1

He makes me do the work.

I don't understand which is the main verb here. I know that "make" is a causative verb in this sentence but which is the main verb? Is it make or do? and which is the main object? Is it me or the work?

2
  • There can be more than one main verb in a sentence. He ate fish and drank wine. Two main verbs. – Jeff Morrow May 14 '18 at 0:29
  • "Make" is a catenative verb and this is a catenative construction. The matrix (main) verb is "make" and "do" is the verb in the subordinate clause "do the work", which functions as complement to "make". "Me" is syntactic object of "make" and the understood (semantic) subject of "do". It's called a 'raised' object. – BillJ May 14 '18 at 8:39
2

"do the work" in this sentence is an bare infinitive clause. In other words, "do the work" is acting as a noun in the sentence (like all infinitive clauses do). Thus, "makes" is the main verb in the sentence.

I am assuming that you are using the definition of "main verb" similar to the one here:

A main verb in English is (1) any verb that is not an auxiliary verb, and/or (2) the verb in a main clause.

Alternatively, you can explain it thus: since "do the work" is a bare infinitive clause, "do the work" is a dependant clause, and thus "do" cannot be a main verb.

Note: "Do the work." can work as a standalone sentence, but it means something different in that context. "Do" is the imperative mood then, while in our sentence "Do" is an bare infinitive which are the same verb form but mean different things. For example, in "I heard her sing a song." "sing a song" has no implied command meaning but saying "Sing a song." alone does. This is why "do the work" in our sentence is a dependant clause in spite of it sounding just like independent clause "Do the work." in an order.

In our sentence, "do the work" is closer to "to do the work" in grammatical function than "Do the work" as a command. ("He made me to do the work" is not correct, because "made" requires the bare infinitive)

3
  • I was agreeing with everything until you said that do the work is a dependent clause. There is only a single clause in this sentence. Do the work is not a separate clause, either independent or dependent. The structure of the single-clause sentence is identical to He makes me work. – Jason Bassford May 14 '18 at 3:23
  • 1
    No, Square Cow is correct that do the work is a subordinate clause. Causative make takes a bare infinitival clause as a complement, as this answer explains. See e.g. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language pages 1233–1234 and note that make takes a to-infinitival complement in the passive. I wouldn't say it "acts as a noun" in this sentence because the grammatical frameworks I use separate category from function, but it makes sense in a traditional analysis. – snailplane May 14 '18 at 3:25
  • @snailboat I stand (foolishly) corrected. And, after further thought, will try to forget my momentary lapse of reason. ;) – