I have seen constructions like:

The number of electrons present inside the metal is large.

In the given case, the noun electrons is directly followed by the verb present.

It could also be written using as adjective phrase as:

The number of electrons which are present inside the metal is large.

In this case, now noun electrons and verb present are separated by an adjective phrase.

Now consider,

I saw them destroy you.

She helped him find a buyer.

In these cases, I believe the noun/pronoun and the verb cannot by separated by any phrase like in the first example. I feel these constructions are a bit odd because of lack of an auxiliary verb and also due to the consecutive use of two different verbs with of course one noun/pronoun in between them. Can these have alternatives like that for the first example? Which these types of constructions are called (as)?

  • 1
    Present is not a verb in your first example but an adjective, precisely as it is in the paraphrase with a relative clause. Aug 16, 2017 at 10:23

2 Answers 2


We refer this to as a "complex catenative construction." (I know it sounds fancy, but there's nothing odd with such constructions.)

A complex catenative construction has an intervening noun phrase,* which is the direct object, followed by a subordinate clause functioning as a catenative complement.

Catenative verbs admit various kinds of catenative complements, realized by non-finite clauses, depending on the verb in the main clause.

The verb "saw" is a verb of perception, that is, a verb that conveys the experience of one of the physical senses. This verb allows a bare infinitive as a complement.

"Help" is a special verb in that it licenses either a to-infinitive or a bare infinitive as a complement; the latter, however, is more common in modern English.

*A simple catenative construction does not have an intervening noun phrase (e.g., I forgot to do that).

There's a brief discussion about non-finite clauses here.

A gerund is also allowed. See this.

  • I stood amazed. Is it the same kind of construction?
    – Anubhav
    Aug 19, 2017 at 7:45
  • @AnubhavSingh Yeah, they are the same 'catenative construction'. Aug 19, 2017 at 8:10

Consider "I saw they who destroy you" or "She helped he who found a buyer."

  • Is it correct usage?
    – Anubhav
    Aug 17, 2017 at 17:07
  • Yes. For example "I help those who help themselves".
    – Dapianoman
    Aug 17, 2017 at 22:16

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