While writing the following sentence I was curious whether the sentence was correct. But after checking COCA, I came to now that similar expressions are in use. The sentence I wrote is:

Have you heard it used this way?

In COCA I found the following:

I had never heard it described that way.
I use the term and I've heard it used fairly interchangeably.

My question is:

If the part after "it" for example "used this way", "described that way" or "used fairly interchangeably" is the modifier of "it" and as such it is the part of a noun phrase headed by "it". Or if they are the second complement of the verb "hear", the first being "it".

And how to distinguish the two in here?

  • No time to answer, I'm afraid, or do any research. But my intuition tells me it's a catenative complement, although some would doubtless analyse it as the predicate of a verbless clause. I suspect that all verbs of perception can pattern like that:) Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 17:49
  • I think the thing being modified is it. Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 22:16
  • @Araucaria verbless clause? Is it any here? Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 2:24
  • @Araucaria and one more thing, my thought is not very clear. So want to ask you why it is not q second compliment of the verb "hear" or a post head modifier of "it"? Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 2:38
  • @Man_From_India I don't believe so, but I think some might. Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 7:07

1 Answer 1


Considering this example:

I had never heard it described that way.

According to Huddleston & Pullum (2002), the verb hear in such cases is being used with a past-participial complement in the complex catenative construction (pp. 1244-1245); the "it" (or another noun phrase) is obligatory, so it can't be the subject of "described"; instead "it" must be the object of "heard," with "described that way" a separate complement.

Here's why "it described that way" can't be taken as a single noun phrase acting as an object of "heard." We can turn "I've never heard it" into the passive voice "It's never been heard by me." But we can't transform "I've never heard it described that way" into "It described that way has never been heard by me," at least not with the same meaning.

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