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The compound nominal predicate

The compound nominal predicate denotes the state or quality of the person or thing expressed by the subject (e. g. He is tired, The book is interesting), or the class of persons or things to which this person or thing belongs (e. g. She is a student).

The compound nominal predicate consists of a link verb and a predicative (the latter is also called the nominal part of the predicate).

The link verb (or a verb of incomplete predication) expresses the verbal categories of person, number, tense, aspect, mood, sometimes voice. All link verbs, as the result of a long development, have partly lost their original concrete meaning. One link verb has lost its concrete meaning altogether: this is the verb to be, which can be called a pure link verb as it performs only a grammatical function and can be linked with a predicative expressed by any part of speech used in this function.

This is a picture of Leningrad.1

1 In Russian the link verb быть is generally not used in the Present tense: Его сестра учительница.

Most link verbs to some extent preserve their meaning. The following are the most common of these link verbs: to appear, to get, to grow, to continue, to feel, to keep, to look, to turn, to hold, to prove, to turn out, to loom, to rank, to remain, to run, to seem, to smell, to taste, to fall, to stand, to go, to work.

His wife sighed and remained silent. (London)

Harris grew more cheerful. (Jerome)

At my age I get nervous. (Galsworthy)

He soon fell fast asleep in my arms, sobbing at longer intervals. (Dickens)

The boat seemed stuffy. (Jerome)

She, for her part, felt recessive and thence evasive. (Dreiser)

Many of these verbs can be used both as verbs of complete predication fully preserving their concrete meaning and as link verbs.

to be
The sun was full of promise. (Du Maurier) No one was there to meet him. (Lindsay)
to grow
But she had grown too proud or too passive. (Wescott) Perhaps I should grow a beard. I look too young to have been publishing for five years. (Wilson)
to look
He looked stupid and good-natured and happy. (Greene) He blushed violently and looked away. (Wilson)
to feel
And yet at moments he felt very close to her. (Lindsay) He felt great awe and admiration. (Wilson)
to come
The nightmare of my life had come true. (Buck) Giles and Beatrice were comingfor the night but nobody else. (Du Maurier)
to go
Philip Baring stiffened in his chair. His face went tense. (Wilson) Of a misty January morning Soames had gone there oncemore. (Galsworthy)

There are some verbs which, though fully preserving their concrete meaning, perform the function of link verbs: they are used with a predicative and form a compound nominal predicate. Here belong: to lie, to sit, to die, to marry, to return to leave, to come, to stand, to fall, to go, etc.

After many adventures I and a little girl lay senseless in the Bad Lands.


The poor woman sat amazed. (Trollope)

I stood transfixed with awe and joy. (Haggard)

Here the important thing is not that the speaker stood but that he stood transfixed with awe and joy.

Happily, too, the greater part of the boys came back low-spirited. (Dickens)

Sometimes the predicative does not immediately follow these verbs but is separated from them by an adverbial.

One evening she came home elated. (0. Henry)

Thus the same verb when used as a link verb may either lose its meaning or fully preserve it.

Irene’s hair was going gray.(Galsworthy) (link verb)

Tom wenthome miserable.(Twain) (notional verb performing the function of

a link verb)

According to their meaning link verbs can be divided into two large groups: (1) link verbs of being and remaining; (2) link verbs of becoming.

The first group comprises such verbs as to be, to remain, to keep, to continue, to look, to smell, to stand, to sit, to lie, to shine, to seem, to prove, to appear, etc. The latter three verbs have some modal colouring.

Cotman wasa nice-looking fellow, of thirty perhaps... (Maugham)

Do not delay, there is no time. Teacher Williams liesdead, already. (Buck)

The Western powers stoodaloof. (Buck)

Idris, aged five, at a litte desk all by himself near the fire, was looking

extraordinarily pleased with life. (Cronin)

He feltexhausted not with physical fatigue, but with the weight of vague

burdens. (Lindsay)

Either course seemedunthinkable, without any connection with himself.


The door remainedwide open; the voices inside werelouder than ever.


...the dancing continuesfast and furious. (Douglas)

That soundsnot unsatisfactory. (Wilde)

The second group comprises such verbs as to become, to get, to grow, to come, to go, to leave, to run, to turn, to make, etc.

Oh, Adolphus Cusins will makea very good husband. (Shaw)

This becomes uninteresting, however, after a time. (Jerome)

How can I getmarried without my best man? (Lindsay)

And every month of his life he grewhandsomer and more interesting.


The great day dawnedmisty and overcast. (Du Maurier)

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