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A particular bacterium that has never encountered a particular virus will usually succumb to it, a susceptibility that may, surprisingly, be beneficial to the colony in which the bacterium lives.

This sentence seems to have two verbs, ie. "will usually succumb", and "may, surprisingly, be beneficial".

My teacher told me one sentence can only have one verb, how come does this sentence have two? Or does it have structure permitting this that I'm not aware of?

  • Who was your teacher? ^-^ – Maulik V Nov 29 '17 at 5:17
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    When I looked at the question, I felt that there's something terribly wrong with the teacher who teaches students like Qiqi! – Maulik V Nov 29 '17 at 5:23
  • This might be a misleading statement - 'one sentence can only have one verb'. Sentences can have multiple verbs. – Varun Nair Nov 29 '17 at 5:25
  • You missed one; your sentence also contains 'that has never encountered'. So that's three verb groups in the one sentence. So either your teacher was really really wrong or (perhaps) you misunderstood what he/she said. – AmE speaker Nov 29 '17 at 6:04
  • @VarunNair I can't recall her original word. I once wrote "Today is sunny, I went to school, Tom said hello to me, I didn't notice him." Is this sentence correct with multiple verbs? – Gqqnbig Nov 29 '17 at 6:06
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It is my hope that your instructor meant, *a basic sentence may have but one verb." Otherwise, he/she is in error. Your sentence can be broken into three parts:

[1]{A particular bacterium...} [2]{that has never encountered a particular virus} [1]{...will usually succumb to it}[3]{, a susceptibility that may, surprisingly, be beneficial to the colony in which the bacterium lives.}

In reverse order...

[3] a susceptibility that may, surprisingly, be beneficial to the colony in which the bacterium lives.

This is a dependent clause. An imprecise way of thinking about this is that it's a second sentence that depends on the first sentence for complete context. Read by itself, the reader does not know what "susceptibility" refers to. However being a "sentence" it may have its own verb or verb group. In this case, "may be."1

[2] that has never encountered a particular virus

This is an adjective clause. It is similar to a dependant clause in that it depends on the primary sentence for context. It differs in that it is only used to describe something in a more complex manner. It is, therefore, also a "sentence." It's subject is the pronoun "that" and its verb group is "have encountered."

The nature of clauses is that they can be removed from the primary or basic sentence. If we do so, we are left with...

[1] A particular bacterium will usually succumb to it.

Though incomplete in context (we do not know what "it" refers to), the sentence is complete. One subject, "bacterium" and one verb group "will succumb."

As I mentioned earlier, my hope is that your instructor was refering to basic sentences. Clauses can create quite complicated sentences and each clause can have its own verb or verb group.


1Please note that I am removing all the adverbs, etc, and identifying only the basic verbs/verb groups. I did this in an attempt to improve clarity. I'm including this footnote against the possibility that I failed.

  • Thanks for the long analysis while I only asked the "two verbs" issue. For [3], is it Nominal clauses, adjectival clause or adverbial clause? – Gqqnbig Nov 29 '17 at 7:20
  • @QiqiGu, I only answered the "two verbs" issue. I also suspect I'm doing your homework for you. Why don't you visit this site, learn about the different types of clauses, and tell me which one you think [3] is? – JBH Nov 29 '17 at 7:43
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Consider this sentence:

The price of a stadium seat has increased tenfold in as many years, a fact which is rarely discussed by the mayor.

The main clause is:

The price of a stadium seat has increased tenfold in as many years

the rest of the sentence, which is not part of the main clause, is a noun-phrase:

a fact which is rarely discussed by the mayor

That noun phrase is just tacked on, giving us extra information about the main clause.

The same noun-phrase tack-on is happening with your sentence, giving extra information about the main clause.

... a susceptibility that may, surprisingly, be beneficial to the colony in which the bacterium lives.

The main clause:

A particular bacterium that has never encountered a particular virus will usually succumb to it

  • I thought a noun-phrase can only be a subject or an object. What component is "a fact...by the mayor" in the sentense? – Gqqnbig Nov 29 '17 at 18:04

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