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  1. #1
    Anonymous Guest

    Default Subject of a verb

    In the sentence, "I saw him coming here",

    (1) Must a verb (regardless finite or non-finite) ALWAYS have a SUBJECT?
    (2) Does "coming" have a subject? If yes, which is the subject?

    (3) Can an OBJECT of a verb be simultaneously the SUBJECT of another verb? "Him" is the object of "saw"; is "him" simultaneously the subject of "coming"?

    In the sentence, "I saw John who was coming here" or "I saw him who was coming here",

    (4) "John" or "him" is the object of "saw" but not the subject of "coming", because "who" is the subject of "coming". This merely avoids Questions (1), (2) and (3) above.

  2. #2
    whl626 is offline Member
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    Default Re: Subject of a verb

    Quote Originally Posted by EMAIL REMOVED - Send PM to This User Instead
    In the sentence, "I saw him coming here",

    (1) Must a verb (regardless finite or non-finite) ALWAYS have a SUBJECT?
    (2) Does "coming" have a subject? If yes, which is the subject?

    (3) Can an OBJECT of a verb be simultaneously the SUBJECT of another verb? "Him" is the object of "saw"; is "him" simultaneously the subject of "coming"?

    In the sentence, "I saw John who was coming here" or "I saw him who was coming here",

    (4) "John" or "him" is the object of "saw" but not the subject of "coming", because "who" is the subject of "coming". This merely avoids Questions (1), (2) and (3) above.
    " I saw him coming here " is a complete sentence, so to say that ' him ' is the subject of ' coming ' is not correct.

    When verb of senses is used, this is the common sentence structure. and You can also say " I saw him come here ' :). The difference is one is emphasizing the continous action and the other is just a statement.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Subject of a verb

    In the sentence, "I saw him coming here",
    (1) Must a verb (regardless finite or non-finite) ALWAYS have a SUBJECT?
    Well, according to linguistics all sentences have two things: 1) a verb and 2) a subject. If the subject is covert, as is the case with non-finite verbs, it's called PRO (a null or empty pronoun):

    1. I want PRO to visit you.
    2. I want him to visit you.

    In sentence 1, PRO represents the subject of the verb 'to visit', and in sentence 2, 'him' represents the subject of the verb 'to visit'.

    Since 'him' functions as the subject of 'to visit, we expect 'him' to look like a subject, to be in the nominative (subject) form "he", but it is not. The reason for that is related to the non-finite quality of its verb 'to visit'.

    Non-finite verbs lack case assigning properties. That is, they cannot assign case to their subjects, so their subjects have to look to the closest verb for case assignment. The verb 'want' is the closest verb, yet it has already assigned nominative (subject) case to 'I', so it can assign only objective (object) case to 'him'. That's why 'him' looks like an object but functions as a subject.

    3. I want [him to visit you].

    In sentence 3, 'him to visit you' functions as the object of the verb 'want'. Within 'him to visit you', 'him' functions as the subject, 'to visit' as the verb and 'you' as the object.

    4. I want [PRO to visit you]

    In sentence 4, 'Pro to visit you' functions as the object of the verb 'want'. PRO, the empty or null pronoun, represents the covert semantic subject, 'to visit' is the verb and 'you' is the verb's object.

    According to linguistics, all sentence have subjects. Some are overt (we can see/hear them and some are covert (we cannot see/hear them, but we know they are there intuitively. That is, I want and I visit you.) Covert subjects (and objects, too) are represented in linguistics notation by the symbol PRO, which stands for a null (zero) or empty pronoun.

    In the sentence, "I saw him coming here"
    (2) Does "coming" have a subject? If yes, which is the subject?
    5a. I saw [him coming here]
    5b. What I saw was him coming here. (object of 'was')

    'him coming here' is the object of the verb 'saw'. 'coming' functions as a gerund, a noun that looks like a verb because it ends in -ing. If 'coming' were a verb we'd expect be -ing: is coming, was coming, the continuous form of the verb. There is no verb that sits alone with -ing. That's a gerund. Gerunds, being nominals, cannot assign case, so 'him' gets its case from the closest verb 'saw' but functions as the semantic subject of 'coming'.

    6. I saw [him come here].

    Sentence 6 follows the same pattern as sentence 5a. 'him come here' is the object of the verb 'saw'. 'him' gets case from 'saw' but functions as the subject of 'come'. If the verb 'come' had case properties, we would expect to see *'he comes here'.

    (3) Can an OBJECT of a verb be simultaneously the SUBJECT of another verb? "Him" is the object of "saw"; is "him" simultaneously the subject of "coming"?
    Yes and No. Linguists get around the problem by dividing the sentence into two levels of representation: 1) a syntactic level and 2) a semantic level. 'him' functions as the semantic subject of 'coming' and the entire bit 'him coming here' functions as the syntactic object of 'saw'. In this way, 'him' has a separate function at each level of representation.

