A recent question on verb agreement left me one unresolved issue — can we add the verb leave to the list of verbs with copular uses?

The heat left me parched.
The shutdown left me out of a job.
The scandal left me boss.

The verb has a weak semantic value that contributes aspectual information, but little else. The same is true of turns out, remains, and stays. These all appear on copular verb lists.

Leave does not work in the common copular construction where a subject is matched to a complement that is usually a noun or adjective, but may sometimes be a number of other things.

Rather, it works as an object-focused copula (a label I found in only one document on the web, so I'm hoping for a more established term).

Examples of object-focused copulas include

Naming verbs — They made her the manager
Positioning verbs — She put it down


The first involves a noun phrase and the second an adverbial. What happened to object-focused adjective complements? Adjective complements are extremely common subject compliments.

Is "leave" an object-focused copula above? Is parched an adjective complement to the object?

  • 2
    Not sure why the downvote was given; perhaps a better attribution was desired. // Note that 'The heat left me parched' is causative and certainly uses an object-orientated resultative, while 'They decided to leave' (cf 'found') 'the baby crying gently in his cot' is hopefully non-causative, using an object-orientated depictive. 'Pseudo-copula' may not be a widely accepted term. Jan 18 at 19:23
  • Agreeing with Edwin Ashworth: To leave is ambitransitive - even if there is no object, an object can be implied.
    – Greybeard
    Jan 18 at 19:35
  • All your examples include an object: leave me X. And: turns out, remains, and stays cannot take me like that.
    – Lambie
    Jan 18 at 19:41
  • @Lambie Exactly. Look at the bottom of the chart. I said the same in my question. Object focused copulas connect the object to a compliment. Leave does this, the others do not. But the semantic content is quite similar.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jan 18 at 19:56
  • You are driving me crazy by leaving out all the dashes in object-focused copulas. :) I'm a dashes gal. [ha ha]
    – Lambie
    Jan 18 at 19:57

1 Answer 1


CGEL's take on this is that leave is a complex-transitive verb with depictive predicative complement.


1. Predicative complements (PCs) and complex-transitive and complex-intransitive constructions

To begin with, here is how CGEL introduces the complex-intransitive and the complex transitive construction (in the same place where it introduces predicative complements):

[2]         COMPLEX-INTRANSITIVE                      COMPLEX-TRANSITIVE
         a.  This    seems    a good idea/fair.          b.  I    consider    this    a good idea / fair.
                 S           P                     PC                            S          P             Od                  PC

We use the term complex-intransitive for a clause containing a predicative complement but no object, and complex-transitive for one containing both types of complement.

The major syntactic difference between a predicative complement and an object is that the former can be realised by an adjective, such as fair in these examples. Semantically, an object characteristically refers to some participant in the situation but with a different semantic role from the subject, whereas a predicative complement characteristically denotes a property that is ascribed to the referent of the subject (in a complex-intransitive)or object (in a complex-transitive).

2. Copula vs. complex-intransitive construction

CGEL uses the term copula only for certain uses of the verb be. In a note on p. 218, CGEL says that

The term 'copular' is widely used for [5i] (Ed seemed quite competent, [complex-intransitive: S-P-PCS]) and the like as well as [8] (Ed was quite competent); we prefer to restrict it to the latter, using 'complex-intransitive' for the more general construction, partly to bring out the parallel between [5i] (Ed seemed quite competent) and [5ii] (She considered Ed quite competent [complex-transitive: S-P-O-PCO]), partly because complex-intransitive verbs other than be are not mere syntactic copulas but do express semantic predication.

In short, verbs other than be that other sources call copular CGEL prefers to label complex-intransitive verbs. And what your source calls 'object-focused copulas', CGEL would call 'complex-transitive'.

3. The classification of the verb leave and similar complex-transitive verbs

Terminology aside, CGEL provides a classification of verbs taking predicative complements (pp. 263–266). The verb leave appears in 'Class 3' (pp. 264–265):

Class 3 verbs: complex-transitives with depictive PCs

[39]  She believed it prudent/an advantage to be out of town.      We proved it genuine/a fake.       They kept their marriage secret/a secret.

