failure to take precautions, thing to do (noun complement/postmodifier)


Spanish from Spain
Hello everybody:

I am studying non-finite clauses, and while reading Biber's grammar, I had a question. He makes a difference between noun complements and noun postmodifiers. He offers these examples:

They say that failure to take precautions against injuring others is negligent (noun complement)
It is a callous thing to do (noun postmodifier).

I cannot really see the difference between both. Can anybody explain it to me? I would really appreciate it.

Thank you,


Moderator edit: thread title must include part of the phrase that you are asking about. -fenixpollo
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  • jogamita

    New Member
    I guess you are dealing with Noun-Phrases.

    This is something I dealt with in my career and I can tell you the answer from what I remember.

    It's really simple:

    Noun complements are needed to complete the meaning of the sentence. Look at your example, if you took the text in bold out, you would have a meaningless sentence.

    Postmodifiers tell us some extra information that isn't compulsory so as to understand the meaning of the sentence. "It is a callous thing" always reflects what that action would be like, so it is obvious that if you do it, it would be hard to do. That's why "to do" could be omitted.

    I hope I am right and didn't mess up.
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