English: Subject of active sentence > object of passive?

  • Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    Thanks! So this is a continuation of your thread in the "Ελληνικά (Greek)" forum here. I point that out because the discussion there might be interesting to some people reading this thread.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    the discussion there might be interesting to some people reading this
    Yes, certainly, that discussion is what prompted my queries about transitivity, voice and meaning, but this discussion has taken on a life of its own, a bit of a deviation, and has become very interesting in its own right.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    Agreed, but you did mention "a specific Greek verb" in your OP and people reading this in the future might wonder what the verb was and what prompted you to start this thread.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    This thread has branched in several directions, but a basic question remains (I think).

    (a) The dog gave its master the ball
    (b) The dog gave the ball to its master

    If "its master" is the "indirect object" in (a) why can't it be the "indirect object" in (b), even if "its master" appears inside a prepositional phrase? After all, the overall meaning of (a) and (b) is the same.

    The problem with calling "to his master" an "indirect object" is that it's not exactly natural to place this indirect object/prepositional phrase in the canonical position of "indirect object," between the transitive verb and the direct object:

    (c) The dog gave to its master the ball ?

    I'm not sure we would tell students and learners that (c) is what native speakers by default naturally say. As it turns out, the verb "give" is sensitive to the placement of prepositional phrases, particularly when a non-sentient is the "giver:"

    The noise gave my wife a headache
    The noise gave a headache to my wife
    The noise gave to my wife a headache
    ??

    And so perhaps "placement" is evidence that the "indirect object" is realized by a noun phrase (and not a prepositional phrase).
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The subject of "I was given a ball" is "I".

    That is the reason why the concept of direct and indirect object is so obscure in English and we are having this discussions. In languages where case inflections still exist and direct and indirect objects are naturally distinct (direct object=accusative, indirect object=dative), sentences like
    She was sent a copy
    are ungrammatical. Only direct (accusative) objects can become the subject of the passive voice.

    Old English had the concept of subject-less passive voice, i.e. you could say, translated into modern English, something like this:
    *was sent her a copy
    but not in that world order because Old English was essentially (with some exceptions that exhibit modern SVO word order and also with remnants of the older Germanic SOV word order) still a V2-language, i.e. it supported various word orders as long as the finite verb remained in second position. For that reason, the dative object was moved into first positions producing sentences like (again translated into modern English):
    Her was sent a copy,
    Her was a copy sent.

    The latter structure is still used in modern German, which still has case endings and has still retained V2 word order.

    In Middle English case endings had decayed and these dative objects on first positions were re-interpreted as subjects and, hence, sentences like
    She was sent a copy
    became possible.

    We had a long discussion about this construction a while ago. I failed to persuade anyone (or at least anyone who posted in the thread) that in sentences like "I was given a ball", "I" is the indirect object and "a ball" is the subject. Reading Berndf's post in this thread I am wondering if he is coming round to my point of view. He says the construction is ungrammatical which comes close to saying that it should be at least "Me was given a ball" if not "A ball was given (to) me". I think I said in the other thread that someone had described the construction as bad grammar but good English. That gets to what is going on, but I think we really have to class good English as good grammar. The form is best described as an oddity.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    If "its master" is the "indirect object" in (a) why can't it be the "indirect object" in (b), even if "its master" appears inside a prepositional phrase? After all, the overall meaning of (a) and (b) is
    My theory is that "to its master" is the true indirect object, and that replacement thereof by "its master" is simply a "regularized" (not really the word I want) colloquialism. The preposition in "to its master" exists in analytical English in order to indicate a dative case.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    That gets to what is going on, but I think we really have to class good English as good grammar. The form is best described as an oddity.
    I would say it is impractical and therefore fell out of use in favour of its prepositional replacement construction.

