This ques­tion is specif­i­cally for those who are fa­mil­iar with the 2002 edi­tion of The Cam­bridge Gram­mar of the English Lan­guage by Hud­dle­ston and Pul­lum.

The book has this pas­sage at page 272:

Strictly speak­ing, an in­tran­si­tive prepo­si­tion may have a com­ple­ment other than an ob­ject NP – e.g. ow­ing in ow­ing to the rain has a PP com­ple­ment. In this sec­tion, how­ever, we will be con­cerned only with in­tran­si­tive prepo­si­tions that have ei­ther no com­ple­ment at all or else a pred­ica­tive, as in That counts [as sat­is­fac­tory].

The book also says that prepo­si­tions can take fi­nite clauses as com­ple­ments as fol­lows:

They ig­nored the ques­tion [of whether it was eth­i­cal]. (page 641)

Here, does the book con­sider the of a transitive preposition (because it takes a clause as a com­ple­ment) or an in­tran­si­tive prepo­si­tion (be­cause it doesn't take an ob­ject NP)?

Also, how about verbs tak­ing fi­nite clauses as non-ob­ject com­ple­ments?

The book on pages 1017–1018:

In the present sub­sec­tion we turn our at­ten­tion to con­tent clauses func­tion­ing as in­ter­nal com­ple­ment to a verb, as in He feared that he might lose his job ([16i]). Tra­di­tional gram­mar not only anal­y­ses the sub­or­di­nate clause here as a noun clause, but as­signs it the same func­tion as that of the NP in He feared the prospect of un­em­ploy­ment, namely that of ob­ject of the verb. Again, how­ever, we be­lieve that the sub­or­di­nate clause is not suf­ficiently like an NP to jus­tify that anal­y­sis.

The feared both in He feared that he might lose his job and in He feared the prospect of un­em­ploy­ment, traditional grammar considers a transitive verb.

The Cambridge Grammar agrees that the one in the second example (taking an object NP as a complement) is a transitive verb. Does the book considers the one in the first example (taking a that-clause as a complement) a transitive or intransitive verb?

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    Is this question about intransitive prepositions, intransitive verbs, or intransitivity? How does CGEL define intransitivity? (presumably valency zero) – Mitch Jan 19 '19 at 16:49
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    @Mitch This question is specifically about CGEL's definition of transitivity/intransitivity. I think discussing transitivity necessarily involves discussing intransitivity because it's either transitive or intransitive. The question is about both verbs and prepositions because CGEL discusses (in)transitivity for both. – JK2 Jan 19 '19 at 22:02
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    @Mitch Their definition of transitivity is too basic to be useful, because the definition is presented in the section where they don't talk about any complements in the form of finite or non-finite clauses. – JK2 Jan 20 '19 at 0:20
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    @GregLee CGEL defines an NP such that even a single noun can constitute an NP, and says that only NPs--not nouns--can be subjects. In that sense, CGEL is anything but 'traditional grammar'. And CGEL states that clauses do not have nominal/adjectival/adverbial properties, and it ditches the very idea of 'nominal/adjectival/adverbial clauses'. That said, I don't understand why you say that a complement has nominal properties. For example, a prepositional phrase at me can be a complement of a verb look in Look at me, and this PP-complement doesn't have any nominal properties, does it? – JK2 Mar 12 '19 at 2:07
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    @GregLee If you have access to CGEL, please quote me exactly where CGEL says so. If you don't, it means nothing to me whether you "believe me" or not, because I know exactly what CGEL says. – JK2 Mar 13 '19 at 15:17

The CGEL introduction to transitivity of verbs begins on p 216 with:


The default type of internal core complement is an object (O). Whereas all canonical clauses contain an S, they may or may not contain an O, depending on the nature of the verb. This yields the important contrast referred to as transitivity - a transitive clause contains an O, an intransitive one does not.

It then goes on to give examples of transitive vs intransitive, mono- and ditransitive, and later (p 218) draw a distinction with the closely related concept of valency which depends solely on the number of complements, where transitivity depends on the kind of complement.

i He died. intransitive monovalent

ii This depends on the price. intransitive bivalent

iii Ed became angry. intransitive (complex) bivalent

iv He read the paper. monotransitive bivalent

v He blamed me for the delav. monotransitive trivalent

vi This made Ed angrv. monotransitive (complex) trivalent

vii She gave him some food. ditransitive trivalent

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  • The ultimate question was "Does the book consider[] ['fear' in 'He feared that he might lose his job' (taking a that-clause as a complement) a transitive or intransitive verb?" – Edwin Ashworth Feb 11 at 14:56
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    Sorry, I was addressing the title question. The passage in the question text, "Again, how­ever, we be­lieve that the sub­or­di­nate clause is not suf­ficiently like an NP to jus­tify that anal­y­sis.", seems to state that a "that" clause is not an O, against 'traditional'/what I think (naive?) views. – Mitch Feb 11 at 16:14
  • @Mitch +1 answer. I take it it’s viewed as intransitive then, CaGEL is treating that clasues the same as PP phrases where PPs which are complements to the verb are intransitive - only NP complement would make it transitive? – aesking Feb 11 at 17:20
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    @aesking I think the CGEL view is unsupportable; nothing they say leads me to believe you can differentiate meaningfully between an NP and a "that" clause with respect to transitivity. But then I am not a professional linguist. Fortunately, the question is about what CGEL says, not what I think is right. – Mitch Feb 11 at 18:18
  • Your answer is quoting only from Chapter 4: The clause: complements, which doesn't even discuss finite clauses being used as complements either of verbs or of prepositions, which is the issue of the two specific questions presented in OP. Please address both the questions in your answer. Thank you. – JK2 Feb 13 at 0:11

For CGEL, transitive means specifically 'taking a object as complement'. Moreover, I recall personal discussions with Pullum and Huddleston in which they confirm that only NPs function as objects. Verbs or prepositions which take other types of complements, such as clausal complements, predicative complements, etc, are not transitive.

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    Can you please give a page reference to where they give this definition? – curiousdannii Jan 12 at 12:48
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    Is there any written corroboration of their stance 'they [hold] that only NPs function as objects. Verbs or prepositions which take other types of complements, such as clausal complements, predicative complements, etc, are not transitive'? – Edwin Ashworth Jan 12 at 16:39
  • CGEL p. 216 "a transitive clause contains an O" – Brett Reynolds Jan 13 at 13:23
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    I'd just like to add that the authors of CGEL allow analysing ing-clauses as objects "when they occur in some distinctively object relation with some element OTHER than the head verb: "This made obtaining a loan virtually impossible" (p1255). As for the terms transitivity/intransitivity, they explicitly state that the terms apply to the relation between a verb and its object. A "transitive" construction involves a verb taking a noun phrase as complement. An "intransitive" one does not – user97589 Feb 11 at 20:33
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    There are other types of verb complements, but their relation with the head verb does not have a widely accepted name (they are described in rather formal or descriptive terms), with the exception of non-finite complements. The term for this one is "catenative" - He likes studying grammar. ("studying grammar" is a catenative complement of the verb "like" ) – user97589 Feb 11 at 20:52

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