    7a. I saw [him coming here]. (Semantic subject)
    7b. I saw [him coming here]. (Syntactic object)

    Since 'him' is part of the syntactic object of 'saw', and by itself not the direct object of 'saw', linguists use that positioning to argue that 'him' has a separate function at each level of representation. That is, 'him' is the semantic subject of 'come' and part of the syntactic object of 'saw'.

    In the sentence, "I saw John who was coming here" or "I saw him who was coming here",
    (4) "John" or "him" is the object of "saw" but not the subject of "coming", because "who" is the subject of "coming". This merely avoids Questions (1), (2) and (3) above.
    'John' and 'him' are not the object of the verb 'saw'. They are part of the verb's object:

    8a. I saw [this].
    8b. I saw [John who was coming here]
    8c. I saw [*him who was coming here]

    The phrase 'who was coming here' modifies 'John' and 'him'. It's an adjectival clause. The verb of that clause is 'was coming'; 'who', the subject, gets case from 'was coming'; 'was coming' cannot assign case twice, so 'John' and 'him' get case from the verb 'saw'. 'John' and 'him' are the semantic subjects of 'was coming'. 'who' is the semantic and syntactic subject of 'was coming'. 'who' refers to 'John' and 'him' They have an anaphoric relationship: 'who' refers back to 'John' and 'him'.

    9a. I saw [John who was coming here]
    9b. I saw [*him who was coming here] (Ungrammatical. 'who' refers to nouns, not pronouns)

    The answer to your question (4) doesn't 'merely avoid Questions (1), (2), and (3). It's the proof you need to argue that 'him' functions as a semantic subject of one verb and as part of the syntactic object of another verb. The order in which your questions were asked provides a logical flow for argumentation. In other words, I hope you get an "A"

    All the best,

    Cas :D

  4. #4
    jwschang Guest

    Default Re: Subject of a verb

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    In the sentence, "I saw him coming here",
    (1) Must a verb (regardless finite or non-finite) ALWAYS have a SUBJECT?
    Well, according to linguistics all sentences have two things: 1) a verb and 2) a subject. If the subject is covert, as is the case with non-finite verbs, it's called PRO (a null or empty pronoun):

    1. I want PRO to visit you.
    2. I want him to visit you.

    In sentence 1, PRO represents the subject of the verb 'to visit', and in sentence 2, 'him' represents the subject of the verb 'to visit'.

    Since 'him' functions as the subject of 'to visit, we expect 'him' to look like a subject, to be in the nominative (subject) form "he", but it is not. The reason for that is related to the non-finite quality of its verb 'to visit'.

    Non-finite verbs lack case assigning properties. That is, they cannot assign case to their subjects, so their subjects have to look to the closest verb for case assignment. The verb 'want' is the closest verb, yet it has already assigned nominative (subject) case to 'I', so it can assign only objective (object) case to 'him'. That's why 'him' looks like an object but functions as a subject.

    3. I want [him to visit you].

    In sentence 3, 'him to visit you' functions as the object of the verb 'want'. Within 'him to visit you', 'him' functions as the subject, 'to visit' as the verb and 'you' as the object.

    4. I want [PRO to visit you]

    In sentence 4, 'Pro to visit you' functions as the object of the verb 'want'. PRO, the empty or null pronoun, represents the covert semantic subject, 'to visit' is the verb and 'you' is the verb's object.

    According to linguistics, all sentence have subjects. Some are overt (we can see/hear them and some are covert (we cannot see/hear them, but we know they are there intuitively. That is, I want and I visit you.) Covert subjects (and objects, too) are represented in linguistics notation by the symbol PRO, which stands for a null (zero) or empty pronoun.

    In the sentence, "I saw him coming here"
    (2) Does "coming" have a subject? If yes, which is the subject?
    5a. I saw [him coming here]
    5b. What I saw was him coming here. (object of 'was')

    'him coming here' is the object of the verb 'saw'. 'coming' functions as a gerund, a noun that looks like a verb because it ends in -ing. If 'coming' were a verb we'd expect be -ing: is coming, was coming, the continuous form of the verb. There is no verb that sits alone with -ing. That's a gerund. Gerunds, being nominals, cannot assign case, so 'him' gets its case from the closest verb 'saw' but functions as the semantic subject of 'coming'.

    6. I saw [him come here].

    Sentence 6 follows the same pattern as sentence 5a. 'him come here' is the object of the verb 'saw'. 'him' gets case from 'saw' but functions as the subject of 'come'. If the verb 'come' had case properties, we would expect to see *'he comes here'.

