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  1. #1
    Linguist__ is offline Senior Member
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    Default Phrasal verb + ?

    Friends, I am analysing some sentences of a child with language disorder. So, you may get some questions about grammar from me in the next little while until I'm done.

    This is my first problem. His utterance is:

    "The naughty bus keeped on going."

    We can ignore the error of 'kept' as 'keeped'.

    Question 1. Is 'to keep on' a phrasal verb in English? I think it is.

    Question 2. If it is a phrasal verb, what is the part of speech that comes after it - 'going' in this instance? Is it a verb (in progressive form) or is it a noun (a gerund)?

    Question 3. If the 'going' is a verb in progressive form, would that make 'to keep on' an auxiliary verb? My logic is 'is (aux) + x-ing (progressive)'.

    Thank you in advance.

  2. #2
    corum is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Phrasal verb + ?

    My gut reaction to the grammatical question you presented is this:

    keep it on. 'keep on' is a separable optional phrasal verb, in my opinion. It means something like 'keep the action going'.

    Keep the going on.
    Keep on going.
    Keep it on.

    What is on? I think it functions similarly to 'on' in 'turn it on', in 'turn the lights on'. An adverb; on-off.

    The bus kept on something. What was it that it kept on? It was going that it kept on. It kept on going. Gerund.

    3. Yeah, it works similarly to an aspect auxiliary, but it is not.
    Last edited by corum; 18-Mar-2010 at 13:57.

  3. #3
    ha179's Avatar
    ha179 is offline Member
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    Default Re: Phrasal verb + ?

    Not a teacher.
    I think in this situation 'keep on' is a phrasal verb means 'to continue', and 'going' is a gerund.

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    Linguist__ is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Phrasal verb + ?

    Understand though, that if you say it is a gerund, then it is a noun and would be analysed thus:

    The naughty bus kept on going.
    S V O
    The - determiner
    naughty - adjective
    bus - noun
    kept - main verb
    on - verb particle
    going - noun

    Is this correct - 'going' is a gerund i.e. a noun.

    I know that the construction SVO does exist with this particular verb: "The child kept on task." - but, is this the same struction with 'going'? Or is it more like:

    The naughty bus kept on going.
    S V
    The - determiner
    naughty - adjective
    bus - noun
    kept - auxiliary verb
    on - verb particle
    going - main verb

    That is, 'going' is the main verb, not a gerund.

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    Linguist__ is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Phrasal verb + ?

    Another thought:

    Is 'kept on' a catenative? In which case, for my analysis purposes, both 'keep on' and 'going' are main verbs.

    The way I learned it, catenatives are an exception to the rule 'only one main verb can occur in a ver phrase' - they require another main verb by their nature.

    This sounds the most appropriate way to analyse this sentence. Two main verbs - 'kept on' as a catenative, 'going' as progressive.

  6. #6
    mmasny is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Phrasal verb + ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Linguist__ View Post
    Understand though, that if you say it is a gerund, then it is a noun and would be analysed thus:

    The naughty bus kept on going.
    S V O
    The - determiner
    naughty - adjective
    bus - noun
    kept - main verb
    on - verb particle
    going - noun

    Is this correct - 'going' is a gerund i.e. a noun.

    I know that the construction SVO does exist with this particular verb: "The child kept on task." - but, is this the same struction with 'going'? Or is it more like:

    The naughty bus kept on going.
    S V
    The - determiner
    naughty - adjective
    bus - noun
    kept - auxiliary verb
    on - verb particle
    going - main verb

    That is, 'going' is the main verb, not a gerund.
    That's an interesting question. I had to think about it for a while to figure out how I felt it before I read it. And I agree with you. I didn't think of it as analogous to 'keep on task'. Now, it seems to me that it was an auxiliary verb to me (which is indeed very surprising).

  7. #7
    mmasny is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Phrasal verb + ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Linguist__ View Post
    Another thought:

    Is 'kept on' a catenative? In which case, for my analysis purposes, both 'keep on' and 'going' are main verbs.

    The way I learned it, catenatives are an exception to the rule 'only one main verb can occur in a ver phrase' - they require another main verb by their nature.

    This sounds the most appropriate way to analyse this sentence. Two main verbs - 'kept on' as a catenative, 'going' as progressive.
    Oh, so they have a name for it! I've just read a wikipedia article about it and it seems you're right.

  8. #8
    corum is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Phrasal verb + ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Linguist__ View Post

    The naughty bus kept on going.
    S V
    The - determiner
    naughty - adjective
    bus - noun
    kept - auxiliary verb
    on - verb particle
    going - main verb

    That is, 'going' is the main verb, not a gerund.
    I see your point and I can partly go along with what you say.

    kept - auxiliary verb
    Next I am going to show you why I think it is not:

    1. In forming negative finite clauses, not comes after the auxiliary:

    It kept not on going. -- ungrammatical

    2. Contraction is institutionalized, that is, the contracted form of not is cliticised onto the auxiliary. Let us see whether it works:

    It keptn't on going. -- ungrammatical

    3. If keep is the first verb in the sentence and is an auxiliary, it follows 'keep' is the operator. Does the subject-operator inversion work?

