English: Subject of active sentence > object of passive?

  • Forero

    Senior Member
    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".
    My point was that "run into" and "encounter" are not semantic equivalents. Neither are "Encounter", "encontrar", and "encontrarse" (or any 2 of the 3).

    On the other hand, "the person into whom I ran on the way to work" does not seem equivalent to "the person I ran into on the way to work", and that does suggest that proximity to the verb "ran" affects the meaning of "into".

    The same goes for proximity to lots of other verbs: "run", "bump", "plow", "slam", "charge", "fly", "crash", "ram", "walk headlong", etc.

    Does that mean we have to tell non-native learners of English that there just happen to be who-knows-how-many verb + "into" combinations (and, for example, verb + "right into", verb + "directly into", and verb + "headlong into" combinations) that have to be memorized separately?

    It makes more sense to me to say that "into" sometimes means "to a point of contact with; against" and let their own disambiguation skills take over, including the ability to recognize onomatopoeia and figurative language.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    It makes more sense to me to say that "into" sometimes means "to a point of contact with; against" ..
    Yes, precisely! But....

    Words which function as prepositions also have other functions..
    ...such as adverbials.

    I view "into" to be acting more as an adverbial particle modifying the verb "run", and the whole representing a "phrasal verb" indicating the action "to terminate my running against", or in other words, "to meet". Following that, "to run into" is a direct synonym of "to encounter", and a primary translation of Spanish "encontrar", no? Another would be "to come across", a similar phrasal verb with an adverbial preposition: encontrar - Wiktionary
    In phrases like "run headlong into", the verb "run" is further modified to give the suggestion of great force, as in "the runaway train ran headlong into a parked train engine at the railyard". That is how I analyses these structures...perhaps I am wrong?
     
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    Forero

    Senior Member
    Yes, precisely! But....


    ...such as adverbials.

    I view "into" to be acting more as an adverbial particle modifying the verb "run", and the whole representing a "phrasal verb" indicating the action "to terminate my running against", or in other words, "to meet". Following that, "to run into" is a direct synonym of "to encounter", and a primary translation of Spanish "encontrar", no? Another would be "to come across", a similar phrasal verb with an adverbial preposition: encontrar - Wiktionary
    In phrases like "run headlong into", the verb "run" is further modified to give the suggestion of great force, as in "the runaway train ran headlong into a parked train engine at the railyard". That is how I analyses these structures...perhaps I am wrong?
    I think "into" has to remain a preposition. It still requires an object, just like "against", and just like "to", "of", and "with" in "to a point of contact with".

    "Encontrar" might sometimes mean "encounter", in the sense of discovering a problem or obstacle, but its primary translation is more like "find" or "come across". It is also used for seeing or meeting another person or for two lines meeting or converging.

    For the meaning "run into", you need the combination you used in your example: encontrarse con.

    Curiously, both "encontrar" and "encounter" come from Latin "en-" (in, on, into, onto, etc.) and "contra" (against/counter to).
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    I think "into" has to remain a preposition. It still requires an object, just like "against", and just like "to", "of", and "with" in "to a point of contact with".
    It is possible to analyze it in that way, but I rarher think that "who" is the object of the verb "ran into". Different ways of viewing the same sentence, I think. I am not sure that there is a definitive way to analyze this, unless you have the grammatical chops of berndf or Sobakus, which I do not.

    "Encontrar" might sometimes mean "encounter", in the sense of discovering a problem or obstacle, but its primary translation is more like "find" or "come across".
    The primary meaning is "to meet" (a friend, an enemy, the love of one's life, etc.)

    For the meaning "run into", you need the combination you used in your example: encontrarse con.
    So true!

    EDIT: I might characterize the essential question here as whether or not one might say that usage can effect changes in the syntax of sentences, as it does in the semantics of words, causing a type of "syntactic drift" over time.
     
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    billj

    Senior Member
    British English
    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.

    I wouldn't go along with what you say.

    I ran into Mr Smith.

    "
    Ran into ..." may form a constituent, but it is not a constituent at word level: it's a verb phrase.

