There is this definition of the word "Justification" which says,

The action of declaring or making righteous in the sight of God.

Is it correct if I say "righteous" acts as a predicative adjective? If so, "making" and "declaring" must be the linking verbs, right? However, declare isn't a linking verb. Could you please identify the structure of the definition above?

  • A linking verb can also be an action verb, not always, but in this case it is appropriate. "Declaring" an action as "Righteous", identitifies the condition of the action. So this structure is correct and righteous is a predicative adjective of "the action".
    – Dat Boi
    Apr 24, 2022 at 9:42
  • Where it wouldn't be accurate applies in this sentence: "My friend was declaring that the rules were over-the-top". This sentence explicitly implies that the action was 'declaring' over the noun as "over-the-top" and it was not the subject of the sentence.
    – Dat Boi
    Apr 24, 2022 at 9:45
  • Sorry, just one more bit of info. This source explains it quite well. If you can replace the verb with "is" and the sentence still makes sense, then you can probably assume it is a linking verb. E.g. "The action is righteous in the sight of God" still works, but, "My friend is over-the-top" loses the sentence meaning.
    – Dat Boi
    Apr 24, 2022 at 9:51
  • If one assumes that "righteous" refers to an ellipted person or entity, then that ellipted NP is effectively the object of "declaring/making" and "righteous" is thus an adjectival objective PC (predicative complement) of "declaring/making".
    – BillJ
    Apr 24, 2022 at 12:26
  • Verbs like 'make' (He made me angry / an angry man) are known as causative verbs, and verbs like 'call', 'dub' are called factitive verbs. If 'declare' here is seen to be a performative speech act as with 'The vicar pronounced them man and wife' (so they now actually were man and wife), it is also causative. Linking verbs? A term rarely used in higher analysis. But they certainly exhibit the NP1 + V{ed} + NP2 + Complement structure, as with the object-orientated resultative 'He hammered the metal flat'. Apr 24, 2022 at 14:33

1 Answer 1


"Declare" can in fact be used a linking verb (in Huddleston & Pullum's terminology, a complex-transitive verb). To borrow some examples from Cambridge:

The courts declared the policy unconstitutional.

The WTO issued an interim ruling declaring the subsidies illegal.

Silverjet, the transatlantic business airline, has declared itself carbon-neutral.

  • What is strange in this example is that declare is used without a direct object. I think this is an artifact of being a definition, and in normal prose it would be given an object ("the action of declaring something righteous...")
    – Colin Fine
    May 27 at 22:02
  • 1
    @ColinFine Also: the opposite word order doesn't seem to be entirely excluded. From NBC: "A federal judge in Texas on Friday declared illegal the federal program that has..." This sounds correct to me. So one could reasonably read this as "declared righteous [something]" with the "[something]" omitted.
    – alphabet
    May 27 at 22:15
  • 1
    that is an example of extraposition. With a long enough something it could indeed follow the adjectival complement. Omitting it entirely still doesn't sound right to me, except in the special context of a definition.
    – Colin Fine
    May 28 at 9:09
  • With a definition like this there is often an implied object (or other omitted element); it's "justification of something", but the "something" is omitted from the definition, because people who write dictionaries still think they're trying to write short definitions to fit into paper books.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 27 at 8:56

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