A "catenative" complement, according to Huddleston and Pullum, is a non-finite clausal complement (e.g. "He stopped [doing it].") They use the term to refer to the verb, complement and combination thereof.

In their first edition of "A Student's Introduction to English Grammar" (page 214), they state that "most cases where a non-finite clause is an internal complement of a verb illustrate the catenative construction, if we set aside the exceptions illustrated ..." I.e. they make a point of excluding objects and predicative complements from the definition, but do not give their reasons. They illustrate the "exceptions" in four examples, three of which are predicative complements and one an object. A similar question has been asked and answered about predicative complements, but I do not follow the point the answer is trying to make, so let me focus on the object exception:

This made [working with them] an unpleasant experience.

Here, "working with them" is an object and therefore not a catenative complement.

The question is: Why does being an object exclude a complement from being catenative? Is it simply that since it's an object, a well-defined type of complement, there is no real need to include it under the label?

Is anybody able to shed light on this?

  • 2
    Do they actually say that "a catenative complement can be a subject and an object of a preposition"?
    – alphabet
    Commented Jul 9 at 21:59
  • 1
    I'm not going to attempt to work out what H&P meant, but there doesn't seem to be anything catenative about e.g. "This made the job an unpleasant experience", where "the job" is the object. But "this made working with them an unpleasant experience" is pretty much the same construction.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 10 at 9:07
  • 1
    I don't understand why people are voting to close the question based on it not meeting the guidelines. How does the question not meet the guidelines?
    – ishtar
    Commented Jul 11 at 13:15

1 Answer 1


Objects can generally be passivized, while catenative complements can't.

This made working with them an unpleasant experience.

Working with them was made an unpleasant experience by this.

He made to run away.

*To run away was made by him.

Non-finte clauses as objects can generally be replaced by it and extraposed, catenative complements cannot.

This made [working with them] an unpleasant experience.

This made [it] an unpleasant experience [working with them].

He started [working with them] Tuesday.

*He started [it] Tuesday [working with them].

Generally, non-finite clauses as catenative complements have unique syntactic properties (what transformations they are amenable to, what verbs allow them), whereas non-finite clauses in other functions have the syntactic properties associated with those functions.

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