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I can't seem to find the verb in this sentence. May I ask where it may be?

The symptoms can be so intense that they become debilitating, distinguishing those who suffer from the disorder from those with normal anxieties.

Thanks in advance!

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    The verb in the main clause is can be. Nov 16, 2017 at 3:10
  • @StoneyB what is the grammar structure of the phrase starting with "distinguishing"? It looks similar to a participle phrase but it feels like something else entirely, like the start of a separate sentence.
    – Andrew
    Nov 16, 2017 at 3:13
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    @Andrew It is a supplementary participle clause, commenting on the significance of the main clause. Nov 16, 2017 at 3:23

2 Answers 2

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There are more than one verb in this sentence.

The symptoms can be so intense that they become debilitating, distinguishing those who suffer from the disorder from those with normal anxieties.

This is because the sentence contains multiple clauses. It could be separated as follows (although it doesn't convey quite the same meaning), but to show how the verbs fit:

The symptoms can be (so) intense. They become debilitating. This distinguishes those who suffer from the disorder from those with normal anxieties.

In the more meaningful construction you get the cause-and-effect message with the communication that the symptoms in extremis become debilitating.

The symptoms can be so intense that they become debilitating,

and that this effect (when the symptoms are debilitating) identifies those people who suffer from this disorder (and that those people are not "merely" anxious).

Also, can is an auxiliary verb, so can + be are auxiliary and main verb in that clause.

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In the main part of the sentence the verb is "can be".

The symptoms can be so intense ..

The second part of the sentence (everything after the comma) is something like a participle phrase (actually called a "supplementary participle clause") that modifies the subject the symptoms.

[The symptoms] distinguish those who suffer from ...

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