Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, A STUDENT'S INTRODUCTION TO ENGLISH GRAMMAR (Cambridge University Press, 2005)


1. This exercise asks for you to use the licensing criterion to determine whether the ten underlined expressions in the examples given are complements or adjuncts, and in the case of complements, to cite three verbs that license such a complement, and three that do not. Suppose we gave the following example sentence:

He knew he would be reprimanded  before he went in to see the boss.

Here's a model answer:

(i) The clause he would be reprimanded is a complement, licensed by know. Verbs that license a complement of this kind include expect, realise, and understand. They exclude verbs such as enjoy, inquire, and loathe.

(ii) The phrase before he went in to see the boss is an adjunct. Dependents indicating time, like this one, do not require the presence of any particular type of verb. Here it is modifying a VP with the head verb knew, but it could modify a VP with fall just as well (He fell flat on his face before he went in to see the boss).

2. Here you're supposed to show how either case or agreement can be used to provide evidence that the underlined expression is subject. Suppose we gave this example:

Someone will be coming to take a statement from you.

Here's a model answer:

(i) Case: if we replace someone by one of the pronouns given in [7] we need to select the nominative form: He/She will be coming to take a statement from you.

(ii) Agreement: if we replace will be by a present tense form of be we need the 3rd sg form is to agree with 3rd sg someone.

3. Exercise 3 tells you to identify the subject in each of the examples, and present the reasoning that tells you it is the subject, using the syntactic tests that are appropriate, and explaining why the other tests are not appropriate. Here's a model answer we've written for the example sentence It is easy to understand her.

The subject (of the main clause) is it. The relevance of the different tests is as follows:
(a) Basic position: It occupies the basic subject position before the verb.
(b) Case: The case test is inapplicable because in this construction it is not replaceable by any of the pronouns in [7] — or indeed, by any other NP. (The clause belongs to the non-canonical extraposition construction, which has it as an invariable component.)
(c) Verb agreement. The verb is is a 3rd sg present tense form agreeing with 3rd sg it.
(d) Subject-auxiliary inversion. In the interrogative counterpart, Is it easy to understand her?, the it occupies the distinctive subject position following the auxiliary verb is.

4. Exercise 4 asks you which of the clauses given are clauses for which it would be implausible to say that the subject identifies the performer of an action, and to give reasons for your answer. Here's the idea. Suppose we gave you these sentences:

She closed the door.
She has pneumonia.

One way to answer might be like this:

She closed the door describes an action, but She has pneumonia does not — it describes a state. She is the subject in both, but only in the first does it refer to the performer of an action.

5. Exercise 5 asks you for which of the sentences given it is implausible to say that the subject identifies the topic, and to give reasons for your answer. Suppose we gave you these examples:

The classroom clock is slow.
Someone has taken my umbrella.

A good answer would be:

While the first of these is naturally interpeted as saying something about the classroom clock, it is not plausible to see the second as being about `someone'. Someone does not here refer to any particular person: I am not referring to a certain person and saying of them that they have taken my umbrella. It is more plausible to see the clause as having my umbrella as its topic.

6. Exercise 6 gives you a set of pairs of sentences and tells you to pick out the one in which the underlined expression is object, and to give syntactic reasons for your answer. (Notice, syntactic reasons: this is not about who is the person who undergoes or is affected by the action, because those considerations are semantic.) Suppose we gave you this pair:

[a] Most of them did it the old way.
[b] Most of them prefer the old way.

This might be a suitable answer:

The old way is adjunct in [a], object in [b], for the following reasons.
(i) We can turn [b] into a passive clause with the old way becoming subject: The old way is preferred by most of them. This is not possible with [a].
(ii) In [b] we can replace the old way by the pronoun it , but this is not possible in [a].
(iii) In [b] the old way occupies the basic object position after the verb, and it would not normally be possible to insert an adjunct between it and the verb: *Most of them prefer still the old way. In [a] the old way cannot come immediately after the verb: *Most of them did the old way it.

7. The idea of this exercise is to determine three things for each verb given:
— (a) whether it can be used with two NP internal complements,
— (b) whether it can be used with one NP complement and a PP headed by to, and
— (c) whether it can be used with an NP and a PP headed by for. Suppose your verb was lend. Then you could say:

  1. I lent her my copy shows that lend can be used with two NPs;
  2. I lent my copy to one of my students shows that lend can be used with an NP complement and a PP headed by to; and
  3. the ungrammaticality of *I lent my copy for one of my students shows that lend does not take an NP plus a PP headed by for.

8. Exercise 8 asks you to determine whether the underlined expressions are objects or predicative complements, and to give syntactic evidence in support of your answers.

Let's take as an illustrative example Liz detected some serious mistakes.

The underlined phrase some serious mistakes functions as object in this clause. Here is some of the evidence:

  1. It cannot be replaced by an AdjP: *Liz detected serious.
  2. It cannot be replaced by a bare role NP: *Liz detected president.
  3. It can become the subject of a corresponding passive: Some serious mistakes were detected by Liz.

9. This exercise is about the classification of canonical clause types into
— (a) ordinary intransitive;
— (b) complex-intransitive;
— (c) monotransitive;
— (d) complex-transitive; and
— (e) ditransitive.

You are to determine, for each verb given, which of the five constructions it can enter into, and to construct relevant illustrative examples.

Suppose you were given find as the verb. Then an answer might look like this:

The lexeme find belongs to:

10. Exercise 10 is about explaining ambiguities between the complex-transitive and ditransitive construction.

Consider the example They made him a robot. We supply a model answer (look, it it even has pictures!):
(i) This can be an example of the complex-transitive construction, and have the meaning "They turned him into a robot." Here a robot is a predicative complement with the object him as its predicand. The structure in this case is like that of They made him what he is today or They made him their slave.

"They made him into a robot."

(ii) They made him a robot can also be an example of the ditransitive construction, with him as indirect object of made and a robot as direct object, and the meaning "They constructed a robot for him" (to give to him as a present, perhaps). The structure in this case is like that of They made him some soup or They bought him a toy.

"They made a robot for him."