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In:

The patient was scheduled to receive medication daily.

is "was":

  1. the main (copula) verb and "scheduled" its complement/object?
  2. Or the auxiliary of a passive voice verb group, where "scheduled" is the main verb?

I'm leaning towards (1), mainly because I tend to think that a passive clause must always be convertible to an active clause, and "the doctor scheduled the patient" sounds unnatural to my non-native ears. I usually think of events being scheduled (e.g. the meeting was scheduled), not people.

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  • Is this a sentence of your own devising, or did you come across it somewhere in particular? If that latter, could you please tell us where you found it? I ask because I share some of your unease with the sentence as it is currently worded, although I can't quite put my finger on why it strikes me as a little peculiar. Because you can have some scheduled interruptions (or unscheduled ones), that shows that scheduled *can can act as an normal adjective in the noun phrase, which is one test for a predicate adjective construction. But you can schedule somebody for an 8am procedure, too. – tchrist Jul 19 '17 at 18:24
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    Either? Both? It has to be a verb in The patient was quickly scheduled to receive treatment, because the adverb quickly has to modify a verb. But it also has to be an adjective when you use the present tense is in The patient is scheduled for treatment at 3 pm, when the actual scheduling took place months ago. – Peter Shor Jul 19 '17 at 18:32
  • @tchrist Thanks. The sentence derives from a real but unfortunately proprietary corpus of medical reports, so I'm not allowed to disclose the source. If both parses can be accepted, do we have here just a regular case of ambiguity? For example, "I have purchased licenses", "purchased" as the main verb (so I'm communicating the action of purchasing licenses), or as an adjective of "licenses" (so the licences I already have were not free). – Rodrigo Jul 20 '17 at 13:15
  • @Rodrigo: I think there's nothing you can do but accept the ambiguity. If you actually need to distinguish the two cases, it usually shouldn't be that hard to do by context. – Peter Shor Jul 20 '17 at 13:29
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    Does this answer your question? verb or adjective in "The blue page is *stapled* to the red page"? – Edwin Ashworth Jun 23 '20 at 18:41

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