I mistook him as/for a doctor.

XuanHuy

New Member
Vietnamese - Vietnamese
Are both "as a doctor" and "for a doctor" considered as object complement in the following? Is it the same with "as an insult" in the third sentence?

1. I mistook him as a doctor.
2. I mistook him for a doctor.
3. You shouldn't take the remark as an insult.
 
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  • SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Are both "as a doctor" and "for a doctor" considered as object complement in the following? Is it the same with "as an insult" in the third sentence?

    1. I mistook him as a doctor.
    2. I mistook him for a doctor.
    3. You shouldn't take the remark as an insult.
    It depends on what definition you use.

    In a traditional definition, a complement is an element (word, phrase, clause) that completes the meaning of another element. So, a subject complement completes the meaning of the subject, and an object complement completes the meaning of an object. Since "for a doctor" completes the meaning of the object "him" and "as an insult" completes the meaning of the object "the remark," "for a doctor" and "as an insult" are defined as object complements.

    In modern grammars, a complement is an element "selected" by a "head." And complement stands in contrast to an adjunct, which is an element not selected by a "head." "For a doctor" is an adjunct because I can drop it and simply say I mistook him. The reason I can drop it is that "for a doctor" is not selected by any word. Now, we lose some information when we drop "for a doctor," but that's a semantic loss. Syntactically, I mistook him is a sound sentence with no change in basic meaning.

    By contrast, you can't drop "as an insult" because what's left behind (You shouldn't take the remark) is completely different from You shouldn't take the remark as an insult. The reason is that "as an insult" is a complement selected by the noun "the remark."

    The change in meaning is this: in You shouldn't take the remark as an insult, "take" means "understand/interpret;" in You shouldn't take the remark, dropping "as an insult," "take" begins to look like it means "possess/accept/etc."
     

    XuanHuy

    New Member
    Vietnamese - Vietnamese
    Thank you very much for your detailed answer. From what you say, does it mean that "as a doctor" is also an adjunct in modern grammar, but an object complement in traditional grammar?

    It depends on what definition you use.

    In a traditional definition, a complement is an element (word, phrase, clause) that completes the meaning of another element. So, a subject complement completes the meaning of the subject, and an object complement completes the meaning of an object. Since "for a doctor" completes the meaning of the object "him" and "as an insult" completes the meaning of the object "the remark," "for a doctor" and "as an insult" are defined as object complements.

    In modern grammars, a complement is an element "selected" by a "head." And complement stands in contrast to an adjunct, which is an element not selected by a "head." "For a doctor" is an adjunct because I can drop it and simply say I mistook him. The reason I can drop it is that "for a doctor" is not selected by any word. Now, we lose some information when we drop "for a doctor," but that's a semantic loss. Syntactically, I mistook him is a sound sentence with no change in basic meaning.

    By contrast, you can't drop "as an insult" because what's left behind (You shouldn't take the remark) is completely different from You shouldn't take the remark as an insult. The reason is that "as an insult" is a complement selected by the noun "the remark."

    The change in meaning is this: in You shouldn't take the remark as an insult, "take" means "understand/interpret;" in You shouldn't take the remark, dropping "as an insult," "take" begins to look like it means "possess/accept/etc."
     

    XuanHuy

    New Member
    Vietnamese - Vietnamese
    I mistook him as a doctor. :cross:
    I mistook him for a doctor. :tick:
    "For a doctor" is an adverbial adjunct.
    Google search shows that "mistake ... as" is less frequent than "mistake ... for". Does this mean that "mistake ... as" is not acceptable in British English but more common in American English?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Google search shows that "mistake ... as" is less frequent than "mistake ... for". Does this mean that "mistake ... as" is not acceptable in British English but more common in American English?
    I cannot see what a Google search says about American versus British English. However, what you have not done, but should do, is to give sample sentences using "as". :thumbsup:

    It may be just about possible to use the "as" version in either AE or BE, but the point is that in general terms "for" is never going to be wrong.

    Please look at this link to Google Ngram Viewer: mistook him as,mistook him for

    For every example of "as", there are 200 examples of "for" and many of the "as" examples are very old; by non-native speaker; colloquial, and/or have a comma between mistook and as: "Although I mistook him, as it was foggy, he still replied." which is not the same at all as your example.
     
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    XuanHuy

    New Member
    Vietnamese - Vietnamese
    From what you say about object complement in modern grammar, does it mean that 1b and 2b below are not examples of complements but only adjuncts?

    1a Could you describe your attacker?

    1b Police described the attacker as a black female with braided hair.

    1b They describe her as clever.


    2a The Senate will elect the President of the United States of America.

    2b They elected her (as) class president.

    2b In 1868, Maine again elected him to the Senate.

    It depends on what definition you use.

    In a traditional definition, a complement is an element (word, phrase, clause) that completes the meaning of another element. So, a subject complement completes the meaning of the subject, and an object complement completes the meaning of an object. Since "for a doctor" completes the meaning of the object "him" and "as an insult" completes the meaning of the object "the remark," "for a doctor" and "as an insult" are defined as object complements.

    In modern grammars, a complement is an element "selected" by a "head." And complement stands in contrast to an adjunct, which is an element not selected by a "head." "For a doctor" is an adjunct because I can drop it and simply say I mistook him. The reason I can drop it is that "for a doctor" is not selected by any word. Now, we lose some information when we drop "for a doctor," but that's a semantic loss. Syntactically, I mistook him is a sound sentence with no change in basic meaning.

    By contrast, you can't drop "as an insult" because what's left behind (You shouldn't take the remark) is completely different from You shouldn't take the remark as an insult. The reason is that "as an insult" is a complement selected by the noun "the remark."

    The change in meaning is this: in You shouldn't take the remark as an insult, "take" means "understand/interpret;" in You shouldn't take the remark, dropping "as an insult," "take" begins to look like it means "possess/accept/etc."
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    1b Police described the attacker as a black female with braided hair.
    1b They describe her as clever.

    2b They elected her (as) class president.
    2b In 1868, Maine again elected him to the Senate.
    As is a conjunction

    I think it is helpful to consider what "as" means in the examples - this will guide you in the function of the following phrase.

    1b Police described the attacker as [a person who was] a black female with braided hair.
    1b They describe her as [a person who is] clever.

    This is different:
    2b They elected her to serve as [in the position of] class president.
     
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