case will soon be attended to. Macari. 2nd edition. Swan (2005. 453-4) lists a number of exceptions to the exceptions above.A University Course. .I. The preposition cannot usually be moved to the end of a clause. (not the patience she spoke with). what…like and what…for have a fixed order: o Where shall I send it to? (but not To where shall I send it?) o What does she look like? (but not Like what does she look?) Additionally. . o The picture is worth looking at. Morpho-syntax. o Who is it for.g. but it may also be realised by other word classes or phrases3: Adjective and adverb phrases as complements are uncommon and limited to certain set expressions such as at last. 2006. In questions and relative clauses the prepositional complement may be a pronoun or adverb that is fronted.  During and since are not normally put at the end of clauses. infinitive complements can have prepositions with them: o The village is pleasant to live in. Even in very formal style. 536) . o Where are you coming from? o I am the person (that) you are waiting for. Notice that even in a formal style. pp. (not …about money was never spoken) In infinitive structures.

I don’t consider next to a railway line a good place to live. Lecture 7 prepositional complement 1. His illness left him without a job ~ jobless). Syntactic function In the 1. complement in AdjP Example She talked to him after the party. prepositional object 5. for ever except in here. in private until very recently. complement in PpP an out-of-date report. an example like I saw the man in the bus can be read either „I saw the man who was sitting in the bus‟ or „I was in the bus and I saw the man‟. 2014 example at home. Someone has been tampering with the scanner. Monica must be out of her mind to reject such an interesting offer. subject complement object complement In the 1. Macari. pp.7. They can actually realise every element of clause structure except the predicator. if we translate the example above (Am văzut un om din autobuz). The fact that the PpP realized as adverbial and the PpP realized as postmodifier in NP often occur in the same place in a clause may lead to ambiguity. 541-2). the same ambiguity may arise in Romanian. the PpP can be identified either as atribut substantival prepozițional or complement circumstanțial de loc. PpPs are used freely as sCs or oCs to express temporary states. (Monica must be out of her mind ~ mad. Consequently. noun phrase 2. premodifier in NP 5. Morpho-syntax. adverb 6. preposition phrase 7. . 2006. postmodifier in NP phrase 2. . His illness left him without a job. nominal relative clause 3. adverbial clause 2. the tree in the garden happy with his reaction. 2nd edition. complement in AdvP far from here 4. subject 3. for good.I. brilliant at gardening 3. In much less frequent cases. above the city from what I know before getting to you at long last. -ing clause 4. ever since. from out of the forest Do you have any problems apart from where to stay? 4. O. each illustrated with examples in the table below4. Cl sem I. wh + to-inf. Syntactic functions of prepositional phrases Prepositional phrases have syntactic functions both in the clause and at phrase level. off-the-record comments except on Mondays As Downing and Locke note. where they are often interchangeable with adjectives. 4 Functions and examples are adapted from Downing and Locke (English Grammar .A University Course. direct object 4. adjective phrase 5. the use of PpPs in the functions of subject and object is normally restricted to expressions of place or time.2. After dark is the only good time for fireworks.

4. or spiral loaves as well as large. 2014 PpPs have an ability to be embedded recursively in other PpPs or phrases. The former ( ) champion is now very ill ( ). . 1. Lecture 7 sem I. The first bread was patted by hand.).A University Course. He has a rare ( ) viral ( ) infection. 541) Another illustration is provided by Greenbaum and Nelson (2002: 89). 3. It is sometimes possible _______________________ 4. My children are always happy _______________________ 3. Exercises: Exercise 4. 1. which is embedded in another. Exercise 4. . one unit is embedded in another. Macari. triangular.28 The adverb phrase Underline each adverb phrase. 3.I. and so on.26 The adjective phrase Complete the sentences below by adding a post-modifier to the adjectives at the ends of the sentences. 1. Morpho-syntax. 2nd edition. (English Grammar . Exercise 4. O. open-centred disks. No doubt you are aware _______________________ 2. In a recent sample. In the clause There were variations in the degree of bitterness of taste. flat.25 The adjective phrase Underline each adjective phrase. The drugs he takes make him sick ( ). The early Egyptians added yeast and made conical. 30 per cent of the subscribers to a woman‟s magazine said that they baked bread. as in the following example: At midnight (1) she secretly (2) eloped with her lover (3) to his lodgings (4). 2006. pp.27 Functions of adjective phrases Identify the function of each underlined adjective phrase by writing the appropriate abbreviation in the brackets after it: prm (pre-modifier in noun phrase) pm (post-modifier in noun phrase) sC (subject complement) oC (object complement) 1. 2. They are sure _______________________ Exercise 4. 2. embedding can be shown as follows: prepositional phrase noun phrase prepositional phrase noun phrase prepositional phrase in the degree of bitterness of taste the degree of bitterness of taste of bitterness of taste bitterness of taste of taste A last observation here is that two or more prepositional phrases that realise adverbials may appear independently and simultaneously in the same clause (see 3.8. Disposing of nuclear waste is a problem that has recently gained much attention. In other words. Fragrant homemade bread is becoming common in many American homes. as in: A car accident [on the motorway [to Yorkshire]].

Politicians in the United States must raise large sums of money ( ) if they want to get elected. Because of this danger.I. Lecture 7 sem I. . 3. Some doctors refer to massage as manipulative medicine. There is always the danger of the waste leaking very gradually from the containers in which it is stored. 3. They were widely ( ) condemned at the time. Relativity is a theory on which many modern theories in physics are based. Exercise 4. It was in late eighteenth-century France that forks suddenly ( ) became fashionable. 2014 2. Its value is recognized by many doctors.33 The prepositional phrase Rewrite the sentences below. Macari. A candidate can no longer win with little campaign money ( ). This article is one that researchers in economics often make reference to.32 The prepositional phrase Underline each prepositional phrase and circle each preposition. Exercise 4. television advertisements have been quite belligerent. 3. If a prepositional phrase is embedded within another prepositional phrase. 5. 1. 5. They need the money to employ staff and for the frequent advertisements they run on television ( ). Exercise 4. slightly ( ) concave pieces of wood.29 Functions of adverb phrases Identify the function of each underlined adverb phrase by writing the appropriate abbreviation in the brackets after it: A (adverbial) m adj (modifier of adjective) m adv (modifier of adverb) 1. You may need to make some consequent changes. The secretary is the person who you should send your application to. 2. Morpho-syntax. 4. 5. 4. Candidates are keenly aware of the need for huge financial contributions ( ). The Swedish technique of massage emphasizes improving circulation by manipulation. Authorities are having difficulties finding locations where nuclear waste can be disposed of safely. 3. 2. Spoons are thousands of years older than forks and began as thin. Who are you writing to? 4. In recent campaigns ( ). underline it twice. 4. 2. moving prepositions to alternative positions that they can occur in. It is a natural therapy for aches and pains in the muscles. Knives were used far ( ) earlier than spoons. O. 1. many people have protested quite vehemently against the dumping of any waste in their communities. *Exercise 4. 3. It may come as a surprise to you that massage is mentioned in ancient Hindu Chinese writings. 2. Small forks first ( ) appeared in eleventh-century Tuscany.34 Functions of prepositional phrases Identify the function of each underlined prepositional phrase by writing the appropriate abbreviation in the brackets after it: pn (post-modifier of a noun) padj (post-modifier of an adjective) A (adverbial) 1. 4.