    Verb is a word category, like noun, adjective, etc., and it's "ran" that is a verb: this is the word that takes verbal inflections. So we have (a) but not (b):

    (a) I ran into Mr Smith.
    (b)* I run intoed Mr Smith.

    Thus, in (a) "ran" is a verb and "into Mr Smith" is a preposition phrase functioning as complement of "ran".
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    "Ran into ..." may form a constituent, but it is not a constituent at word level: it's a verb phrase.

    Verb is a word category...and it's "ran" that is a verb...
    Yes , all you say is true. However, can we not consider that since "ran into" is the verb phrase in question, that "into" is not serving in the role of a participle, but rather as an adverbial modifying the verb "ran"? For instance, as "ran quickly" describes "a running of great swiftness", cannot "ran into" represent a coordinate verbal describing "a running up against"? In that, can we not consider that "to run into" is represents a verb with a distinct and different semantic quality than does the verb "to run"?
     
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    billj

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes , all you say is true. However, can we not consider that since "ran into" is the verb phrase in question, that "into" is not serving in the role of a participle, but rather as an adverbial modifying the verb "ran"? For instance, as "ran quickly" describes "a running of great swiftness", cannot "ran into" represent a coordinate verbal describing "a running up against"? In that, can we not consider that "to run into" is represents a verb with a distinct and different semantic quality than does the verb "to run"?

    Context and complementation determine the meaning, of course.

    I would avoid using the term 'particle' here. "Into" belongs to the category (POS) 'preposition' and its function here is that of complement of "ran".

    Syntactically, "ran into x" is a verb phrase where "into" is a fully-fledged preposition heading the PP "into x" functioning as complement of "ran".

    In that example, "ran" selects the preposition "into" for that meaning of "ran" ('encounter'), so we call "ran" a prepositional verb here, avoiding the misleading term 'phrasal verb'. The structure is thus verb – [prep+O].
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    So the verb is "try on".
    Yes, to repeat, phrasal verbs like hand in, try on, etc. are fundamentally different from constructs like run into something or someone, whatever its meaning, literal or figurative.
    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.
    Run into = encounter fails 4 of the 5 tests here for phrasal verbs and the only one it passes is a semantic and not a syntactic one.
     
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    billj

    Senior Member
    British English
    So the verb is "try on".

    Syntactically, no.

    As I said in #106 (!), it's just "try" that is a verb, not "try on". At word level, "on" is a separate constituent, a preposition functioning as complement of "try". It's "try" that takes verbal inflections.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    Context and complementation determine the meaning, of course.
    Yes...yes, but as you say:

    Context and complementation determine the meaning, of course.
    So, it does not always hold that,
    The structure is thus verb – [prep+O]

    Let us take the two example sentences:

    (1) While driving my car, I ran into the ditch.

    (2) Whilst shopping of a Tuesday, I ran into Robert at the store.


    I agree that for (1), it holds that "the structure is thus verb – [prep+ complement]", with "the ditch" being the complement of the preposition "into", and the direct object of the verb "ran" being "my car". I argue, however, that for (2), the structure is verb - odject, with said "Robert" being the direct object of the verb "ran into", and here the direct object is the unstated "myself". In this sentence, "into" seems not to act prepositionally, but rather as a modifier of the verb "ran". In both, "into" is a preposition inasmuch as they show direction, but the difference lies in how that preposition relates to the other words in the sentence. In (1), "into" is separable and separate from the verb "to run", and is more closely related to it's complement "the ditch", while in (2) "into" is inseparable from "ran" without changing the meaning of both "ran" and the entire sentence. In (2), the very meaning of the verb is different from what it is in (1), due to the usage and influence of the preposition; in (1), "into" acts as a true preposition and adheres to "the ditch", and in (2) it acts as an adverb and adheres to the verb "ran". True, "particle" is not a good term for the preposition in (2), but how about "adverbial preposition"?
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    True, "particle" is not a good term for the preposition in (2), but how about "adverbial preposition"?
    I really don't understand why one would go through such pain to develop a new category of particles when the analysis as a figurative use is completely satisfactory. Run into = encounter has none of the syntactic characteristics of a phrasal verb (see #111 above, especially the link there) and the interpretation relies solely on semantic equivalence.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    The verb run has multiple possible meanings, and the preposition into has multiple possible meanings. Which meaning is intended depends on the whole context:

    While driving my car, I ran into the ditch.
    While driving my car, I ran into a wall.
    While driving my car, I ran into Robert.

