Just putting together a lexical lesson on making life changes and thought I'd use a sentence with 'end up'. However, when I ran through various sample sentences I noticed that it is quite an unusual beast in that it licenses verb+ing phrases, adjective phrases and prepositional phrases and noun phrases.


  1. I ended up drunk and broke. (AdjP)
  2. That's how I ended up here. (PP)
  3. I ended up without a penny to my name. (PP)
  4. I ended up running the company. (V+ing)
  5. He ended up a hero. (NP)

Thus it would seem to form complex transitive clauses, the complements describing the state of the 'subject' (or predicand). Kind of meaning 'at the end of the story [the subject] was'.

Yet because it ends with 'up' (a preposition) - you'd expect it just to licence verb+ing or a noun phrase.

So what is it exactly - any ideas?

  • 2
    I fell and landed ass end up. – Hot Licks Apr 6 '15 at 20:07
  • I like it. One I hadn't thought of! I ended up landing ass end up. – thecrease Apr 6 '15 at 20:08
  • I'm not sure it's that "unusual". To be, which is probably the most common verb in English, can also be used in all these contexts. So can to start, to begin, I think. – FumbleFingers Apr 6 '15 at 20:55
  • Few would call the up in end up a preposition nowadays. Theres a vast difference between I ended up here and I worked up here. Only in the second is 'up here ' an adverbial. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 6 '15 at 21:42
  • @EdwinAshworth - I climbed the ladder and I ended up here. – Hot Licks Apr 7 '15 at 1:18

All the phrases following up here are commonly found as predicative complements. Here are some more examples of such predicative complements:

  • Don't get her angry (AdjP)
  • Get her here as soon as possible (PP)
  • Get her into the taxi. (PP)
  • I got her running errands for me. (V+ing)
  • I am a nutter (NP - I don't think this sense of GET allows NP's as predicative complement so I've had to use the verb BE instead).

The predicative complements here are complements of get. In the Original Poster's examples, the preposition up is a complement of the verb END. However, the Original Poster's predicative complements are not complements of the preposition up, they are complements of verb END. In other words the verb end is taking two complements here.

(Assuming that here is a preposition in the OP's examples) END is a verb and up is a preposition functioning as a complement of that verb. The predicative complements the OP describes are also complements of the verb, not the preposition.

  1. I am partial to the analysis in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, which treats up here as an intransitive preposition, analogous to an intransitive verb in that it does not take an object.

    The traditional account does not allow for a preposition without a complement, but within a framework where prepositions function as heads of phrases, like verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, there is again no principled basis for imposing such a condition. Compare:

      [7]    WITH COMPLEMENT                         WITHOUT COMPLEMENT
          i a. She was eating an apple.              b. She was eating.
         ii a. She's the director of the company.    b. She's the director.  
        iii a. I'm certain it's genuine.             b. I'm certain.  
         iv a. I haven't seen her since the war.     b. I haven't seen her since.

    The presence or absence of a complement has no bearing on the classification of the head in[i-iii], where in both the [a] and [b] members of the pair eating is a verb, director a a noun, and certain an adjective. There is no reason to treat [iv] any differently, and we accordingly take since as a preposition not only in [a], but also in [b], where traditional grammar analyses it as an adverb.
      We also include in the preposition category certain words like downstairs, which never take complements. (600-601)

  2. I further suggest that in the vast majority of so-called 'particle verbs' the bare preposition is a preposition phrase with (at least in origin) a locative sense, and that in that role it acts as Predicate Complement imputing a literal or figurative location to the subject. In the particular case of end up, this "location" is not spatial but telic: this is OED 1’s sense 18.b of Up, adv.1

    18. To or toward a state of completion or finality. (Frequently serving merely to emphasize the import of the verb.)
      b. With other verbs, denoting progress to or towards an end.
      1307 York Memo. Bk. (Suretees) I. 181. Oute taken girdels that er fully wroght up. c 1400 Laud Troy Bk. 14614 They..heled hum up with medycyns. […] 1869 Pall Mall G. 19 Aug. 5/1 Prices have subsequently firmed up in many instances.

Under this analysis, there is no need to seek a direct dependency or other syntactic relationship between up and the many sorts of Predicate Complement which follow it: the idiom merely calls for two different PCs, one characterizing the predication as telic and the other characterizing the particular telos attained.

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