From a textbook:

The analysis of content clauses presented in this chapter differs in significant ways from that found in traditional grammar: in this section, therefore, we explain some of the changes we have felt it necessary to make.​

Is "necessary to make" an adjectival phrase?

Is "necessary to make" the object complement of "it"?


  • Shouldn't it read "we explain some of the changes we have felt are necessary to make" OR "we explain some of the changes we have felt it is necessary to make"? – Jules Cocovin May 8 '20 at 13:20
  • @Jules Cocovin Probably a fossilised re-ordering of 'We have felt it necessary to make the following changes ...'. Cf 'It is us'. – Edwin Ashworth May 8 '20 at 13:30
  • Jules Cocovin, Could you explain how grammatically you came from the initial "we explain some of the changes we have felt it necessary to make" to your variant "we explain some of the changes we have felt are necessary to make"? – Loviii May 8 '20 at 13:40
  • @EdwinAshworth. Now I can see the structure. So that would make "the changes we have felt it necessary to make" correct? – Jules Cocovin May 8 '20 at 13:41
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    @Jules Cocovin From The Emotion in Speech Project: Professor P Roach, Reading University: '... For the prosodic and paralinguistic coding we have based our analysis on the ToBI system... the "Miscellaneous" tier of this system does allow a considerable amount of information to be added to supplement the Tonal and Break Index tiers, and we have chosen as the basis for doing this the prosodic and paralinguistic feature system devised by Crystal (1969), though with significant alterations that we have felt it necessary to introduce'. – Edwin Ashworth May 8 '20 at 14:11

It starts out as an extremely awkward sentence:

  • We have felt [[for us to make changes] to be necessary]

transformed by extraposition on the higher infinitive, moving the lower infinitive and inserting a dummy it:

  • We have felt it to be necessary [for us to make changes]

and then by deletion of optional material, the following sentence is produced:

  • We have felt it necessary [to make changes].

At this point we want to refer to those changes outside the clause, so we make changes into an antecedent NP with a relative clause

  • changes [(that) we have felt it necessary to make].

As you can see, the noun phrase has been extensively revised from its original syntactic shape. Two subordinate clauses have been stretched, sliced, and diced along the length of a main clause, with several rules applying.

That's what transformations do to constituents -- they make them unrecognizable as one thing but still understandable as another. And there are a lot of them.

As for whether any particular stretch of this is an adjective phrase or an object complement, that isn't really important. Looking for labels to put on some possible string of words in some possible transformation of one sentence is not a particularly helpful strategy in understanding syntax.

  • John Lawler, if it isn't really important as you said, then, at least, it would be very interesting to know whether grammarians treat "necessary to make" as an adjectival phrase functioning as an object complement or they treat it as something else. I would be very glad to hear it from you. Thanks! – Loviii May 8 '20 at 16:15
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    "Grammarians" are not united in their treatment of necessary to make. Some would call it one thing and some another. I wouldn't call it anything except a string of words, because I don't think it's a constituent, and if it's not a constituent, it doesn't need a descriptive name. – John Lawler May 8 '20 at 18:53

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