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SUBJECT AND PREDICATIVE CLAUSES

SUBJECT CLAUSES

A clause which performs within a complex sentence the same function that the subject performs within a simple sentence. Clauses of this kind are introduced either by a relative or interrogative pronoun or adverb, or by the conjunction that. We give some examples of each variety. What had happened was that I had spent too much time in the French Quarter, mostly in jazz bars along Bourbon Street, but I planned to make up for it by getting my order book filled in Baton Rouge and Shreveport and thereby make a good showing at the sales conference in Dallas. What she considered his monkey's, Simon's, value, for instance, was not lost upon her. In the following sentence there is one subject clause and two predicative clauses to it: What they learn from me is that they're never going to have it so good again; that the great ones, the ones they read, saw it all as pretty black.

The reason for calling these clauses subject clauses would seem to be clear: if the clause is dropped, the subject is missing.

Things are somewhat more difficult and controversial in sentences like the following: It had seemed certain that their meeting was fortunate. Here the main clause has the pronoun it (in its impersonal use) occupying the position assigned to the subject of the sentence, and after the main clause comes a subordinate clause whose syntactical function we are to consider now. Two views appear to be possible here. One of them is that the pronoun it at the beginning of the main clause is only a "formal subject", or, as it is sometimes termed, a "sham subject", whereas the subordinate clause coming after the main one is the real subject. The other view is, that the position of the subject is occupied by the pronoun it, and, whether "formal" or not, it is the subject of the sentence, so that no room is left for any other subject.. If this view is accepted, the clause will have to be some other kind of clause, not a subject clause. The best way of treating it in that case would be to take it as a kind of appositional (приложение) clause referring to the subject of the main clause, namely the pronoun it.

PREDICATIVE CLAUSES

By predicative clauses we mean the clause ajoining a link-verb and performing the part of the predicate: This was exactly what she had expected him to say and for the first time she did not go closer and squeeze his hand intimately. "The only comforting feature of the whole business," he said, "is that we didn't pay for our dinner."

We must also consider under the heading of predicative clauses the following type: "It's because he's weak that he needs me," she added. Here the subordinate clause in question is included within the construction it is . .. that and thus singled out as the rheme of the complex sentence. This clause would occupy a different position in the sentence if it were not singled out; for instance, the sentence just mentioned would run like this: He needs me because he's weak and the clause would be a clause of cause. As the sentence stands, however, the clause is treated as a predicative one.



Sometimes we can even find two or three subordinate clauses singled out by being included into the frame it is ... that. Here is an example which may be called extreme: It was whether one loved at all, and how much that love cost, and what was its reception then, that mattered. It may be interesting to note that it would probably have been impossible to have these three clauses as subject clauses, with the predicate mattered, and without the it is ... that construction. That the three clauses are subordinate, is shown by several facts: (1) the conjunction whether, which is a sure sign of a subordinate clause, (2) the form of the predicate verb in the second subordinate clause: cost, not did cost, as it would have been in an independent clause (how much did this love cost?); as to the third subordinate clause, its subordinate status is shown by its being co-ordinated with the other two subordinate clauses by means of the conjunction and.

Not infrequently there is both a subject clause and a predicative clause in a complex sentence. The only element outside these clauses is then the link verb. What I am positive about is that he never expected a wife who would please the family.

OBJECT CLAUSES

The object clause denotes an object-situation of the process expressed by the verbal constituent of the principal clause.

He bought what he wanted. If we drop the subordinate clause what he wanted we get the unfinished sentence He bought .. ., which has no definite meaning until we add some word that will function as an object. This may of course be any noun denoting a thing that can be bought, for instance, He bought a briefcase. The similarity in syntactical position between a briefcase and the subordinate clause what he wanted appears to be sufficient reason for saying that what he wanted is an object clause.