    I find it useful to look at German as a kind of a time machine to look at the development in English because it has retained the same case system as late Old English had (with 4 cases) but some of the case endings have decayed. In German, subject-verb-indirect object-direct object is the unmarked word order and subject-verb-direct object-indirect object is a marked form that stresses the indirect object (Er gab das Buch seinem Freund [und nicht jemand anderem]). If both, the direct and indirect object, don't contain any parts with active case endings, as in Er stellte Fred Hans zur Seite, you would only ever use the unmarked order because otherwise you couldn't determine the meaning. In English, the dative-accusative inflections have completely merged (even with pronouns have merged, like me,mec>me) and there are no cases left where the two word orders could be distinguished except pragmatically by context. Probably as a consequence of this, the marked word order has been completely abandoned.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It helps to differentiate between structure (syntax) and meaning (semantics).
    I would say it helps to distinguish form and function
    In fact, I think that one of the benefits of studying Latin or Greek is that the identity of such things as indirect objects are clarified by means of the study of grammatical case.
    You certainly need to know what subjects and objects are to do Latin and Greek. A possible downside though is think that, for example, nominative = subject, when the nominative can also be the complement of a linking verb; to do so is to confuse the form of a noun with its function. So, whilst it is correct to say that in Latin the subject of a sentence must be in the nominative case, it is not correct to say that a noun in the nominative case is always the subject of a sentence.

    It is also important to describe a language in its own terms, and not in the terms of another. It is true that English was traditionally described in terms of Latin grammar and since the two are in the same language family it worked tolerably well. However, some aspects of English grammar are not adequately explained by the traditional "parts of speech". The problem with some new systems is that they throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is also a tendency to look for functions which match forms in other languages: "Basque has ergativity - we'll have some of that!" I need to be convinced that "topic" and "comment" are useful comments in the analysis of English, at least when teaching it.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    prepositional replacement construction.
    By this, do you mean replacement of inflection by prepositional phrases?

    Are we back to square one after our discussion?
    Well, I hope not... I should refine my post of last evening, made when I was tired from a day of sweep and mop. I don't feel that the entire prepositional phrase represents the indirect object, but just the noun of the phrase. The preposition seems to me to exist as a case marker. The reason for my feeling thusly might be because, as I said, it has been some thirty years since I have had any formal contact with English grammar (which was in "high school") but have studied Latin in recent years, so synthetic thinking is much more fresh in my mind. I do not in the least remember why things are done as they are in English prose from a syntactic perspective, and as @Hulalessar has well indicated,

    It is also important to describe a language in its own terms, and not in the terms of another.
    I have some trouble with this as pertains to English because of my relative unfamiliarity.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    If "its master" is the "indirect object" in (a) why can't it be the "indirect object" in (b), even if "its master" appears inside a prepositional phrase? After all, the overall meaning of (a) and (b) is the same.
    Because "indirect object" is a syntactic, not semantic term. It has to do with structure, not meaning.
    And so perhaps "placement" is evidence that the "indirect object" is realized by a noun phrase (and not a prepositional phrase).
    Exactly this. English has very rigid word order which makes determining syntax a piece of cake most of the time. In the English Verb Phrase, the Indirect Object comes before the Direct Object:

    [The noise]S [[gave]V [my wife]IO [a headache]DO]VP

    That prepositional phrases aren't Indirect Objects is obvious from the fact that they cannot appear in IO's position at all. They appear in the Adjunct position, which is situated outside the Verb Phrase:

    [The noise]S [[gave]V [a headache]DO]VP [to my wife]ADJ , or​
    [The noise]S [[gave]V [my wife]IO [a headache]DO]VP [in no time]ADJ

    The preposition seems to me to exist as a case marker.
    In the same sense as a verb is a case marker for a direct object. Both prepositions and verbs assign syntactic case, but they aren't case markers, they're case governers, i.e. they stand as heads in relation to their noun complements. Case markers appear on nouns as morphological case. English doesn't mark case on nouns, other languages do.

    Both verbs governing an Indirect Object, and the preposition to, assign the Dative syntactic case, which is prototypically associated with the semantic Theta Role of the Benefactor (here's a thread on these, probably confusing).
     
