According to Oxford Dictionaries Online:

Predicator means "(In systemic grammar) a verb phrase considered as a constituent of clause structure, along with subject, object, and adjunct."

Predicate means "The part of a sentence or clause containing a verb and stating something about the subject (e.g. went home in John went home)."

In the latter example of John went home, it seems, the predicate is went home whereas the predicator is went, home being an adjunct and thus not part of the predicator as defined.

Now, I looked further in this wikipedia article to better understand the difference. The article recognizes two competing notions of the predicate in theories of grammar:

(1) Predicates in traditional grammar (e.g., went home in John went home)

(2) Predicates in modern theories of syntax and grammar (e.g., went in John went home)

Which, according to the article, causes confusion as to what exactly the term predicate mean, and some grammarians came up with a new term "predicator" specifically for use (2), says the article. No problem thus far.

What bothers me: The article in its explanation of (2) says, "Other function words -- e.g. auxiliary verbs, certain prepositions, phrasal particles, etc. -- are viewed as part of the predicate." (Emphasis mine.)

Now, remember this definition of the predicate, i.e., (2) above, corresponds to the new term "predicator".

I understand that auxiliary verbs are part of this definition of predicate, because an auxiliary verb can be part of a verb cluster. But can certain prepositions and phrasal particles also?

The article has these example sentences (Words belonging to "predicate" (2) are boldfaced as in the article itself; My comments in parentheses.):

The butter is in the drawer. (preposition in being part of the predicate)

You should give it up. (particle up being part of the predicate)

Susan is pulling your leg. (I don't know why leg is marked as part of the predicate. Maybe a typo?)


Except for the last one, which I suspect is a typo, I'd like to know whether the preposition in and the particle up belong to the predicate as presented in (2) and thus belong to the new term "predicator".


1 Answer 1


From the wikipedia article you linked:

This understanding sees predicates as relations or functions over arguments. The predicate serves either to assign a property to a single argument or to relate two or more arguments to each other. Sentences consist of predicates and their arguments (and adjuncts) and are thus predicate-argument structures, whereby a given predicate is seen as linking its arguments into a greater structure.[7]

For example:

  • Bob laughed. → laughed (Bob) or, laughed = ƒ(Bob)
  • Sam helped you. → helped (Sam, you)
  • Jim gave Jill his dog. → gave (Jim, Jill, his dog)

Now for the answer:

Remember that anything which is not an argument, viz...

Other function words - e.g. auxiliary verbs, certain prepositions, phrasal particles, etc. - are viewed as part of the predicate [Wikipedia]


  1. The butter is in the drawer.

This one's easy: is in(the butter, the drawer)

  1. You should give it up.

Perhaps your confusion arises from the fact that the words aren't together.

Remember, in certain phrasal verbs (including give up), a pronoun must split the phrase and can't follow the verb.

So, let's have:

2a. You should give up the car.

And, by predicate calculus, we have:

  1. should give up (you, it)

2a. should give up (you, the car)

  1. Susan is pulling your leg

Now, pulling someone's leg is an idiom that means To make a playful attempt to fool or deceive someone. [TFD]. She isn't literally holding your leg and pulling it. So, leg can't be an argument. (It's not a typo.)

We have: is pulling leg(Susan, your)

However, if it were:

3a. Susan is pulling your hand

We'd have: is pulling(Susan, your hand)

I hope this makes it clear for you. in, up and leg were part of the predicate indeed

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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