The same may be said about the sentence Tom may marry whom he likes. 1 Here the clause whom he likes may be replaced by any noun that will fit into the context, for instance, by any feminine name: Tom may marry Jane, where Jane will be an object. This, again, seems sufficient reason for stating that the clause whom he likes is an object clause: its syntactical function is the same as that of the noun Jane which we put in its place. This sentence differs from the preceding in one respect: the subordinate clause may be eliminated without the sentence becoming impossible or incomplete: Tom may marry. This of course depends on the meaning of the verb marry, which in the sense 'enter upon a married state' does not necessarily require a noun or pronoun to make the meaning of the sentence complete.

 

There is also another type of object clause. This is found in sentences having in the main clause a predicate verb which combines almost exclusively with object clauses and only with a very few possible objects (within a simple sentence). A typical verb of this kind is the verb say. Compare the following example: She could not say what is was. If we drop the subordinate clause we get the unfinished sentence She could not say. . . The words that can come after the verb say and perform the function of object in a simple sentence are very few indeed: these are chiefly the pronouns this, that, anything, everything, and the noun the truth.

On the whole it may be said that subordinate clauses are much more characteristic of the verb say than an object in a simple sentence.

The same may be said about the verb ask. If we take the sentence She asked whether this was true, and drop the subordinate clause, we shall get the unfinished sentence She asked. . . The possibilities of completing this sentence by means of an object within the framework of a simple sentence are again very limited: there may be the pronouns this, that, something, nothing, and the noun a question. In this case, too, a subordinate clause is much more characteristic of the verb than an object in a simple sentence.

Occasionally an object clause may come before the main clause: .. .whatever courtesy I have shown to Mrs Hurtle in England I have been constrained to show her. In this example the object clause, which of course depends on the predicate have been constrained to show of the head clause, comes first. This is a clear indication that the object clause represents the theme of the sentence, whereas the rheme is represented by the head clause, and the most important element in this rheme is of course the word constrained. In fact the essential meaning of the sentence might have been put briefly in these words: My courtesy to Mrs Hurtle was constrained. In that case the theme would be represented by the subject group, and the rheme by the predicate.

In speaking of object clauses, special attention must be paid to clauses introduced by prepositions. These clauses may be termed prepositional object clauses, on the analogy of prepositional objects in a simple sentence.

We must note that a prepositional object in a simple sentence does not always correspond to a prepositional object clause: for instance, the verb insist, which always combines with the preposition on (or upon) in a simple sentence, never has this preposition when followed by an object clause.

Most verbs, however, which combine with a preposition in a simple sentence, do so in a complex sentence as well: a case in point is the verb depend, which always combines with the preposition on (or upon), no matter what follows: compare It depends on what you will say, It depends on whether you will come.

The following example is very illuminating since a prepositional clause going with the verb think is then followed by prepositional objects within the main clause: He thought for a few minutes of what she had said, and of all that they stood for.

Compare also the following example: He questioned me on what Caroline had said. By substituting a phrase for the clause introduced by the preposition on, we get a simple sentence with a prepositional object, e. g. He questioned me on Caroline's opinion. So the prepositional clause is clearly shown to be the equivalent, in a complex sentence, of a prepositional object in a simple one.

I could not write what is known as the popular historical biography. The corresponding simple sentence would be, I could not write a popular historical biography. So if we term the noun a biography the direct object in the latter sentence, there seems to be no reason whatever to deny that the subordinate clause in the former sentence is an object clause.

The specific qualities of an object clause as distinct from an object in a simple sentence are not difficult to state.

An object clause (clauses of indirect speech included) is necessary when the notion to be expressed cannot conveniently be summed up in a noun, or a phrase with a noun as its head word, or a gerund and a gerundial phrase, but requires an explicit predicative unit, that is, a subject and a predicate of its own. Or, to put it in a different way: an object clause is necessary when what is to be added to the predicate verb is the description of a situation, rather than a mere name of a thing.

In some cases, though, an object in a simple sentence may have a synonymous object clause, as in the following cases: I heard of his arrival Ч I heard that he had arrived, etc. The meaning of the two sentences in each case is exactly the same, but there is a certain stylistic difference: the simple sentence with the prepositional object sounds rather more literary or even bookish than the complex sentence with the object clause, which is fit for any sort of style.


Date: 2015-12-24; view: 3393


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