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    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    English has very rigid word order which makes determining syntax a piece of cake most of the time. In the English Verb Phrase, the Indirect Object comes before the Direct Object:
    You throw a light on the essence of my problem: I just don't remember much of English grammar at all. Right now, I probably know more of Latin grammar than English, and that, as they say, is "f'd up".

    Thanks for the good post, Sobakus!
     

    billj

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes, regarding completion, but I analyze the parts of speech a bit differently than you appear to (perhaps I am wrong). My feeling is that "The dog gave its master the ball" is a mere colloquialism, what may be called an example of linguistic "de-analysis" and ungrammatical in the strictest sense, used (originally informally, and now legitimized through usage) in place of the more grammatically correct (read "complete") "The dog gave the ball to its master". In this second sentence, the entire prepositional phrase to its master, and not only its master represents the indirect object, the preposition only having been made necessary as a syntactic marker by the loss of inflection in the language. In fact, the only reason the preposition "to" appears in the sentence in the first place (indeed, as is the same with inflection in synthetic languages) is to indicate distransitivity in the action.

    The overriding fact is that an indirect object is the complement of a verb, while the object in a PP is a complement of the preposition. And it can't be both since it's a theoretical impossibility for a constituent to have two different functions.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    You throw a light on the essence of my problem: I just don't remember much of English grammar at all. Right now, I probably know more of Latin grammar than English, and that, as they say, is "f'd up".
    Not at all if you ask me. Why would you as a native speaker need to know English grammar? The main benefit of learning it at school is in learning foreign languages, where explicit grammar instruction can be helpful, with traditional grammar terms serving as shorthands for linguistic structures which can be usefully compared between the two languages. Outside of this, the best thing a brain can do with explicit knowledge of English grammar is to discard it like a bad memory. This is just junk knowledge for most people - right upon finishing school I found I had no clue what a case even was, even though I could remember the mnemonic rhyme and so barely recall the names of Russian cases. Using the word “grammar” in the broad sense (including things like phonology/phonetics), my knowledge of Russian grammar has always been worse than that of English, and the latter worse than Latin. This reflects exactly how much I need to know of each in practice, and unless you're a researcher in linguistics, practicical usefulness is what motivates you to learn grammatical concepts.

    Another problem is that the English/Latin/Russian grammar one learns at school is traditional grammar, which varies from passable to misleading to catastrophically inadequate for describing actual linguistic facts. One can be happy for not having been mislead about English in the same way they've been about Latin, and instead try and objecively describe the language whose facts they already know natively. Instead of parrotting the school teacher, one is free to develop one's own metacognition.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Well, I hope not... I should refine my post of last evening, made when I was tired from a day of sweep and mop. I don't feel that the entire prepositional phrase represents the indirect object, but just the noun of the phrase. The preposition seems to me to exist as a case marker. The reason for my feeling thusly might be because, as I said, it has been some thirty years since I have had any formal contact with English grammar (which was in "high school") but have studied Latin in recent years, so synthetic thinking is much more fresh in my mind. I do not in the least remember why things are done as they are in English prose from a syntactic perspective, and as @Hulalessar has well indicated,
    I agree with with @Sobakus, the core of your problem (and you seem to agree in your #64), is the confusion of the syntactic elements with their semantic roles. Prepositional phrases (prepositional objects and prepositional adjuncts) differ from direct and indirect objects in that they are governed by prepositions which direct and indirect objects are governed directly by the verb. This is purely syntactic. Different syntactic elements can have the same semantic role but they are still different syntactic elements.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    The overriding fact is that an indirect object is the complement of a verb, while the object in a PP is a complement of the preposition. And it can't be both since it's a theoretical impossibility for a constituent to have two different functions.
    I bow to the English grammarians, who undoubtedly understand more than do I. I will, with that, consider my questions initiated herein, answered.

    Your allusion to 'theory' raises an interesting question in my mind. Is the grammar of each and every language merely an aggregation of theoretical analyses of linguistic conventions, which themselves arose rather intuitively? Admittedly, this is something of a philosophical question...to wit, the philosophy of language, though not one as ontologically basic as "does a proposition have existence independent of the statement thereof?" It seems an interesting one, though (actually, I find all philisophical questions interesting).
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    When I read post 64 I was somewhat taken aback.

