Concord between Subject and Predicator in the English Language
Concord between Subject and Predicator in the English Language
Chapter 1. Principal Sentence Elements in the System of English Syntax
Chapter 2. Agreement between Subject and Predicator
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Arnold I.V. The English Word. - M., 2002.
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Crystal D. The Cambridge Encyc
Показать всеlopedia of the English Language. - Cambridge University Press, 1995.
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Refusing offers is not always easy.
There is no difference between these forms, but the prevailing tendency is for the infinitive to be used in reference to one particular action:
To refuse was impossible. I was unemployed when he offered me a job.
It's impossible to save any money this month because I have to pay the income tax for this year.
The gerund however is used to express permanent, habitual and recurring actions:
Eating between meals is bad for the figure.
Going to concerts was about the only thing he thoroughly enjoyed.
Finite Nominal Clauses can be used as Subject as well:
That the man is a famous botanist is hardly known in his village.
Whether he is honest remains to be seen.
Whoever said this is mistaken.
What he does does not concern them.
Why he has sold al
Показать всеl his property is a mystery.
The predicator is the second main sentence element. The main principles of identifying the predicator are:
a) it is always realized by a verbal phrase, finite or non-finite:
To get there in time we have to take a taxi.
Here is a letter announcing his arrival.
b) its position in statements is usually after the subject:
The children played.
In questions the operator precedes the subject:
P S P
Did the children play?
c) it precedes the objects and complements:
S P IO DO
The gentleman brought Mary flowers.
S P SC
He seemed happy.
S P DO OC
They found him dead.
d) it may precede the adverbial adjunct. Note that the position of the adverbial adjunct varies considerably (Rayevska 1976).
S P A
He reads quickly.
The predicator is dependent on the subject; this is exemplified by the agreement between the subject and the predicator.
The predicator is sometimes omitted:
That your husband? On your responsibility? What? You fool!
Predicatorless sentences are not frequent in formal written English, but in spoken English they are quite common (Sledd 1959).
A finite verbal form is always predicator in the clause. Non-finite verbal forms also occur as elements in phrase and in sentence structure.
Chapter 2. Agreement between Subject and Predicator
When taking into consideration the functional side of the analysed forms, we can find out that these forms exist in unity with the personal-numerical forms of the subject. This unity is of such a nature that the universal and true indicator of person and number of the subject of the verb will be the subject itself, however trivial this statement may sound. Essentially, though, “there is not a trace of triviality in the formula, bearing in mind, on the one hand, the substantive character of the expressed categorial meanings, and on the other, the analytical basis of the English grammatical structure, the combination of the English finite verb with the subject being obligatory not only in the general syntactic sense, but also in the categorial sense of expressing the subject-person of the process” (Blokh 2000: 132).
The most important type of concord in English is concord of number between subject and verb. Thus (3) and (4) are ungrammatical:
(1) The window is open (sing + sing)
(2) The windows are open (plur + plur)
(3) *The window are open (sing + plur)
(4) *The windows is open (plur + sing)
As well as concord of number, there is concord of person between subject and verb:
I am your friend (1st PERSON SINGULAR CONCORD)
He is ready. (3rd PERSON SINGULAR CONCORD)
He knows you. (3rd PERSON SINGULAR CONCORD)
Following the principle of proximity, the last noun phrase of a coordinate subject (where the coordinator is or, either ...or, or neither ... nor) determines the person of the verb:
Neither you, nor I, nor anyone else knows the answer.
Either my wife or I am going.
Because many people find such sentences unacceptable, they often prefer to use a modal auxiliary, which is invariable for person, e.g.:
Either my wife or I will be going.
In cleft sentences, a relative pronoun subject is usually followed by a verb in agreement with its antecedent: // is / who am to blame. But 3rd person concord prevails (in informal English) where the objective case pronoun me is used: It's me who's to blame.
A clause in the position of subject counts as singular for purposes of concord: How they got there doesn't concern me; To treat them as hostages is criminal.
The same is true of prepositional phrases, etc, acting as subject: After the exams is the time to relax, etc.
Nominal relative clauses on the other hand, since they are equivalent to noun phrases, may have plural as well as singular concord (Quirk 1985: 163): What were once human dwellings are now nothing but piles of rubble.
