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The compound nominal predicate


The compound nominal predicate proper

§ 54. The compound nominal predicate consists of a link verb and a predicative (nominal part). The link verb is the structural element of the predicate, as it joins the subject and the predicative. It expresses the grammatical categories of person, number, tense, aspect and mood.

The predicative is the notional part of the compound nominal predicate. It characterizes the person or non-person expressed by the subject. The characterization may concern the following:

1. The properties of the person or non-person (the state or quality or quantity of it).


The girl looked tired but pretty.

I felt sore for a minute.

But he is not always alone.

The visibility seemed very good.

He was forty and in his prime.

We are seven.


2. The identity of the person or non-person, that is, what class of persons or things they belong to.


This man is my father.

Old Mr Clare was a clergyman.

Miss Sedley’s papa was a man of some wealth.

My wish is to learn many languages.


§ 55. Among the class of link verbs we may distinguish:


1. Those which have lost their original lexical meaning(to be, to get).


He is just the kind of man I want.

Elisabeth got very restless.


2. Those which have only partly lost their lexical meaning (to remain, to become, to grow, to turn, to look, to seem).


That request seemed superfluous.

The room looked snug and cheerful.

Ellen’s eyes grew moist.


In both cases (1, 2) the link verbs proper are used.


3. Those which have fully preserved their lexical meaning but still serve as link verbs followed by a predicative. They are used in the passive voice: to elect, to call, to leave, to keep, to make.


The boy was called John.

She was left alone.

He was elected president.


According to their semantic characteristics link verbs fall into three groups: link verbs of being, of becoming, of remaining.


l. Link verbs of being:

to be, to feel, to sound, to smell, to taste, to look, to appear, to seem, etc.


Of these only the verb to be is a pure link verb of being, as the others may have some additional meaning (see examples below).

When he was seven, starting school had been a nightmare and a torture to him.

His face looked awful all the time.

I felt better pleased than ever.

His voice sounded cold and hostile.

He seemed bewildered.

Everything appeared very grand and imposing to me.


Note how the link verbs to taste and to feel are translated into Russian:


Lemons taste sour. - Лимоны кислые на вкус.

The fur feels soft. - Мех мягкий на ощупь.


2. Link verbs of becoming:

to become, to grow, to turn, to get, to make.


The noise of the rattling dishes becomes intolerable.

The Elephant’s Child’s nose grew longer and longer.

The girl’s face suddenly turned red.

The girl will make a good teacher.


3. Link verbs of remaining:

to remain, to continue, to keep, to stay.


She remained vexed with him.

The children kept suspiciously silent.


Ways of expressing the predicative

§ 56. The predicative can be expressed by:


1. A noun in the common case or in the genitive case.


Miss Sedly’s father was a merchant.

The face was Victoria's.


2. An adjective or an adjective phrase.


Ellen’s eyes grew angry.

She was full of enthusiasm.

The man was difficult to convince,



It should be remembered that in some cases a predicative adjective in English corresponds to an adverbial modifier expressed by an adverb in Russian.


The apples smell good.

Яблоки хорошо пахнут.


The music sounded beautiful.

Музыка звучала прекрасно.


She looks bad - Она плохо выглядит

feels чувствует себя


In English the verbs to smell, to sound, to look, to feel are link verbs and are the first part of the compound nominal predicate. The predicatives (which form the second part of these predicates) qualify the subject and can therefore be expressed only by adjectives. In Russian the corresponding verbs form simple verbal predicates and are therefore modified by adverbials expressed by an adverb.


3. A pronoun.


It was he.

It’s me. (There is a growing tendency to use personal pronouns as predicatives in the objective case.)

She is somebody.

The hat is mine. (In this function only the absolute form of the possessive pronoun is used.)

Who are you?

She was not herself yet.


4. A numeral.


He was sixty last year.

I’m the first.


5. An infinitive (or an infinitive phrase or construction).


His first thought was to run away.

My idea is to go there myself.

The only thing to do is for you to whip him.


6. A gerund (or a gerundial phrase or construction).


My hobby is dancing and his is collecting stamps.

The main problem was his being away at the moment.


7. A participle or a participial phrase.


The subject seemed strangely chosen.


Participle I seldom occurs in this function unless it has become an adjective.


That sounded quite distressing.


8. A prepositional phrase.


She is on our side,

9. A stative.


I was wide awake by this time..


10. An indivisible group of words.


It is nine o’clock already.


11. A clause.


That’s what has happened.

Semantic characteristics of the predicative


§ 57. The three most typical semantic characteristics of a predicative are: identification, classification and characterisation.


1. An identifying predicative expresses equality between the notion expressed by the predicative and by the subject, or means that they are of the same rank or value. In this case the predicative and the subject are positionally interchangeable. Such predicatives are expressed by a noun with the definite article.


London is the capital of Britain. = The capital of Britain is London.

Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. = The highest mountain in the world is Mount



2. A classifying predicative names a class of persons or non-persons to which that denoted by the subject belongs. The predicative in this case is expressed by a noun with the indefinite article.


John is a student.

My father is a teacher.

This is a book.


3. A characterizing predicative denotes a state or quality of a person or non-person and is expressed by an adjective or a stative.


The room is dark.

The sky was blue.

The patient fell asleep.

The house was aflame.


A characterizing predicative may also be a noun which in this case has no article.


He turned traitor.

He was elected president.


The compound nominal double predicate

§ 58. The compound nominal double predicate combines, as its name suggests, the features of two different types of predicate. It has the features of the simple verbal predicate and those of the compound nominal predicate. It consists of two parts, both of which are notional. The first one is verbal and is expressed by a notional verb denoting an action or process performed by the person/non-person expressed by the subject. From this point of view it resembles the simple verbal predicate. But at the same time the verbal part of this predicate performs a linking function, as it links its second part (which is a predicative) to the subject.

The second part of the compound nominal double predicate is expressed by a noun or an adjective which denotes the properties of the subject in the same way as the predicative of the compound nominal predicate proper does.


The moon was shining cold and bright.

The predicate here denotes two separate notions:


1) The moon was shining, and at the same time

2) The moon was cold and bright.


There are a number of verbs that often occur in this type of predicate, performing the double function of denoting a process and serving as link verbs at the same time. They are: to die, to leave, to lie, to marry, to return, to rise, to sit, to stand, to shine, etc. As in Modern English there is a growing tendency to use this type of predicate, the verbs occurring in it are not limited by any particular lexical class.


My daughter sat silent.

He died a hero.

She married young.

The light came gray and pale.

The men stood silent and motionless,

They met friends and parted enemies.

The moon rose round and yellow.



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