    If asked I would say that in both

    The man gave his son a football

    and

    The man gave a football to his son

    “his son” is the indirect object.

    I would do that on the basis that my conception of an indirect object is that it is the entity which receives what is being given or done and that in both cases “his son” is in accordance with my conception.

    I first define what an indirect object is and then go on to say that there are two different ways in which it can be expressed syntactically.

    It seems to me that what post 64 does is to look at the syntax first and give a name to each structure which obscures the fact that “his son” has the same function in each case.

    Given that post 64 is by Sobakus I though I had better do a little research. I only needed to go into two sites to find one which supported each point of view.

    Indirect Object: Explanation and Examples has this:

    Paula passed the money to her mother. ("Her mother" is the indirect object. She is the recipient of the direct object, "the money.")

    (Note: Sometimes, the indirect object will follow a preposition like "to" or "for.")


    Indirect Objects in English (with Examples) has this:

    It’s easy to get indirect objects confused with the objects of prepositions, especially when they both answer the question “who or what is receiving the direct object?” We could rewrite our example sentence above in this way:

    Embiid passed the ball to Simmons.

    This is grammatically correct and has the same meaning as the original sentence. Technically speaking, though, Simmons is not an indirect object, but the object of an independent preposition. Same meaning, different mechanics.


    The difference can be explained as a matter of approach. My view is though that the approach taken by Grammarly is misconceived, but I am open to be persuaded otherwise.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    It has already been reiterated several times in this thread that the issue that gave rise to this thread, and that is reflected in Hulalessar's conception of an indirect object, is a equivocation between syntax and semantics, structure and meaning. “Indirect Object” is a term that describes syntax/structure; it can have various semantic functions, of which the canonical ones are that of the Beneficiary and the Recipient. Here's a list of semantic functions (Theta Roles) from a PDF linked to in the message linked to in #64:
    1662247640053.png

    Often more roles are distinguished. The various syntactic functions such as Subject, Direct Object, Indirect Object perform different roles in different contexts, generally depending on the predicate. The sum of a predicate's thematic relations is called its argument structure; the older term used in a similar way is valency.

    Equivocating the syntactic function of the Indirect Object with one of its semantic functions is like taking the semantic function of a verb as expressing an action, and then calling am on my way in “I am on my way” a verb because the entire syntactic constituent expresses an action, or calling the deverbal noun coronation a verb because it expresses an action, and has a logical subject (Agent) and a logical object (Patient). The correct term in both cases would be “predicate”, and belongs to the logical-semantic domain.

    Such a equivocation may be relatively harmless when used to explain basic concepts in informal terms, as grammar-monster.com does. It might have been usual at a time before linguists arrived at the concept of thematic relations. But this thread is an example of how it can be detrimental to correct understanding of grammatical phenomena, especially now that proper terminology exists to describe semantics in abstraction from syntax.

    Generally, when one sees that a source of information makes a distinction that another, clearly informal source of information does not, and accompanies this with the words “technically speaking”, it's safe to assume that the source that makes the distinction is correct and the source that doesn't is committing an informal equivocation that should be avoided in any sort of technically-minded discussion.
     
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    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    If asked I would say that in both

    The man gave his son a football

    and

    The man gave a football to his son

    “his son” is the indirect object.

    “Indirect Object” is a term that describes syntax/structure; it can have various semantic functions...
    This is certainly a bit of a "hairy" impasse. My understanding, as it seems with @Hulalessar, has always been that an indirect object was not as syntactically bound or determined as Sobakus suggests, but rather, that it is determined by functioning as a third, passive, party to the verbal action. Under this definition, an indirect object is semantically, rather than syntactically determined. My thought about this is enunciated in the following Wiktionary page:

    dative case - Wiktionary

    This seems to indicate that an indirect object can inhabit that sentence in more than one way: either preceding the direct object in the predicate, or following the direct object as part of a prepositional phrase/adjunct, and that the only difference between these is whether the indirect object or the direct object (respectively) is to be emphasized by the speaker/writer.

