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I'm trying to decode what word-type each word is in the following sentence, please correct me if I'm wrong.

The things you own end up owning you.

I have it decoded as follows:

The (det) things (noun) you (prep) own (verb) end (noun) up (adverb) owning (verb) you (prep).

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There's really no single "correct answer" to how to parse a particular sentence: how you analyse it depends on the particular framework/principles that you wish to apply. – Neil Coffey Oct 25 '11 at 3:06
This is pretty localized (there's no general question asked here, almost like proofreading, and I don't see anyone ever asking a question with this sentence or context again). Is there a particularly interesting phenomenon in this sentence that you care about? – Mitch Oct 25 '11 at 15:50
up vote 6 down vote accepted

You have many of them right. However, I believe the correct answer would be.

  1. "The": Determiner (or unspecific article).
  2. "things": plural noun.
  3. "you': pronoun (or noun phrase), second person (plural or singular).
  4. "own": verb, present tense.
  5. "end up": a rare example of an English compound verb meaning "eventually become", or in this case: "eventually will result in them..."
  6. "owning" verb, present progressive.
  7. "you": pronoun (or noun phrase), second person (singular or plural).

"End up" is an interesting compound verb which is mostly used in informal speech and writing. Its actual meaning appears to be rather complex and depends somewhat on the sentence it is found in. See the link below:


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So there is no way to break up 'end up'? I'm trying to create a linguistic parse tree, and I'm not sure how to map this out without being able to break up the phrase 'end up'. – KerxPhilo Oct 24 '11 at 23:23
Ah, yes. Parse trees, my lifetime enemy. :) I never was very good at those. However, for the word "end up" I do know you would place both words together under one node. Think of it as a compound noun like "hairbrush" or "sunlight." Though you could split them into an adjective and a noun, there really is no reason to. Don't make it harder than it needs to be! In your tree, "end" and "up" should stay together as if they were one word. – Melanchthon Oct 24 '11 at 23:28
Thanks, makes sense. BTW, regarding parse trees, did you use any particularly useful resource that you could suggest? – KerxPhilo Oct 24 '11 at 23:29
But there's really no such thing as "the correct answer"!!! There are different frameworks and principles for syntactic analysis, none of which one can readily say is intrinsically "correct". – Neil Coffey Oct 25 '11 at 3:07
@NeilCoffey: There’s no single “correct answer”, but some answers are certainly much more correct than others, and this and melanchthon’s other seem pretty correct to me, within their fairly traditional framework. As you say, they can certainly also be refined for more sophisticated frameworks, but they’re pretty good to be going on with. – PLL Oct 26 '11 at 13:52

enter image description here

As I said, I was never great at parse trees, but perhaps this gives you something to visualize.

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Awesome! May I ask how you constructed this? Was it with software designed for parse trees or mspaint? – KerxPhilo Oct 24 '11 at 23:44
I simply tried to figure out the sentence structure on paper and then used a program like Photoshop to type in words and draw lines connecting them on a blank background. It's called Paint Shop Pro. – Melanchthon Oct 24 '11 at 23:46
It's a start, but would realistically need some refining! If you're trying to aim at a Chomskyan framework, some things to note are that the relative clause would need to have a node with a 'trace' in it indexed with the relative clause (so "You own [t]" still has a placeholder for the object), and it isn't usual to allow arbitrary numbers of branches to a node: the tree would usually be binary branching. (But the fact that you include "S" suggest you're going by a fairly old, informal framework, I suppose?) – Neil Coffey Oct 25 '11 at 3:14

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