There are considerably more verbs in this class, and we therefore list separately those with the 'inf ' annotation indicating the possibility of an infinitival complement instead of the PC: compare the believe and prove examples in [39] with She believed it to be prudent to stay out of town and We proved it to be genuine.

[The annotation 'adj' indicates that the PC is restricted, or virtually restricted, to AdjPs to the exclusion of NPs.]

[40]  i  believe inf    certify inf       consider inf    declare inf          deem inf
             feel inf           find inf            hold1 adj inf    judge inf            like inf
             prefer inf     presume inf    profess inf      pronounce inf    prove inf
             reckon inf    report inf        rule inf            think inf              want inf

         ii  account        brand             call                    designate1          esteem
              have adj       hold2              imagine           keep                     label
              leave            rate                 term                 wish adj

Hold1 means roughly "consider", as in I hold you responsible for her safety, while hold2 is close to "keep", as in She held the door open for us; They held us hostage (in both cases the range of PCs is quite limited). Some verbs in [ii] do enter into the infinitival complement construction but without the semantic equivalence that obtains in [i]. For example, He wished himself different from the sort of person he thought he was is closer to He wished that he were different than to He wished himself to be different (which indicates wanting to change). He imagined himself unmarried does have an interpretation equivalent to He imagined himself to be unmarried (i.e. "He thought he was unmarried" - cf. He imagined himself indispensable) but it also has another interpretation, probably more salient, in which he knew he wasn't unmarried but imagined what it would be like if he were.

A few verbs not included above, such as acknowledge, confess, suppose, appear in the complex-transitive construction, but normally only with a reflexive object: He confessed himself puzzled by her response, but not *He confessed the decision indefensible.

For completeness, here is an abbreviate description of all five classes of verbs taking PCs:

Class 1 verbs: complex-intransitives with depictive PCs (this class includes be):

Kim felt lonely/an intruder.    Her son remained ill/a danger.    That seems plausible/a good idea.    Pat proved reliable/a great asset.

Class 2 verbs: complex-intransitives with resultative PCs

He became ill/our main ally.    The work got too difficult for them.

Class 3 verbs: complex-transitives with depictive PCs

She believed it prudent/an advantage to be out of town.      We proved it genuine/a fake.       They kept their marriage secret/a secret.

Class 4 verbs: complex-transitives with obligatory resultative PCs

They appointed her ambassador to Canada.    You drive me mad.    They made him anxious/ treasurer.    They created her a life peer.

Class 5 verbs: complex-transitives with optional resultatives

We hammered it flat.    Kim knocked him senseless.    You should paint the house green.    She rubbed herself dry.    He pushed the door open.    I'll wipe it clean.


As Edwin Ashworth pointed out in the comments, it seems that leave really can be used in two senses, one depictive (which therefore belongs to Class 3), and one resultative, which arguably belongs to Class 4:

[A]  i  They left1 him sleeping/asleep on the couch.       [depictive]
       ii  The crisis left2 him pennyless/a pauper.              [resultative]

The authors of CGEL anticipated that some of these distinctions might have been left out of their classification (pp. 265–266):

The primarily semantic distinction between depictive and resultative PCs is not always easy to draw. We have distinguished two senses of designate with one taking a depictive ("officially classify", as in They have designated1 it a disaster area), and the other a resultative ("choose, appoint", as in They have designated2 Kim the next Attorney-General), and it may be that some others should likewise be dually classified. Compare, for example, We had half the children sick (depictive) vs We had the meal ready in half an hour (resultative).

  • Note that 'they left him sleeping / asleep on the couch' is a depictive usage, but 'the plague left many dead' is resultative. Jan 19 at 11:21
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    @EdwinAshworth Good point! I've added an Addendum to the answer that reflects this. Someone should send an email to Huddleston and Pullum to have this included in the CGEL erratum. Jan 19 at 14:16
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    This answer contains the word "predictive" in several places, as well as "predicative" - should they all be "predicative"?
    – psmears
    Jan 19 at 14:19
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    @EdwinAshworth CGEL does spend quite a bit of time—in several other sections—on the issue of raising vs control, with seem being a prime example of a raising verb. Jan 19 at 17:52
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    Oh, I'm not recommending that classification. I was brought up on 'link verbs' ('He grew tired') and 'link-like verbs' (having semantic content too: 'The rose blushed pink'). Jan 19 at 19:29

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