    Equivocating the syntactic function of the Indirect Object with one of its semantic functions is like taking the semantic function of a verb as expressing an action, and then calling am on my way in “I am on my way” a verb because the entire syntactic constituent expresses an action

    @Sobakus seems to be thinking about this on a "higher" level than I ever have...applying a more sophisticated type of grammatical analyais, a level at which I may be unqualified to discourse without further, deeper study.
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Wiktionary's definition is only true in a very technical sense (where “case” stands for an abstract syntactic feature – again, not semantic), but is complete nonsense in the sense that 99% of people will understand it. English has no morphological Dative case. One would do better if they take a look at Wiktionary's definition of the Indirect Object, where it states that these are a grammatical role of a ditransitive verb, or in other words, it's a core argument of the verb expressed by a Noun Phrase. A Prepositional Phrase is not a core argument of the verb by definition, and it's not a Noun Phrase (again, by definition), but contains a Noun Phrase in it. Quoth Huddleston & Pullum 2002, the Cambridge Grammar o.t.E.l.:
    1662253426517.png

    And, a few pages later:
    1662252989489.png

    Huddleston & Pullum's examples an argumentation are repeated in G. Brůhová's doctoral thesis at page 16 and following (also in case the moderators are worried about the images violating copyright).
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    In other thoughts, the confusion between syntactic subject/object and logical subject/object is perfectly explicable, as the latter two are some of the most fundamental concepts of logic. It has always been my understanding that even when people equivocate them, they nevertheless understand that this is what they're doing as a matter of expediency, and aren't oblivious to the fundamental difference between the two. This is, for example, what's going on in my message here. But to my knowledge, logic has no such concept as “indirect object”, and the prototypical semantic function of the grammatical indirect object would be referred to as “recipient” in logic, the same term used to describe the corresponding thematic role.

    For this reason this particular equivocation is surprising to me, as is people's insensitivity to the fact that they're committing it.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Haha, I guess, @Sobakus, that you've studied a bit of grammar in your day? I'm impressed.
    I would really recommend you get a grammar like Huddleston & Pullum if you wish to get relatively up-to-date on English grammar as informed by the generative tradition, and the terminology involved. For Latin, Oniga & Schifano's Latin: A Linguistic Introduction seems to be the only thing in existence, and it's not what you'd call either comprehensive or especially beginner-friendly, but I think it should work when one is already familiar with the relevant concepts as used to describe English.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    @Sobakus, you are threatening the world order. English is supposed to be the easy class, and differential equations the more difficult. Now, I'm not so sure...
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Modern linguistics has been beneficial as it has corrected many misconceived notions and clarified much. In the process, however, it has brought in new obfuscations. In particular it has kept some old terms but assigned new meanings to them by narrowing or expanding what they cover, which causes confusion. More generally, it has acquired a philosophical emphasis which searches for universality. That has lead to a reluctance to accept concepts which may only be applicable to some languages. It suggests that if there is a universal grammar, a feature of any given language must somehow must be present in every language if only you look hard enough. So, if, for example, Japanese can properly be described as a topic/comment language then a topic/comment analysis is appropriate for English. It may be if you want to find out what is going on in the synapses of the brain (which is ultimately what universal grammar is about) but not if you want a practical explanation of how English is put together.

    It may be that language, and indeed all human activity, is ultimately reducible to mathematics, logic and 1-0, but I have to doubt it will ever be proved. It is just part of the great mystery of how the sum of the parts is different from the whole. Any natural language is a convention which has emerged and I do not see it being susceptible to any sort of logical analysis because any logic applicable has to be so fuzzy as to be impenetrable. I am inclined to agree with the late Jonathan Miller who said that if humans understood how their minds worked they would not be able to function.

    There are of course certain universals applicable to human experience: Things move; things do things and have things done to them; things happened yesterday and are expected to happen tomorrow. All languages are capable of expressing those basic experiences, they just do them in all sorts of different ways. What is required to be expressed in one language may be left unexpressed in another without any loss of meaning.

