This comes from Tolkien's "The Hobbit", towards the end, where Thorin talks about giving part of the treasure hoard to the elves and to the people of Lake-town, in order to redeem the Arkenstone, which Bilbo had secretly given to Bard.

Here's a more complete passage:

It was rightly guessed that I could not forbear to redeem the Arkenstone, the treasure of my house. For it I will give one fourteenth share of the hoard in silver and gold, setting aside the gems; but that shall be accounted the promised share of this traitor, and with that reward he shall depart, and you can divide it as you will.

(emphasis mine)

I can understand the meaning of the passage. I just can't figure out how to parse the bold part, in terms of grammar:

  • "shall be accounted" is in the passive voice, to "the promised share" can't be a direct object;
  • Is "the promised share" the subject? But then what's the "that" doing before the "shall be accounted"?

I'm starting to suspect that this is a case of mandative subjunctive, where the "that" is the opening conjunction and the subject ("the promised share") is put after the verb ("shall be accounted").

Can somebody confirm or correct me?

  • 1
    "That" is the subject, "shall be accounted" is the verb phrase, "the promised share" is the direct object.
    – Hellion
    Jun 19, 2021 at 18:42
  • 1
    In the active the verb is "to account X Y" meaning to value X as equal to Y, where Y is an object complement; c.f. "to account him a lucky man". This precise usage doesn't seem to be in any dictionary I've consulted, but it's common with verbs like "judge".
    – Stuart F
    Jun 19, 2021 at 18:50
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    I don't think it's a mandative subjunctive - that would be Thorin ordered that that [the one fourteenth] be accounted the promised share of the traitor. I would just call it a complement. I don't think the clause is any different from but that shall be counted as the share promised to Bilbo.
    – rchivers
    Jun 19, 2021 at 19:13
  • I agree with rchivers. "that" (part of the hoard) is the object of the verb "accounted." And "the promised share of this traitor" is the complement. Jun 19, 2021 at 19:43
  • The patient is not a subject in the passive voice, @OldBrixtonian. In the active voice, yes: "We shall account that [as] his share." In the original model, "that" is the subject and "the promised share of this traitor" is a predicate nominative subject complement. The predicating phrase "shall be accounted" is copular. Jun 19, 2021 at 23:30

2 Answers 2

that subject
shall be accounted verb (future passive)
the promised share of this traitor direct object

To account is a transitive verb used in the passive voice here. Cambridge defines it giving a similar example:

account verb [T + obj + noun/adj] (JUDGE)
to think of someone or something in the stated way:

  • She was accounted a genius by all who knew her work.
  • Yes, after looking at the definition of Merriam-Webster, and comparing with the French translation of the passage, I believe that this is the correct interpretation. I simply never knew that "to account" can be transitive. I've never seen this usage before.
    – Kal
    Jun 21, 2021 at 2:16

In the early chapters, Bilbo was promised a payment of one fourteenth of the treasure in return for his assistance on the quest.

Thorin is saying that he will pay Bilbo's promised share to get the Arkenstone back, and Bilbo can go home with nothing.

The meaning of the individual words, as follows:

"this traitor" - Bilbo
"that" - the money offered to the town
"promised share" - the money promised to Bilbo
"shall be accounted" - we will regard them as being the same thing

  • OP is asking about the grammar, not semantics, involved. Jun 19, 2021 at 18:40

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