It is said that the omission of "to be" is allowed only when the adjective (phrases), noun (phrases), or prepositional phrase comes after the to be like this:

a He seemed (to be) angry about the decision.

b This seemed (to be) of great importance.

c She seemed (to be) a great player.

But I found some strange things about it. For example, this.

d He seemed excited by the news.

Well, excited by the news is definitely not an adjective phrase. Were the to be inserted in it, it would describe the action like this: the news excited him. So "excited" would be a past participle used as a verb after an auxiliary verb, not an adjective.

Like in a passive voice where the participles after the "to be" are considered verbal, or stative, participle phrase when not considered a pure adjective.

e He was bored by the music. <- bored by the music is not an adjective phrase but a stative, or verbal, participle phrase.


So why is it possible to say sentence d when "excited by the news" is a stative phrase not an adjective phrase? Wouldn't it be equivalent to deleting to be with present participle like this : He seemed doing the job.

Edit: What I referred to as stative past participle is known as dynamic passive by many. I think Wikipedia had some problem. http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2008/11/stative-seeking.html

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    "excited by the news" is an adjective phrase, so is "bored by the music" :) Oct 25, 2015 at 16:53
  • @ Armen Ծիրունյան Is it? Then why do people make distinction between passive voice? I thought that those phrases are considered adjective phrases only when used with no helping verb, as in this case: A boy excited by the news or a girl bore by the music. But if the helping verb, or auxiliary verb is put in, it would be considered a verb phrase, not an adjective phrase: He is excited by the news. Or am I understanding it wrongly? Oct 25, 2015 at 16:57
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    Many English adjectives are formed from participles and are identical to them in pronunciation and spelling. One can only tell the difference in clear cases. Anyway, it doesn't matter much how the node is labelled, as long as the constituents are correctly parsed. Oct 25, 2015 at 17:01
  • @John Lawler So do you mean that stative participle phrases as well as adjectival participle phrase can be used if they are parsed correctly? It is kind of hard for me, as I do not know how they are actually parsed... Oct 25, 2015 at 17:07
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    "Adjective" is a syntactic category, and "stative" is a semantic one. Many adjectives are stative, and many statives are adjectives, but they don't contrast before "participle". Participle, gerund, and infinitive phrases are just subordinate clauses of some kind with their subjects missing, for various reasons. Oct 25, 2015 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


In this question a simple equation is made unnecessarily complex, as if, through back calculation. As an answer we would like to ask another question : why do we choose SEEM as main verb of all the four examples?

Here lies the answer to this post. 'Seem' is a true linking verb like any form of 'be' verb and 'become'. They are exceptional in the sense that like other copular/ stative / abstract verbs as 'feel', 'grow', 'look', 'prove' etc., they never function as action verbs. In the questions "to be" is supplemented; no harm. But I think it is not necessary.

By substituting the verb at hand with a 'be' verb is the best test of knowing if the verb is a linking verb; SEEM passes the test.

The rest is history — all noted in grammar books : that linking verbs take complements; complements can be a noun, an adjective, a noun-like or an adjective- like or Prepositional phrases discharging any of the above functions. More to it, participles are adjectives, gerunds nouns.

  • In the text above shouldn't compliments be complements? It reads weird to me... Aug 15, 2016 at 21:20
  • @Pablo Straub thanks a lot. Scholars have every right to correct such silly mistakes. Aug 19, 2016 at 11:19

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