    Anyone describing a language needs to have some methodology, but the terms in which it is described need to be appropriate.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    It may be if you want to find out what is going on in the synapses of the brain (which is ultimately what universal grammar is about) but not if you want a practical explanation of how English is put together. [...] if humans understood how their minds worked they would not be able to function.
    Is this an area of study for cognitive scientists, men like Steven Pinker and, perhaps, Doug Hofstadter?

    There appears to be a certain profundity to the Miller quote you indicate. I think (if I understand you correctly) that Cal Berkeley mathematician Alfred Tarsky touched upon the theme of the "fuzzy logic" involved in language in his paper "The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages", which can be found in the compilation entitled Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics: Papers from 1923 to 1938. Good reading, but hard if one lacks a solid grounding in maths.
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I recall someone, I forget who and he may not have been serious, saying he had two volumes on his bookshelf: The Mathematical Basis of Logic and The Logical Basis of Mathematics. I am not one of those who believes that a knowledge of mathematics is essential for wisdom, probably because I was never very good at mathematics. I have no objection to ideas being explored to see where they go because that is just being human, but it can lead up blind alleys and to Cicero's dictum that there is nothing so ridiculous that some philosopher has not said it.

    My feeling about the social sciences in general is that they aim to be rigorous when their subject matter is not susceptible to rigorous analysis because there are too many variables. A lot can be reduced to common sense, but the problem with common sense is that it is unreliable because some things are counterintuitive. The social sciences have a valuable role to play, but I would like them to be a bit less rigorous in their approach and not worry about what they do being labelled "not proper science".
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Obviously, in
    He ran into his neighbour and
    He ran his own company,

    the verbs run+direct object and run+into+NP have different meanings.
    If "he ran into" means "he collided with" then "into" is a preposition governing "his neighbour" which is not a direct object but part of the adverbial phrase "into his neighbour".

    If "he ran into" means "he encountered" then "into" is a particle forming part of the phrasal verb "run into" and "his neighbour" is a direct object.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    The Mathematical Basis of Logic..
    This sounds like a text on what is called "formal logic",

    ...and The Logical Basis of Mathematics.
    and this sounds like the title of a text on number theory.

    Anything and everything that one might want to know about "the logical basis of maths" one can get from Russell and Whitehead's Principia (which has that as its subject matter), if one is versed in the symbology of formal logic, and can follow the dense reasoning (I don't pretend at all...).
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    If "he ran into" means "he collided with" then "into" is a preposition governing "his neighbour" which is not a direct object but part of the adverbial phrase "into his neighbour".

    If "he ran into" means "he encountered" then "into" is a particle forming part of the phrasal verb "run into" and "his neighbour" is a direct object.
    Syntactically it is the same. Semantically, the latter meaning is a figurative use of the former.

    This needs to be distinguished from phrasal verbs constructed with a preposition as a detached part of the verb as in
    He handed in his resignation.
    These kind of phrasal verbs are to be analysed differently also syntactically because the preposition does not govern the object (neither syntactically nor semantically; in does not refer to the resignation but to an unspecified place which is the target of the action). In these kind of phrasal verbs usually allow bracketing the object (at least with pronomial objects):
    He handed it in,
    whereas
    *He ran him into
    would not be possible (or, if it where possible, would mean something completely different).
     
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    billj

    Senior Member
    British English
    If "he ran into" means "he collided with" then "into" is a preposition governing "his neighbour" which is not a direct object but part of the adverbial phrase "into his neighbour".

    If "he ran into" means "he encountered" then "into" is a particle forming part of the phrasal verb "run into" and "his neighbour" is a direct object.

    There's no grammatical difference between the two. In both cases, "run" is a prepositional verb in that it selects "into". "His neighbour" is not direct object of "run" in the second one.

    "Into his neighbour" is not an adjunct (your adverbial phrase), but a PP (preposition phrase) functioning as complement of "run", where the PP indicates a goal, i.e. "his neighbour".