    (3) Can an OBJECT of a verb be simultaneously the SUBJECT of another verb? "Him" is the object of "saw"; is "him" simultaneously the subject of "coming"?
    Yes and No. Linguists get around the problem by dividing the sentence into two levels of representation: 1) a syntactic level and 2) a semantic level. 'him' functions as the semantic subject of 'coming' and the entire bit 'him coming here' functions as the syntactic object of 'saw'. In this way, 'him' has a separate function at each level of representation.

    7a. I saw [him coming here]. (Semantic subject)
    7b. I saw [him coming here]. (Syntactic object)

    Since 'him' is part of the syntactic object of 'saw', and by itself not the direct object of 'saw', linguists use that positioning to argue that 'him' has a separate function at each level of representation. That is, 'him' is the semantic subject of 'come' and part of the syntactic object of 'saw'.

    In the sentence, "I saw John who was coming here" or "I saw him who was coming here",
    (4) "John" or "him" is the object of "saw" but not the subject of "coming", because "who" is the subject of "coming". This merely avoids Questions (1), (2) and (3) above.
    'John' and 'him' are not the object of the verb 'saw'. They are part of the verb's object:

    8a. I saw [this].
    8b. I saw [John who was coming here]
    8c. I saw [*him who was coming here]

    The phrase 'who was coming here' modifies 'John' and 'him'. It's an adjectival clause. The verb of that clause is 'was coming'; 'who', the subject, gets case from 'was coming'; 'was coming' cannot assign case twice, so 'John' and 'him' get case from the verb 'saw'. 'John' and 'him' are the semantic subjects of 'was coming'. 'who' is the semantic and syntactic subject of 'was coming'. 'who' refers to 'John' and 'him' They have an anaphoric relationship: 'who' refers back to 'John' and 'him'.

    9a. I saw [John who was coming here]
    9b. I saw [*him who was coming here] (Ungrammatical. 'who' refers to nouns, not pronouns)

    The answer to your question (4) doesn't 'merely avoid Questions (1), (2), and (3). It's the proof you need to argue that 'him' functions as a semantic subject of one verb and as part of the syntactic object of another verb. The order in which your questions were asked provides a logical flow for argumentation. In other words, I hope you get an "A"

    All the best,

    Cas :D
    Thank you, Casiopea, for your very detailed and clear explanation.
    I had posted the questions to resolve them with third views, for people who had their doubts about what was actually correct. So, we are quite correct to say:

    1. A sentence must have a subject and its verb.
    2. EVERY verb must have its grammatical subject (sometimes understood, e.g. second person "You"), syntactic or semantic. E.g. "It" is used as the pronoun subject for actions that otherwise would not have a subject, such as the existence of a situation or natural occurences. E.g.
    (a) It was very quiet in the room.
    (b) It is raining now.
    3. Where a sentence has more than one verb, the subject of a particular verb MAY be the object of another verb (or the other, if only two verbs).
    4. Where a subject is the object of another verb, the verb of THAT subject is either in the Infinitive or the Continuous Participle (i.e. incomplete tense, only ASPECT). E.g.
    (a) He saw her RUN (infinitive) across the field.
    (b) He saw her RUNNING (cont participle) across the field.
    (c) I heard him talk to her.
    (d) I heard John talking to her.
    5. In the following sentence, there is not a "problem" such as in (4) above: (I saw John)(He was eating lunch) = I saw John WHO was eating lunch.
    (a) "I saw John" is the main clause ("saw" with its own syntactic subject and object) and "who was eating lunch" is the subordinate clause ("was eating" with its own syntactic subject and object).
    (b) "Who" is the relative pronoun referring to "John" and ALSO acting as a conjunction to join the two clauses, and is ALSO the pronoun subject of "was eating".

  5. #5
    jwschang Guest

    Default Re: Subject of a verb

    To add to my previous response:

    1. New speakers often say wrongly:
    I heard John talkS to her.
    2. I heard John talk (infintive) to her.
    3. I heard John talking (cont participle) to her.
    4. Whilst the infinitive in (2) and the cont participle in (3) do not have a tense by themselves, they actually "borrow" the tense from the antecedent verb "heard". Since "heard" is in the past tense, it is understood that "talk" is in the simple past tense in (2); and "talking" is in the past cont tense in (3).

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    Default Re: Subject of a verb

    jwschang

    To add to my previous response:

    1. New speakers often say wrongly:
    I heard John talkS to her.
    2. I heard John talk (infintive) to her.
    3. I heard John talking (cont participle) to her.
    New speakers often say incorrectly

    1. I heard John talks to her. (Yup, not OK)
    2. I heard John talk to her. (This is OK)
    3. I heard John talking to her. (This is OK)

    Whilst the infinitive in (2) and the cont participle in (3) do not have a tense by themselves, they actually "borrow" the tense from the antecedent verb "heard". Since "heard" is in the past tense, it is understood that "talk" is in the simple past tense in (2); and "talking" is in the past cont tense in (3).
    Hmm. I agree with the analysis for (3) and don't agree with the analysis for (2). The reason being,

    2a. I heard John talk to her through the window.
    2b. I heard John talked to her through the window. (idiom, grammatical)
    2c. I heard John talked to her through the window. (finite verb, ungrammatical)

    Sentences 2a and 2b hold different meanings for me.

