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In a sentence like "The man had trouble finding shoes to fit," how might "had trouble finding shoes to fit" be analyzed? Is this like a direct object ("trouble") and object complement (the gerundive "finding shoes to fit")?

Furthermore, would the infinitive "to fit" be a complement to "finding"?

Thank you for any thoughts on this!

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    There will doubtless be other analyses, but I'd take '[have trouble] + [doing {etc}] (+ [something])' as a verbo-nominal multi-word verb ('have trouble') taking an obligatory ing-clause, either bare ('eating') or with object ('doing my homework'). Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 15:16
  • The predicate is have trouble (with), which can take an Equi gerund complement object. Like many predicates, it's got internal structure, but can be considered a transitive predicate here. Much more interesting is the structure of finding shoes to fit. Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 16:22
  • The man had trouble finding shoes to fit [his child, his son, his daugher]. is not: The man had trouble finding shoes that fit him.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 16:26
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    The NP “trouble finding shoes to fit” is the object of “had”. “To fit” is an infinitival relative clause modifying “shoes”. Infinitival relatives typically have a modal meaning comparable to that expressed in finites by “can”, "could", "should” or "would". “The man had trouble finding shoes to fit” is thus comparable to “The man had trouble finding shoes that should/would fit. "Fit" has its object elided, but is understood as "the man" ("him"), or possibly someone else.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 17:44
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    @BillJ - That should be an answer.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 19:27

1 Answer 1

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The man had trouble finding shoes to fit.

The NP "trouble finding shoes to fit" is the object of "had", and "to fit" is an infinitival relative clause modifying "shoes".

Infinitival relatives typically have a modal meaning comparable to that expressed in finites by "can”, "could", "should” or "would". "The man had trouble finding shoes to fit" is thus comparable to "The man had trouble finding shoes that should/would fit".

The object of "fit" is elided, but understood as "the man" ("him"), or possibly some unidentified person for whom he is obtaining the shoes.

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  • Very useful analyses; thank you all! This answer makes sense.
    – MYin
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 21:59

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