    Goal and source PPs clearly qualify as complements since they need to be licensed by the verb - normally a verb of motion.

    Incidentally, I'd avoid the term 'phrasal verb'. It's misleading. It's not the whole expression "run into" that is a verb, but just the lexeme "run".
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Incidentally, I'd avoid the term 'phrasal verb'. It's misleading. It's not the whole expression "run into" that is a verb, but just the lexeme "run".
    These kind of uses are lumped into the category of phrasal verbs mainly in English as a second language teaching because it has an idiomatic meaning that cannot trivially be deduced by literal analysis. In examples like the one I mentioned above I would consider the concept useful although also there it is primarily used in English as a second language teaching.
     
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    Forero

    Senior Member
    If "he ran into" means "he collided with" then "into" is a preposition governing "his neighbour" which is not a direct object but part of the adverbial phrase "into his neighbour".

    If "he ran into" means "he encountered" then "into" is a particle forming part of the phrasal verb "run into" and "his neighbour" is a direct object.
    Actually, one of the meanings of into, the preposition, is (according to the WR dictionary):
    3. to a point of contact with;​
    against:​
    He accidentally backed his truck into a parked car.
    "Encountered" is just a figurative use of "ran into" = "ran to a point of contact with".

    There is no need to hypothesize so many phrasal verbs (run into, bump into, plow headlong into, etc.).
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    There is no need to hypothesize so many phrasal verbs (run into, bump into, plow headlong into, etc.).
    Hmm...I don't view this as hypothesis, but rather as fact. The verbs "to run into"/"bump into" = "to encounter", "to plow headlong into"= "to collide (with)". Such verbal constructions are, in my view (admittedly not the view of an historical linguist), all part and parcel of the ongoing colloquialization of written English, which itself is based upon the vulgarization of literacy in Western societies which began following the Enlightenment. The older, formal/learned literary verbs (those lemmas which have Indo-European roots) are now often viewed as pretentious, and the invention/adoption of phrasal verbs may, I think, be viewed in part as a rejection, even a denunciation by bourgeois people, of what they consider to have been pre-Enlightenment "upper class" pretense. Similar developments have occurred throughout our speech, and then our writing. If I had written "...not the view of a historical linguist..." above, I might be wrong by the strictest grammatical standards, but the statement would not be rejected as ungrammatical by many, including most college professors; "a home", "a habit", and "a history" are accepted indicative constructs today, and are certainly read more often in the media than "an home", "an habit", and "an history", are they not? With the continuing colloquialization of speech and writing, such "phrasalization", such substitution of phrases for lexemes, has occurred not only with verbs, but with other parts of speech as well. Think of how often here in the U.S. you hear young folks saying "for real" instead of "certainly", "really" or "truly". I can't say that I appreciate that one very much, but the point is that in the phrase "for real", "for" has no independent existence as a preposition...it is simply a constituent part of an adverb. @berndf appears right when he indicates that these types of construct frustrate efforts at grammatical analysis in any other way.