    While shopping one Tuesday, I ran into the ditch.
    While shopping one Tuesday, I ran into a wall.
    While shopping one Tuesday, I ran into Robert.


    As I see it, running into the ditch tends to involve entering the ditch, but running into a wall or a person is different. That does not have to change the meaning of run.

    Running into Robert, especially when shopping and not driving, can be taken either literally or figuratively.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The verb run has multiple possible meanings etc
    The way I look at it is this:

    We take the basic meaning of "run" to involve the idea of moving quickly. In: "I saw that old bore Fred Ford coming towards me so I ran into a shop" we have the basic idea involved. We can safely say that "into" is a preposition governing "a shop". Instead of "ran into" we could have "nipped into", "dashed into", "scurried into" and dozens of other things. No one will suggest that any of the alternatives are phrasal verbs and so neither in this sentence is "run into". (We may though note that on uttering the sentence someone may ask: "Which shop did you run into?" and then puzzle what precise role "into" is playing."

    In: "I ran into Fred Ford" (assuming it is not meant literally) the idea of moving quickly is absent and the idea is removed by the word "into" as "run" and "into" form a unit. That is why I would say that in both "I ran into Fred Ford" and "I encountered Fred Ford" the direct object is "Fred Ford". If you say that in the former "Fred Ford" is not the direct object then you are defining what a direct object is by form rather than function.

    I had a look at this page: The History of Phrasal Verbs. Four of the five tests are followed by a "however" and the fifth (stress) is not really reliable. The writer is more or less admitting that phrasal verbs present difficulties in analysis. I think that is in part because English is highly analytic with strong isolating tendencies. It is difficult sometimes to identify precisely what is going on. Whilst I think English is difficult to pin down that does not mean we should not make the effort to make sense of it. The important thing is that it works fine.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    We may though note that on uttering the sentence someone may ask: "Which shop did you run into?" and then puzzle what precise role "into" is playing."
    Ordinary preposition stranding (Which country are you from? What are you talking about?): more precisely: wh-movement.
     
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    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    Running into Robert, especially when shopping and not driving, can be taken either literally or figuratively.
    Yes, absolutely. The usual meaning of "I ran into Robert", though (so long as the context dies not involve a football or other sports match), is "I met Robert", and not "I collided with Robert.
    Running into Robert, especially when shopping and not driving, can be taken either literally or figuratively.
    Yes as well, but ibid.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    If taken literally, what would ''running into Robert'' mean? Perhaps bumping into him? colliding against him?
    Yes, this would be the literal, non-idiomatic meaning. The idiomatic meaning, "I met Robert", however, is much more commonly heard in non-specific contexts.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    I would say that in both "I ran into Fred Ford" and "I encountered Fred Ford" the direct object is "Fred Ford".
    100%, and I view this insight as the key to the puzzle. If "Fred Ford" is the DO, and the meaning is "I met him", then "ran into" must be the verbal unit, as there is no other role for "into" to take apart from verbal modifier.
     
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    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    There is no puzzle. It is simply confusion of syntax and semantics.
    Yes, but if normal/traditional syntax may be changed by usage as a type of "syntactic drift" (as are word semantics), then which syntax are we discussing? I wonder if this is what is happening has happened here.
     
