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I am analyzing a novel for my M.A. project and I'm wondering what is the bold part of the following sentence. Is it a sentence fragment or maybe a dependent clause? Or is it a full sentence as it contains a subject, a verb, and an object?

Example: You can’t be serious about this schedule of battles.

Many thanks in advance.

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  • No: it's not a constituent, not a clause, but just part of the matrix clause, which is the sentence as a whole. The construction is "[You can’t [be serious about this schedule of battles]]. Brackets enclose the subordinate clause. – BillJ Apr 3 at 17:47
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"You can’t be serious about this schedule of battles."

First note that this is a simple sentence with the independent clause You can’t be serious. Tacked on to this clause is the prepositional phrase about this schedule of battles, which acts adverbially to modify the adjective "serious."

By definition, a sentence fragment is a group of words that begins with a capital letter and ends with a period, question mark, or exclamation point but is grammatically incomplete. Thus, as you can see, the highlighted part of the sentence is clearly not a sentence fragment. Nor is it a dependent clause, because it can stand on its own meaningfully— which a dependent clause is incapable of, by definition. It therefore is a clause with the subject as "You", the verb "can't be", and the adjective "serious" acting as the subject complement. I suppose that's all there's to it.

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    Thank you very much, that's what I suspected, but I needed a confirmation :) – Batal96 Apr 3 at 9:23
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    Does the apparently parallel example 'We are mindful of the danger' where a PP is an obligatory complement (1) have a different analysis or (2) compromise this analysis? – Edwin Ashworth Apr 3 at 10:02
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    I think 'We are mindful', being grammatically incomplete, can't be analysed as an independent clause, unlike say 'We are sure' ('We are sure of this').. This is an almost entirely syntactic analysis; 'We are sure to be asked to the party' does not reduce to 'We are sure', of course. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 3 at 11:28
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    Some of us are old enough to remember John McInroe arguing with the umpires at Wimbledon and screaming "You cannot be serious!". – BoldBen Apr 3 at 11:36
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    "You can't be serious"is not a constituent, not a clause, but just part of one. The structure is: [You can’t [be serious about this schedule of battles]]. The verb is not "can't be". "Can't is the matrix verb and "be" is the subordinate clause verb. – BillJ Apr 3 at 17:42

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