    I will add that to me, much of this "rejection of perceived pretense and formality" is a bit unfortunate, as an example of "throwing out the baby with the bath water", but...this is just me rambling.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Hmm...I don't view this as hypothesis, but rather as fact. The verbs "to run into"/"bump into" = "to encounter", "to plow headlong into"= "to collide (with)".
    Their meanings are fact. Re-interpretation of their syntax is theorising and I agree with @Forero that it often is unnecessary theorising. It is totally sufficient to analyse them as idiomatic/figurative uses of the base verbs.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    Could you please elaborate a little bit? Is it a sure thing that the Enlightenment was the ''turning point''?
    I view the orgy of philosophical discourse which attended the Enlightenment, and moreso the "Enlightenment thought", the schools of thought which were its product, as having provided the philosophical basis for the individualism, personal independence and self-direction which (along with a technological explosion, and various political revolutions) are the hallmarks of the modern West. Without the thinking of Voltaire, Rousseau, Locke, Bacon, et.al., there would have been no conceptual basis upon which these qualities might have found expression. The modes of expression which are our subject are the verbal heirs of these schools of thought.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It's not the whole expression "run into" that is a verb, but just the lexeme "run".
    English can sometimes be tricky to analyse. I would consider the verb to be "run into" because in "I encountered Mr Smith" "encountered" can be replaced by "ran into" and because I can say "You'll never believe who I ran into". I would say that "encounter" and "run into" are equivalent semantic units and that in "I ran into Mr Smith" "into" is not a preposition which governs Mr Smith but a particle.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    "You'll never believe who I encountered" does not even sound natural to me...
    I think that this is simply a function of common usage. To use "encountered" in that context would be against normal modern speech patterns, especially here in the U.S. Nevertheless, the statement "you'll never guess who I encountered at the grocery store" is a perfectly grammatical sentence. Again, we live in the age not only of aquarius, information and technical wonders, but also of of vulgarity...the triumph of commonality. In another time and place, and especially among people who harbored pretensions to things like "propriety", "excellence", and even perhaps "superiority", such a usage would undoubtedly find common expression. I note as well that in other Indo-European languages which do not allow for such ready usage of phrasal verbs, "to encounter" is the verb that would be used: "Nunca adivinarás con quién me encontré en el mercado".
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    English can sometimes be tricky to analyse. I would consider the verb to be "run into" because in "I encountered Mr Smith" "encountered" can be replaced by "ran into" and because I can say "You'll never believe who I ran into". I would say that "encounter" and "run into" are equivalent semantic units and that in "I ran into Mr Smith" "into" is not a preposition which governs Mr Smith but a particle.
    There are practically always different ways to express the same thing with different syntactic structures. The fact that two expressions are semantically equivalent or near-equivalent says strictly nothing about the syntactic structure of any of the two expressions.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There are practically always different ways to express the same thing with different syntactic structures. The fact that two expressions are semantically equivalent or near-equivalent says strictly nothing about the syntactic structure of any of the two expressions.
    But what if you start your analysis by looking at verbs? You see that "encounter" and "run into" are semantically equivalent and so decide to give them the same label: verb. You then distinguish been "one-part verbs" and "multi-part verbs". You can have the same problem with nouns. In "It's a try on" is the noun "try" or "try on"? If it is "try" what is "on"? "Try on" is written as two words, but "workout" (as a noun) as one, but that is merely orthographic convention. Both are identical in form, but would they be analysed differently?

    Words which function as prepositions also have other functions and sometimes you puzzle over what is going on. In "Which table shall I put the flowers on?" what is "on"? You could say "On which table shall I put the flowers ?" which sort of suggests that in the first sentence "on" is displaced preposition. Are the two sentences syntactically the same? If you say they are not, are you not saying that word order in English is always critical in determining syntactic structure?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    But what if you start your analysis by looking at verbs? You see that "encounter" and "run into" are semantically equivalent and so decide to give them the same label: verb. You then distinguish been "one-part verbs" and "multi-part verbs". You can have the same problem with nouns. In "It's a try on" is the noun "try" or "try on"? If it is "try" what is "on"? "Try on" is written as two words, but "workout" (as a noun) as one, but that is merely orthographic convention. Both are identical in form, but would they be analysed differently?
    Did you see what I wrote earlier?
    Syntactically it is the same. Semantically, the latter meaning [to encounter] is a figurative use of the former [the literal meaning of run into].

    This needs to be distinguished from phrasal verbs constructed with a preposition as a detached part of the verb as in
    He handed in his resignation.
    These kind of phrasal verbs are to be analysed differently also syntactically because the preposition does not govern the object (neither syntactically nor semantically; in does not refer to the resignation but to an unspecified place which is the target of the action). In these kind of phrasal verbs usually allow bracketing the object (at least with pronomial objects):
    He handed it in,
    whereas
    *He ran him into
    would not be possible (or, if it where possible, would mean something completely different).
    Your example try on belongs to this category of phrasal verbs, where prepositions are indeed used like adverbs.
     
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