What is obvious is that we are choosing a new path.

Does the VP (is obvious) function as a predicate?

If it does, is there any situation where a VP doesn't function as a predicate? Or does a VP always function as a predicate?


Another example would be:

I took a train heading north.

Here, does the VP heading north function as a predicate?

  • It certainly functions as a predicate in the example sentence. However, note that the form of the sentence is a Wh-Cleft, which makes a whole noun clause (that we are choosing a new path) into a predicate nominal (with is as an auxiliary), and makes another noun clause (What is obvious) into the subject of this predicate. This is a highly complex construction, with its own special syntax. Not a simple example at all. As to the question, yes, VPs are always predicates; they are they syntactic equivalent of logical 'predicate', like sentences are the equivalent of logical 'proposition'. – John Lawler Dec 13 '18 at 3:10
  • @JohnLawler What is obvious is not a clause but a noun phrase (NP). It's equivalent to the thing which is obvious, which is an NP that includes a relative clause which is obvious. – JK2 Dec 13 '18 at 4:36
  • Is is obvious a "verb phrase"? – Kris Dec 13 '18 at 9:10
  • Yes, is obvious is a verb phrase. JK2, syntax can be done using derivations; branding constituents is not a humane practice. You have your terminology and are encouraged to use it; I have mine and can understand yours, though I find it wanting. – John Lawler Dec 13 '18 at 16:43
  • @JohnLawler I don't know if you can simply dismiss it as "terminology". If you start calling What is obvious in the OP a clause, then you're essentially objecting to the proposition that the predicate of a clause is the head of the clause, because clearly is obvious is not the head of What is obvious but that of is obvious in the OP. – JK2 Dec 13 '18 at 23:27

(1) [What is obvious] is that we are choosing a new path.

(2) I took a train heading north.

Yes, in (1) "is obvious" is the predicate in the bracketed NP -- a fused relative construction meaning "that which is obvious".

And in (2) "heading north" is predicate in the bracketed gerund-participial clause modifying "train".

But VPs are not always predicates. They can occur as attributive modifiers in NPs, e.g. "a sleeping child", where "sleeping" is not a clause and hence "sleeping", although a VP, is not functioning as a predicate. The rationale behind this is that the structural possibilities are too restricted to justify a clausal analysis: you can’t have a subject and you can’t have a post-verbal dependent.

  • Thanks for the "sleeping child" example. What do you think about "frequently asked questions"? Does "frequently asked" qualify as a predicate? – JK2 Dec 13 '18 at 12:07
  • @JK2 I'd put that in the same category as "sleeping", i.e. a VP as an attributive modifier. – BillJ Dec 13 '18 at 12:33

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