I came across the following sentence in a book:

We made them walk.

I see it conveys a different meaning compared to:

We made coffee.

In the second sentence the structure is Subject + Verb + Object.
But I'm finding it a bit difficult to identify the parts in the first sentence.
I feel them or walk cannot be objects of the sentence. Any help?

  • 1
    You are half-right. It's called a catenative construction, where "them" is object of "made" and "walk" is a subordinate clause functioning as complement of "made".
    – BillJ
    Jan 5, 2021 at 6:45
  • Like We made them coffee ? Here them is the Indirect Object of the verb made. If I understand correctly We made coffee is meaningful, but We made walk isn't. I'm going to google catenative construction... Thank you @BillJ :)
    – across
    Jan 5, 2021 at 6:52

1 Answer 1


We made them walk.

This is a catenative construction.

"Make" is a catenative verb and "walk" is a subordinate clause functioning as catenative complement of "make".

The intervening noun phrase "them" is the syntactic object of "make" and the semantic (understood) subject of the subordinate clause. It's called a 'raised' object because the verb that "them" relates to is higher in the constituent structure than the one it relates to semantically.

The term 'catenative' comes from the Latin word for "chain", which is appropriate here because the verbs "make" and "walk" do indeed form a chain, separated only by the NP "them".

  • for=form? . . .
    – Xanne
    Jan 5, 2021 at 7:07
  • What's the difference between 'catenative verb' and 'causative verb'? I thought 'made' was causative in 'I made him [verb]'. It's confusing now Jan 5, 2021 at 7:09
  • 2
    @DecapitatedSoul Yes, as it happens "make" belongs to the subtype of verbs called 'causative'. But that's not a requirement of the catenative construction. Compare "I promised to read the report" (simple catenative) and "I promised Sue to read the report" (complex catenative with intervening object).
    – BillJ
    Jan 5, 2021 at 7:23

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