Based on my reading, the simple predicate only includes the verb or verb phrase, while the complete predicate includes the verb or verb phrase plus all of its modifiers. With that in mind, would "just saw" count as a simple predicate, or would it just be the word "saw"? My own understanding says "just saw her" is the complete predicate, while "saw" is the simple predicate.

I bring this up because of an example on this page: What Is a Predicate? — Your Dictionary

It also indicates that simple predicates can include adjectives, as in "I was late," with "was late" being considered the simple predicate. My understanding is that "was" would be the simple predicate here, while "was late" would be the complete predicate, with "late" being considered a predicate adjective. Is that not the case with linking verbs and adjectives? And if this is the case, does this extend to complements in general? Could I also say that in the case of "Jimi Hendrix was a great guitar player" that the simple predicate is "was a great guitar player"? Or is this a case where I shouldn't believe everything I read on the internet in regard to the link above? :)

I would appreciate any insight into this topic from more seasoned linguistic minds.

  • "Simple predicate" is a term used in grammar schools, and means whatever the teacher thinks it means, which varies a lot. The term "predicate", on the other hand, refers to the discipline "Predicate calculus", which isn't as difficult as it sounds. In syntax, "predicate" usually refers to the Verb Phrase in a clause, which can have just a main verb, or auxiliary verbs and various constructions, like predicate adjectives, predicate nouns, and main verbs. May 5 at 15:00
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    @JohnLawler If only there was universal agreement on grammatical terminology, but that does not seem likely. Thank you for the link; I have bookmarked it for later. I am a language and grammar teacher, so clarity with grammatical terminology is important to me, though I am always quick to point out that it is more important to understand how to use accepted English structures and vocabulary in writing and speaking than it is to obsess over what the individual parts of it are called. One is sometimes necessary for the other, but we just start picking at the lint in our toes at some point.
    – Alex
    May 5 at 15:33
  • You're welcome. Further links, mostly about language and grammar, are available at websites.umich.edu/~jlawler. May 5 at 16:09


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