Is a non-verbal predicate a synonymous term for "nominal predicate"? And moreover, do non-verbal predicates only appear with linking verbs or can also appear in other types of constructions?

I acknowledge definitions of concepts, because I isn't clarified :)

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    Please give examples of what you mean by “nonverbal predicate”, and perhaps where you found that term.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 17:46
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    Non-verbal predicates are predicates that are not verbs. Like I'm tired and He's a doctor. Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 19:48
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    @John Lawler: oic. I imagined it might be a of "non-spoken word" kind of predicate, like "Fancy popping upstairs for a bit of [two-tone rise-fall whistle]?" (where in UK English that whistle loosely translates as how's your father :) Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 20:29
  • @FumbleFingers In that case [tweedle] would be a non-verbal nominal object of a preposition. Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 20:37
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    @JohnLawler That’s what I would have thought, but apparently that is not what the OP was thinking of.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 21:41

2 Answers 2


There are two major kinds of non-verbal predicates in English:

  1. predicate adjectives ("adjectival predicates", if you prefer that construction)
  2. predicate nouns ("nominal predicates").

Both types require an auxiliary be, though this often gets wiped by Whiz Deletion or some other clause-reduction rule. In addition, singular count nouns serving as predicates require an article.

  • He is tired.
  • He is a doctor.
  • This stuff is just mud.
  • He got tired = He came to be tired (inchoative of be)
  • They made him a teacher = They caused him to come to be a teacher (causative of be)

There are many kinds of constructions, like the last two, where non-verbal predicates can occur without an auxiliary be, but they always refer back to a full form which contains be.

Predictable auxiliaries like be are used just to hold the tense, so in an untensed infinitive or gerund, or in a reduced relative clause, where tense is either irrelevant or already specified by the matrix verb, the be usually gets deleted.

Especially for adjective predicates, this is the norm, and it's reasonable to assume that any attributive adjective is reduced from a relative clause with a predicate adjective by Whiz-Deletion and adjective-preposing.

  • the old man ~ the man Wh- is old
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    In the sentence: "The book is on the table", we have also a non-verbal predicate? How is the name of the complement in this case?
    – ABu
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 11:27
  • @Peregring-lk: Assuming that by "complement" you refer to the prepositional phrase on the table, it's a locative adverbial prepositional phrase, and it's the predicate of the sentence, whence the be. "Predicate" is a logical phenomenon, not a grammatical one. (See the logic guide for terminology and use) The be, on the other hand, is a grammatical phenomenon; it's necessary to hold the tense. (See the Verb Phrase guide for terminology and use) Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 16:14

There are 6 types of non-verbal predication across languages.

  • Equative ~ That guy is my father.
  • Proper Inclusion ~ He is a lawyer.
  • Attributive ~ He is smart.
  • Locative ~ The tv is in that classroom.
  • Existential ~ There are students here.
  • Possession ~ I have a book. or ~ That book is mine. although arguably this could be considered an example of proper inclusion.

So five arguably six of the types of non-verbal predications are accomplished by the copula be in English

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