In principle the predicator agrees with the subject in number and person. But since Modern English has few inflections, agreement of the predicator with the subject is restricted to the present tense forms (has, works, signs):
He has no sense of humour.
The bell rings.
The verb be is an exception because it agrees with the subject not only in the present tense but in the past tense as well:
He is a lawyer. John was absent.
They are young and happy. The children were noisy.
With the auxiliaries and modal verbs there is no apparent agreement:
The verb “be” as well as other link-verbs introduce the nominal part of the predicate (the predicative) which is commonly expressed by a noun, an adjective, or a phrase of a similar semantic and grammatical character. It should be noted that link-verbs, although they are named so, are not devoid of meaningful content. “Performing their function of connecting ("linking") the subject and the predicative of the sentence, they express the actual semantics of this connection, i.e. expose the relational aspect of the characteristics ascribed by the predicative to the subject” (Blokh 2000: 91).
The linking predicator function in the purest form is effected by the verb be; therefore be as a link-verb can be referred to as the "pure link-verb". It is clear from the above that even this pure link-verb has its own relational semantics, which can be identified as "linking predicative ascription". All the link-verbs other than the pure link be express some specification of this general predicative-linking semantics, so that they should be referred to as "specifying" link-verbs. The common specifying link-verbs fall into two main groups: those that express perceptions and those that express non-perceptional, or "factual" link-verb connection.
“As is to be seen from the comparison of the specifying link-verbs with the verbid introducer predicators described above, the respective functions of these two verbal subsets are cognate, though not altogether identical” (Blokh 2000: 91). The difference involved is that the specifying link-verbs combine the pure linking function with the predicator function.
As regards agreement of the predicator with the subject, the following rules should be observed.
A singular subject agrees with a singular predicator, a plural subject agrees with a plural predicator:
He runs fast. They run fast.
He works nights. They work nights.
The girl studies hard. The girls study hard.
In English there is no equivalent to the now obsolete Russian agreement of a singular noun with the verb in the third person plural to show respect.
When a subject consists of two or more noun phrases coordinated by and, a distinction has to be made between appositional and non-appositional coordination. Under non-appositional coordination R. Quirk includes cases that can be treated as an implied reduction of two clauses (Quirk 1985). Two or more co-ordinate subjects connected by and or asyndetically take a plural predicator:
Mr. Brown and Mary's father are great friends.
A telegram, two parcels and a letter have been sent off.
A singular verb is used with conjoinings which represent a single entity:
The hammer and sickle was flying from a tall flag pole.
Conjoinings expressing a mutual relationship, even though they can only indirectly be treated as reductions of clauses in this way, also take a plural verb:
Your problem and mine are similar (<->Your problem is similar to mine and mine is similar to yours)
With the less common appositional coordination, however, no such reduction is possible at all, for the coordinated structures refer to the same thing (Radford 2004). Hence a singular verb is used:
This temple of ugliness and memorial to Victorian bad taste was erected at the Queen's express wish.
The two opening noun phrases here both refer to the same thing. The following example, however, is ambiguous and could have either a singular or plural verb according as the brother and editor are one person or two:
His younger brother and the subsequent editor of his collected papers was/were with him at his death-bed.
Some latitude is allowed in the interpretation of abstract nouns since it is not always easy to decide if they represent one quality or two: Your fairness and impartiality has/have been much appreciated.
When two or more co-ordinate subjects connected by and denote one single idea, or one person or thing (a unit), a singular predicator is used:
Truth and honesty is the best policy.
My colleague and friend has fallen ill.
Fish and chips is rather cheap.
Whisky and soda is served with ice.
Bread and butter is fattening.
There is bacon and eggs for breakfast today.
The needle and thread is lost again.
Mary and John are Bob's cousins.
"Mary and John" is a good film.
Tom and Jerry are brothers.
"Tom and Jerry" is a drink and a cartoon.
With two or more singular subjects joined by the conjunction or, or by the correlative conjunctions either... or, neither... nor, not only... but (also) the predicator is normally in the singular:
John or Mary is going to settle the affair. (Cf. Slovene) Скрыть
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