Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The door was hit with such force that it swung clean (1) off its hinges and with a deafening crash landed (2) flat on the floor.
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

(1), (2) both seem to be the resultatives of the verbs: the former predicative prepositional phrase, the latter predicative adjective. When the verbs are not typical copulars, can we call them all the predicative expressions?

share|improve this question
If you expect an answer, you are going to have to first very carefully define each of: ❶ resultativepredicativecopular. I really do think all this structural lingo nonsense is interfering with your learning. No native speaker ever learns this way. –  tchrist Mar 20 '13 at 14:51
@tchrist, yes, but you have to consider that might be a cultural deformation, maybe due to the learning process in the first age school, that imposes a different way to learn for not native speakers, no? –  user19148 Mar 20 '13 at 21:23
I was interested that in (1) you excluded the 'adverb' clean but in (2) you included the 'adjective' flat in your resultative phrase. Used with a copular you could have 'the door was ...' with just the PP or with the adPP in either case. –  David M W Powers Mar 21 '13 at 0:06
Why do you think these are couplers and not just plain adverbial phrases? –  Peter Shor Mar 21 '13 at 11:39
add comment

1 Answer

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The idea of a copular was imported from Latin, and despite the best efforts of prescriptivists has not I believe ever described English as she is spoke.

In particular, I regard the accusative as appropriate and the nominative as inappropriate - viz. the verb to be is just another verb and does not have any special status in English other than it's role as an auxiliary (which extends its predicative role to participles in their alter ego role as adjectives). So I prefer the first rather than the second of...
+ It was me
* It was I

It is/was deciding/decided
(and similar the auxiliary functions of were/has in the verb slot derive from their main verb semantics)

For your example

It is/was clean
It is/was clean off its hinges
It is/was off its hinges

It is/was flat
It is/was flat on the floor
It is/was on the floor

these are all copular constructions in the sense of involving the verb to be.

It blew/flew/swung/fell [clean|awkardly] [off its hinges] [onto the floor] [with a crash]
It fell/landed [flat|dead] [on the floor] [with a crash]

represents the usual verbs that can be intransitive (the wind can blow, the door can swing, the bird can land, the cup can fall), but can also be biintranstive, meaning can take an (one indirect object (or more) indicating where it got to in a literal physical sense or in a metaphorical resultative sense or as a state or manner (flat, clean, dead, awkwardly). To the extent that these adverbial/prepositional phrases are optional they can also be regarded as margins of the clause, but in fact there is a strong desire to complete these verbs with at least one object, although that could be delayed for effect to the next clause/sentence, optionally using recapitulation

It swung... [fell] clean off its hinges... [crashing] flat onto the floor...

In my view it doesn't have anything to do with copulars, which I don't believe exist in English anyway in the sense of a grammatically distinct class, as opposed to a semantically contrived class (is/seems/...) or a misguidedly imported class.

share|improve this answer
Do you include the verb "swung" in your coupulars? –  Listenever Mar 21 '13 at 0:56
I don't include any verbs in my list of copulars, not even "is". If you do what to bring this latin grammar to English it requires nominative case nouns on both sides, which none of the other examples discussed satisfy. Also "is" in English is not "=" but has direction: A father is a parent (true) vs A parent is a father (not necessarily true). I would say "I'm him" or "He's me" –  David M W Powers Mar 25 '13 at 13:19
Note "a pilgrim am I..." represents fronting, as indicated by use of "am" not "is": "A pilgrim is I..." is not English. –  David M W Powers Mar 25 '13 at 13:26
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.