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Predicative Constructions

541.One of the most important developments in Late ME and Early NE syntax was the growth of predicative constructions. Predicative constructions date from the OE period, when Dat. Absolute was used in translations from Latin and the Acc. with the Inf. in original English texts; the latter construction occurred only with verbs of physical perception (see 216); a short time later a new type of construction appeared after verbs of physical perception: the Acc. with Part I.

In Late ME and in Early NE the Acc. with the Inf. and the Acc. with the Part. came to be used with an increasing number of verbs of various meanings. New types of predicative constructions appeared in

Late ME and Early NE texts: the Nom. with the Inf. and with Participles I, II (also known as Subjective predicative constructions), the Nom. Absolute construction and the Absolute construction with prepositions, and, finally, the for-phrase with the Inf. and the Gerundial construction.

The following quotations from Early NE texts exemplify various predicative constructions;

Objective Predicative Constructions (Complex Object)

I would desire you to draw your knife and grave your name. (Dekker)

When the Noble Caesar saw him stab; ... and bid them speak for me; ... mothers shall but smile when they behold

Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war. (Shakespeare)

Subjective predicative construction ("Complex Subject")

Although he were adjudged, in the court of Rome, to have forfeeted, all the right which he had to his Kingdome ... (Holinshed)

He was reported to be a very uncontended person. (Puttenham)

Absolute constructions

My flesh being troubled, my heart doth hear the spear. (Wyatt)

... and, after that dede done, ther was no more money yoven us. (Pas- ton Letters)

... and with hym mette a shippe callyd Nicolas of the Towre, with other shippis wayting on him. (Paston Letters)

(The Absolute construction could at first be introduced by various prepositions; later with was standardised.)

Gerundial complexes

... the very next day after his coming home departed out of this world to receive his reward in the Spiritual court of Heaven. (Dekker) (See also 474).

For-phrase with the Infinitive

The descriptions whereof were too long for mee to write, and you to read. (Dekker)

The advantage of the for-phrase and the Gerundial construction over other predicative constructions was that they were less restricted syntactically: they could be employed in various syntactic functions.

All predicative constructions were formed according to a single pattern: they consisted of a nominal element indicating the agent or subject of an action or state and a non-finite form denoting this action. When relationships between the component parts of predicative constructions were firmly established, the second element began to be expressed by nominal parts of speech without the help of verbals, e. g. adjectives and nouns:

... and you shall not sin

If you do say we think him over-proud and under-honest. (Shakespeare)

... came the Emperour ... from huntyng, the Dophin on his ryght hand, the Duke of Orleans on the lyfft. (Fabian)

542. Though all predicative constructions are based on a uniform underlying pattern, they have developed from different sources: from verb patterns with direct and prepositional objects followed by an infinitive or a participle, noun patterns with participles used as attributes, verbal nouns modified by possessive pronouns or nouns, elliptical infinitive sentences. Some scholars believe that predicative constructions in English arose under the influence of Latin and that they should be regarded as direct borrowings from Latin (M. Callaway). Though predicative constructions were frequently used in translations from Latin at all historical periods, there seems to be no doubt of their native origin.

The earliest instances of the Acc. with the Inf. are found in BEOWULF, an original OE epic; as mentioned above they were first- used after verbs of physical perception and were soon extended to other verbs, while the Inf. began to alternate with Part. I.

In Late ME and Early NE predicative constructions of different types were commonly used both in translations and in original texts. In the age of the Literary Renaissance many works were translated from Latin into English it has been found that predicative constructions, especially the Objective predicative and the Absolute construction were more frequent in translations from Latin than in original prose. Since their frequency continued to grow in later ages it seems probable that the literal translation of Latin constructions played a certain role in their further growth; it is also probable that some of the more complicated patterns with the passive forms of the verbals appeared as direct replicas of Latin constructions. With the exception of these aspects, neither the origin of the constructions nor their growth in NE can be attributed to foreign influence. Their growing productivity in the NE period is part of the development towards more complicated syntactic structures in the written forms of the language in the ages of Literary efflorescence.


  1. A. Read the short extract from the interview and recognize any constructions expressing Future Actions.
  2. Emphatic Negative Constructions
  3. Exercise 1. Translate the following sentences paying attention to Participle Constructions in different syntactic functions.
  4. III. Translate the sentences below into English using the infinitive or infinitive constructions
  5. Look through the text and find sentences with the Infinitive and the Infinitive Constructions. Translate them into Ukrainian.
  6. My Future Speciality: Production Technologies of Building Constructions and Elements


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Word Order | Compound and Complex Sentences

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