    In 2a, event 1, 'heard' took place in the past, as did event 2, 'talk to'; but, and here's the odd part, using the infinitive 'talk to' expresses an action in the here and now. That is, 'heard' is expressed in the past, it happened, but 'talk to' is being expressed in the non-past, so the listener/reader views 'talk to' as if it were taking place in the non-past. That is, it's like a flashback in the movies. They play a scene that happened in the past, but the audience is watching it in the now, the present time. That's how I feel about sentence 2a. The verb 'talk to' is not past tense at the semantic level. I don't feel as if tense has been borrowed.

    As for sentence 2b, well, 'talked to' is an idiom, so it's probable that native speakers often delete the -ed so as to avoid the idiomatic expression.

    As for 2c, it's ungrammatical. -ed needs to be deleted.

    2c. I heard John talked to her through the window.
    (finite verb, ungrammatical)

    2. I heard John talk to her through the window.

    Isn't there a problem with the fact that (2) has two meanings, and morever why is it that overt -ed results in ungrammaticality in (2c), whereas covert -ed results in grammaticality in (2b)?

    2b. I heard John talk to her through the window.
    (non-finte verb, grammatical)
    2c. I heard John talked to her through the window.
    (finite verb, ungrammatical)

    And what about (2d), wherein the verb is non-finite in structure and finite in meaning?

    2d. I heard John talk to her through the window. ('talk to' borrows tense from 'heard', resulting in 'talked to' at the semantic level)

    I feel there are scary problems attached to 'borrow'ing tense. I read something about it some time ago, but that was a long time ago. I'll need more time to digest it. Sound rather tastly, though. Thanks for the menu. :D

    :) By the way:
    'Whilst', hmm, While is more common.
    'cont participle', hmm, present participle is the common term.

  7. #7
    jwschang Guest

    Default Re: Subject of a verb

    1. By "borrow", I don't mean sentence (2) should read: I heard John talkED to her. This is obviously wrong.
    2. Similarly, sentence (3) is not meant to read as: I heard John WAS talking to her. Although grammatically correct, it gives a meaning different from the original sentence (3): "I heard John talking to her" is not the same as "I heard (that) John was talking to her".
    3. What I meant was not a substitution of the verbs, but John TALK (sentence (2)) is in the PAST (because "heard" is in the past); and John TALKING is also in the PAST (again because "heard" is in the past) but the -ing indicates that at the time that I heard it, John was then talking (in progress).
    4. This "borrowing" can only happen when "John" (object of heard) is the subject of "talk" (infinitive) or "talking" (cont participle).
    5. Compare: "I heard (that) they ARE coming": "heard" is simple past, "are" is present + "coming" is continuous. The two verb constructions "heard" and "are coming" are in different tenses but not in conflict, neither is any "borrowing" involved because they are in different clauses.

  8. #8
    jwschang Guest

    Default Re: Subject of a verb

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    'cont participle', hmm, present participle is the common term.
    1. I find the term Present Participle can be misleading. E.g. The Past Continuous tense = Past of Be + Continuous Participle (correctly saying in-progress then). But if = Past of Be + Present Participle, there's nothing "Present" about this tense.

    2. It's just a personal preference. Same goes for the Perfect Participle vs the Past Participle when it comes to, say, the Present Perfect tense.

    3. I use my preferred terminology to separate on the one side PRESENT, PAST and SHALL/WILL/WOULD, and on the other side the INFINITIVE and the participles CONTINUOUS and PERFECT. This distinguishes between TIME and ASPECT which constitutes a compound tense.

    4. I find (3) useful esp with the compound tenses: first Auxiliary (Present/Past/Shall/Will/Would) + second Auxiliary (if any, BE/HAVE/BEEN) + third Auxiliary (if any, BEEN) + Main Verb (Infinitive/Continuous Participle/Perfect Participle)

  9. #9
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Present and Past are rather confusing and, IMHO, innacurate terms. ;'-)

  10. #10
    whl626 is offline Member
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    I believe that we should concentrate on the sentence structure more because from grammar point of view, it sometimes comes to different conclusion depending on the interpretation. Well, this is just my point :)

    I heard John talk to her or talking to her are both correct :). and the using of talking gives a sense of the continuous action only.

    As long as we stick to this structure with verb of senses, we can't be wrong then :). To play it safe.

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