1. He seems happy.

  2. He seems to be happy.

In the first sentence, "happy" is the predicate adjective. What is going on in the second sentence? Does the infinitive with "happy" still function in the same manner, as a predicate adjective?

  • seem + a to-infinitive: dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/seem
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 22:55
  • No, seems is not functioning as a linking verb in (2). Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 0:30
  • Yes, it's PC of "be" in the clause "to be happy", with "he" is the predicand. The bracketing is "He seems [to be happy]".
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 7:40
  • "She seems to like money" is a catenative construction where "seems" is the catenative verb with the subordinate clause "to like money" functioning as its catenative complement. In the subordinate clause "money" is the object of "like".
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 16:15
  • Note that "she" is a raised subject because the verb that it relates to syntactically is higher in the constituent structure than the one it relates to semantically.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 16:26

1 Answer 1


Yes, “happy” is a predicative adjective in “He seems to be happy”.

In this sentence, "seems" is used as a catenative verb (a verb that forms a chain with another verb). The second verb can itself take its own complement, which it does in this case.

The second verb in this case is "to be", and "to be" can take a predicative adjective, such as "happy", as its complement. Compare “He is happy".

Despite the similarity in meaning, the sentence "He seems happy" isn't especially relevant from a grammatical point of view, because it involves a different, non-catenative use of "seem". For comparison, "seems" can also be used as a catenative verb in contexts where there is no predicative adjective, such as "He seems to like the movie" (where "the movie" is the direct object of "to like", which is the catenative complement of "seems").

  • In your example, the flow of the sentence seems to be drifting away from the subject. Consider, "He seems to be a general." Here, the infinitive has a direct object also, but the flow is heading back to the subject. In my example, is "to be a general" the predicate nominative, as in "He is a general"?
    – cookie234
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 1:53
  • @cookie234: In both "He seems to be a general" and "He is a general", "a general" is a predicative noun phrase, not a direct object.
    – herisson
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 2:01
  • Herisson, may I just add a follow-up question about something you brought to my attention. In "She likes money," "money" is clearly the direct object. However, what happens now when we write: "She seems to like money." "To like money" isn't the direct object, is it? What relationship does the infinitive phrase have with the verb "seems." Thank you again.
    – cookie234
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 14:42
  • Herisson has already explained to you how catenative constructions work. Your new example is also a catenative construction. See my comment directly to you.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 16:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.