If I have sentences

  • Member is allowed to change himself back
  • I want to go to school
  • He needs to stop

What are the predicate of these sentences? Are they allowed - want - need, or change - go - stop? What do we call this subject + verb + to + verb pattern?



What I really want to know is the main verb of sentences which match with subject + verb + to + verb pattern. Based on three sample sentences above, we can say that the main verb are second verb, i.e. verb after to.
Do this assumption apply to all sentences which match with pattern above?

  • 1
    Is this homework?
    – Gnawme
    Jan 20, 2012 at 6:12
  • Please check Wikipedia
    – Mustafa
    Jan 20, 2012 at 6:57
  • Is it wrong if this is a homework?
    – Khairul
    Jan 20, 2012 at 7:30
  • It depends on your definition of 'main verb'. The simple predicate of a clause has to be a finite verb. So the simple predicates of your sentences are 'is allowed', 'need' and 'want'.
    – Shoe
    Jan 20, 2012 at 7:48
  • If it is, there is a Homework tag so people know that they are helping you with homework.
    – Gnawme
    Jan 20, 2012 at 8:24

3 Answers 3


To find the main verb in an English sentence, first find all the Verb Phrases. Each one defines a clause, because only clauses have Verb Phrases.

The main Verb Phrase of the whole Sentence is the Verb Phrase that all the other clauses modify; this makes the clause containing it the Main Clause. So the main verb in the Main Clause in a sentence is the main verb of that sentence.

In each Verb Phrase, the main verb is the last verb; all the other verbs in that Verb Phrase can be ignored. The rule is then that the last verb in the Verb Phrase of the main Clause is the main verb of the sentence.

In the sentences presented,

  1. Member is allowed to change himself back
  2. I want to go to school
  3. He needs to stop

In (1), is allowed and to change himself back are the verb phrases, and since the second one is the object of the first, that makes the first one the main verb phrase, and the main verb in it is is. (The real predicate in this sentence is actually allowed, but that's a predicate adjective, not a verb.)

In (2) want and to go to school are the VPs, and the second modifies the first again, so the main verb is want.

In (3) needs and to stop, same story. Main verb, needs.


In traditional grammar clauses are divided into two main parts: subject (what the clause is about) and predicate (information about the subject). The predicate is everything that remains when the subject is removed. In the simple sentences listed (which are single independent clauses), the subjects are: member, I, he. The predicate in each case is the rest of the sentence: 'is not allowed to change himself back', 'want to go to school', 'need to stop'.

The problem with this traditional definition of the subject as being 'what the clause is about' is that it doesn't apply in cases such as "It is raining". Modern grammars use different terms to define the constituent parts of clauses.

  • Yes -- or put another way, if you're struggling to decide what is the "subject" and what is the "predicate", this is possibly God's way of telling you you've outgrown the usefulness of such an analysis... :) Jan 21, 2012 at 18:17

The first example is incomprehensible but if the second example illustrates the pattern you’re concerned about, then, as Shoe has said, the whole of the sentence following I is the Predicate. That, however, doesn’t take us very far. The structure of the clause is Subject-Verb-Object. The Subject is realised by the Noun Phrase I, the Verb by the Verb Phrase want and the Object by the Verb Phrase to go to school. The ‘main verb’ is want.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.