Question: What do the following words have in common? AM, IS, ARE, WAS, WERE, BEEN, ARE BEING, MIGHT HAVE BEEN, SHOULD HAVE BEEN, COULD HAVE BEEN…
Answer: They’re a bunch of slackers…so to speak.
In truth, they are what grammarians would call the only true non-action, or linking verbs (some of you Baby Boomers may have been told they are copula verbs…we’ll accept that too!). These verbs are like a lot of teenagers who prefer just to hang out and do as little as possible. The thing is, however, they’re a very important group!
In blog #6, we made brief mention of a ‘subjective completion’. A subject completion (same thing, fewer letters to type) does exactly what it says. It completes (means the same as) or describes the subject (bare subject that is). And where, pray tell, does one find a subject completion? In the predicate, of course!
Please don’t leave! We know it sounds strange but that’s the nature of the King’s English (he too was a bit odd, to say the least)…Actually, when we break it down for you (parse a sentence) it should become quite clear. Like so…
It is she. ‘It‘ is the subject and bare subject since there are no modifiers. ‘Was’ is the verb but notice it shows no action, rather a state of being. ‘Was’ links or connects the bare subject and ‘she’, which, as you can see, completes or means the same as ‘it’. Et voila, ‘she’ is our subjective completion.
In all likelihood, most people would have used ‘her’, not ‘she’. The clue, however, comes after we parse the sentence and see that the word that follows the non-action verb (‘was’) completes or means the same as the bare subject..
Quickly…back to your Personal Pronoun Chart…you have two choices: the subjective or objective case of the pronoun (she or her). All signs point to subjective…as in subjective completion. ‘She’ wins!
The same is true for each of the non-action or linking verbs from the above chart.
It was they. (not It was them.) I am he. (not I am him) It might have been I. (not It might have been me.)
There’s more to this subjective completion thing…lots more! It was important to make this brief stop along the way and try to explain the truth about things that sound quite strange (but are true). It’s all about connections isn’t it? “The hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone…the thigh bone’s connected to the knee bone, and on and on…”
Grammar is anatomy! Analyze that my friends. Go ahead. Pick this three-word sentence apart and see the connections. Shoot for the stars…(“You want the moves like Jagger…I’ve got the moves like Jagger…I’ve got the mooooooooooves like Jagger”). Thanks Maroon 5…we needed that! Okay, here we go:
‘Grammar‘ is our subject and bare subject (since it stands alone). It comes from the noun family. “is” is the bare predicate (a non-action or linking verb). ‘anatomy‘ is the subjective completion since it follows a non-action verb and completes the subject. It too is a noun.
Fabulous! And speaking of the Fab 4 (who never moved like Jagger) try this one:
For several decades the Beatles have been unbelievably popular.
Question (Q): Of whom are we speaking? In other words, what is the subject?
Answer (A): ‘The Beatles’.
Q: Which of the two words is the bare subject (most important naming word)?
A: ‘Beatles’ (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeahhhhh….)
Q: What word modifies (in this case makes it definite…as in article) the bare subject?
A: ‘The‘ (duh!)
Q: What is the predicate?
A: ‘have been unbelievably popular for several decades‘ (this statement has been written in split order)
Q: What is the bare predicate?
A: ‘have been‘ (‘been’ is one of those non-action or linking verbs…’have’ is there to give it support and suggest that the Beatles should continue to be popular).
Q: Is there a subject(ive) completion? (hint: where there’s a non-action or linking bare predicate or verb, then chances are there will be a word that completes or describes the subject)
A: ‘popular‘ is the subject completion.
Q: Do any words or groups of words modify the bare predicate? (hint: ask the questions ‘how’, ‘where’, ‘when’ or ‘why’ and you’ll be able to pick out modifiers.)
A: ‘for several decades’ modifies the bare predicate (tells us ‘when‘ or ‘how’ long‘)
Q: Which word have we not included in our analysis? What is its function?
A: ‘unbelievably‘ tells us ‘how’ popular.
Great! Now that we have broken the sentence into its component or functional parts (parsed the sentence), let’s name each word accordingly. In other words, what part of speech is each word?
‘For several decades‘ is an adverb phrase. ‘For’ starts the phrase (preposition). ‘several‘ modifies ‘decades’ (adjective). ‘decades‘ is the object of the preposition ‘for’ (noun).
‘the‘ (definite article belonging to adjective family)
‘have been‘ (verb phrase…‘have’ is the auxiliary or helping verb and ‘been’ is the main or principal verb)
‘unbelievably‘ (adverb…adverbs usually end in ‘ly‘ and can describe verbs, other adverbs and in this case, adjectives)
“O-bla-di, O-bla-da life goes on brah!” That’s enough for one day but if you are a Beatles’ fan, let’s close today’s ‘show’ with a reworked version of another ‘unbelievably popular’ Fab 4 tune:
It’s been a hard day’s night
And we’ve been parsing like a fool,
Oh such a hard day’s night
Yes, we’ve been to Grammar school,
But we just wanna cry
If we use ‘me’ not ‘I”
Can make us fe-el uptight!…
And with that, we bid you goodnight. If anyone out there in Grammarland would like to try his or her hand at rewriting a Beatles’ classic, we invite you to send us your lyrics to the tune of “Eight Parts of Speech” (8 Days A Week)…Google these tunes if you’ve never heard them…keep smiling,
Bloggingfrog & Lily