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    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    What "syntactic drift". I don't quite understand.
    Well, when the meaning of words can change over time as an effect of usage, it is sometimes called "semantic drift". If usage can likewise effect normal syntax for particular types of construction, then...
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Then what? Semantic drift has nothing to do with syntax. Apart from that, figurative uses are not quite the same thing as semantic drift.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    Semantic drift has nothing to do with syntax.
    No, not at all. However, what I am suggesting, rather, is more of a concomitancy, What I suggest, is that (perhaps) a hypothetical "syntactic drift" might accompany semantic drift within a language as a coordinate phenomenon, both the result of changing syntactic and semantic usages, respectively, over time.
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There is no puzzle. It is simply confusion of syntax and semantics.
    I think the problem in this thread is different ideas of what people mean by "syntax".

    My approach goes something like this:

    In both:

    Mary gave the book to John

    and

    Mary gave John the book


    John is presented as the recipient of the book in a sentence with an active verb. I give a name to the role of a recipient in an active sentence: indirect object. I say that in both sentences "John" is the indirect object. If someone objects and says but the syntax is different in each case, I will agree, but say that the syntax of English allows an indirect object to expressed in two different ways which is not confusing semantics with syntax. To put it another way, in my concept of syntax I give a name to function rather than form.

    I see this as similar to possession which can also be expressed in two ways in English:

    John's book

    and

    The book of John

    I would say that both sentences indicate that John owns the book and I see no reason why in the first I should refer to John as "the possessor" and in the second by some phrase involving the word "preposition."

    Many years ago I read a book which divided what in traditional grammar are called adjectives into "adjectives" and "adjectivals", the former referring to words which can be inflected by adding "-er" and "-est" and the latter which cannot. It is a severe case of emphasising form at the expense of function and as bad as describing "weak" verbs as "verbs" and "strong" verbs as "verbals".
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    In both:

    Mary gave the book to John

    and

    Mary gave John the book

    John is presented as the recipient of the book in a sentence with an active verb. I give a name to the role of a recipient in an active sentence: indirect object. I say that in both sentences "John" is the indirect object.
    I agree with this. Moreover, even of we change the word order of your first example a bit, so.that it reads, Mary gave to John a book, John remains an indirect object. However, this example is quite different from our example above, I ran into Robert at the store. because in this sentence Robert is the direct object, that which is acted upon by the subject. This indicates that in that sentence, into is not acting as a preposition introducing a prepositional phrase, but rather as a modifier of the verb to run. That is the analysis of this dummy, at least.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I think the problem in this thread is different ideas of what people mean by "syntax".
    Not really. The terms are quite well defined and your talk about semantics and not about syntax. Things like "possessor" are semantic and not syntactic categories. Same with verb valences. Syntactic categories are things like subject and object. Things like agent, patient or beneficiary are semantic categories.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I agree with this. Moreover, even of we change the word order of your first example a bit, so.that it reads, Mary gave to John a book, John remains an indirect object. However, this example is quite different from our example above, I ran into Robert at the store. because in this sentence Robert is the direct object, that which is acted upon by the subject. This indicates that in that sentence, into is not acting as a preposition introducing a prepositional phrase, but rather as a modifier of the verb to run. That is the analysis of this dummy, at least.
    I totally agree. I suppose though that in the end it all comes down to how you look at things and what the purpose of the analysis is. I quote from the Wikipedia article on syntax: "There are numerous approaches to syntax that differ in their central assumptions and goals."

    Analyses made for didactic purposes are somewhat decried in this thread, but if they are useful they must have something going for them.

    Language generally is difficult to pin down because it is complex. Every natural language is a system which has evolved and, somehow or other, its native speakers master it at a surprisingly early stage in their development. I remain to be convinced that any rigorous system can fully explain any language. I am inclined to think that a language like English, which is highly analytical with strong isolating tendencies, does not readily lend itself to being parcelled up neatly, not that any language can be completely worked out. If we think we understand language we are saying we understand how mental processes work, and we are a long way off from that.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.A. - New England)
    Language generally is difficult to pin down because it is complex. Every natural language is a system which has evolved...
    Yes. The set of ways in which words can be combined in English (and I assume in all languages) to render different meanings is quite extensive. It seems that in certain combinatorial forms, words can assume functions which deviate from those subsumed by their normal parts of speech.
     
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