    Kept it on going? -- ungrammatical
    Kept on it going? -- ungrammatical

    4. operator in reduced clauses:

    - Kept it on going?
    - Yes, it kept. -- ungrammatical

    The bus kept going and so did on the plane. -- ungrammatical
    The bus kept going and the plane kept too. -- ungrammatical

    - predication fronting:
    It was said the bus kept on going and on going it kept. -- ungrammatical

    -relativized predication:

    It was said the bus kept on going, which it kept. -- ungrammatical

    5. Pre-adverb position

    frequency subjunct like never usually precedes the main verb but follows the auxiliary:

    It kept never on going. -- ungrammatical
    It kept on never going. -- ungrammatical
    It never kept on going. -- correct

    'kept' smells like a main verb here.

    6. Quantifier position

    They will all go. -- correct
    They all kept on going. -- correct
    They kept all on going. -- ungrammatical

    7. Independence of subject

    It kept on going. -- correct
    He kept on going. -- correct -- semantical independence from the subject (both he and it works)

    existential-there construction:

    There will be peace. -- correct
    There kept on going. -- ungrammatical

    8. Most importantly, auxiliaries do not inflect for person and tense.

    He wills -- ungrammatical
    He keeps -- correct

    As you can see, 'keep' fails all the tests for auxiliaries. However, it does no follow that 'keep' in the sentence is a true-blue main verb. You probably know that there is a gradience running through the class of main verbs and auxiliaries. There are verb constructions that are neither fish nor fowl, that is, they have an intermediate status on a gradient between auxiliaries at one end and main verbs on the other. Where is 'keep on' on this scale. That is our task to pinpoint. The battle lines are drawn. Let us proceed at full pelt ahead.


    What I am trying to do next is prove that 'keep' and 'on' belong together. Why? Because I think I can prove hands down that 'keep on' cannot occur in any one sentence as the only constituent that even remotely resembles a verb.

    'keep on' belongs together:

    It [kept on] going.
    It [continued] going.

    If on is not attached to 'kept', it means it enjoys relative freedom regarding where it sits in the sentence.

    Adverbials can take place between any two constituents that are immediatelly controlled by the S node (x-bar syntax).

    It kept going on ≠ It kept on going.

    In light of the phenomena we have just witnessed here, I have no choice but to yield to the idea that 'keep on' is one.

    If it is one, it is the main verb here:

    I kept on.

    Because it is , I am forced to think it is not a main verb. What is it then? It is floating in mid-air. What are called those classes that float somewhere with regard to their verb class statuses?

    1. marginal modals
    2. modal idioms
    3. semi-auxiliaries
    4. catenatives

    keep on = 1?
    keep on = 2?
    keep on = 3?
    keep on = 4?

    What is a marginal modal? What is it? 'used to', ought to', dare', need'.

    I keptn't on going.
    Did I keep on going?
    I usedn't smoking?
    I did not used to smoke.

    They behave differently --> no marginal modal.

    2. modal idioms: combination auxiliary plus to or adverb -- 'keep on' does not belong here, either.

    3. semi-auxiliaries: introduced by 'be' or 'have' -- keep on is not on of them

    By process of elimination, we have arrived at the class of catenatives. If 'keep on' were not a catenative, it would belong nowhere, which we no is not true. So, 'keep on' must be a catenative.

    What are catenatives? They are the closest group to main verbs amoung the four groups I have listed above.

    'keep on' has meaning related to aspect or modality (just like catenatives and main verbs)

    It kept on going.
    He kept on going. -- the semantics of the verb is independent from the subject (just like in the case of catenatives and auxiliaries)


    Unlike main verb constructions like expect (to), want (to) and attempt (to), catenative verbs are in no way related to the transitive verb construction, in which the verb is followed by a direct object or prepositional object.

    He attempted to attack the burglar. = He attempted an attack.
    He kept on attacking the burglar. ≠ He kept it on.

    substitute for the aspect auxiliary 'be':

    He keep on going = (more or less) He is going.
    Last edited by corum; 19-Mar-2010 at 09:07.

  9. #9
    whitemoon's Avatar
    whitemoon is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Phrasal verb + ?

    I've read all of the posts of this topic.
    It is very difficult for me to understand English very well.
    'keep on' = continue
    'carry on' = continue
    'walk on' = continue walking
    The first two phrasal verbs are same in meaning, but the third is different. Why?
    On the other hand, there are other verbs with 'on'.
    Consider on and on, he forgot the ghee melting in his hand.
    In this case, 'consider on' = continue considering
    Also, 'read on' = continue reading (don't stop)
    Why are the different?
    Have a good time!

  10. #10
    corum is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Phrasal verb + ?

    Quote Originally Posted by whitemoon View Post
    I've read all of the posts of this topic.
    It is very difficult for me to understand English very well.
    'keep on' = continue
    'carry on' = continue
    'walk on' = continue walking
    The first two phrasal verbs are same in meaning, but the third is different. Why?
    On the other hand, there are other verbs with 'on'.
    Consider on and on, he forgot the ghee melting in his hand.
    In this case, 'consider on' = continue considering
    Also, 'read on' = continue reading (don't stop)
    Why are the different?
    Have a good time!
    This is my interpretation:

    'keep on' in the sentence is not a phrasal verb. Phrasal verbs can stand alone, 'keep on' can't.

    My friend passed away yesterday.
    I keep on tomorrow.

    'keep on' is a catenative verb, which is a functional category of verbs hovering between two camps: one is the auxiliary verbs and the other is the main verbs. 'going' in the sentence is the main verb.

    He kept on going. = SV

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