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Can someone analyse this sentence for me?

"Rex bit into his toy cat." (Yes, it's from 'Rex Barks'.)

Is 'bit into' a phrasal verb, and 'his toy cat' the Direct Object?

Or is 'into' an adverb to 'bit'?

Or, as in the book, is 'into his toy cat' an adverbial phrase, which makes 'bit' intransitive?

And how can you tell which is the correct option?

  • The PP into his toy cat is complement of the intransitive verb “bit”, and his toy cat is complement of “into”. Although it looks like a direct object, “his toy cat” is related only obliquely to the verb, i.e. via the preposition “into”, so your example does not have a direct object. – BillJ May 22 '16 at 15:40
  • But 'bit' is transitive more often than not. What's to stop 'bit into' being a phrasal verb? 'Bite down on' is surely a phrasal verb. There's a huge difference in sense between 'Rex walked into the room' and 'Rex bit into my hand'. Rex didn't DO anything to the room, but he definitely did something to my hand. I know grammar and sense aren't the same thing, but surely sense comes into it? – Dunsanist May 23 '16 at 13:35
  • Some would see "bite into" as a phrasal verb with "his toy cat" as object, so the analysis is Rex [bit into] [his toy cat]. But that's not the view of some grammarians (nor me), who see the analysis as Rex [bit] [into his toy cat]. I don't even see "bite into" as a phrasal verb since "bite" can specify other preps like "on" or "with" where the meanings are somewhat different. – BillJ May 23 '16 at 16:39
  • @Dunsanist Isn't that because walking doesn't do anything to its object in general? Compare "The dog walked the street" with "The dog bit the child". Your distinction merely reflects the differences in meaning of the two verbs. – Barmar May 23 '16 at 17:42

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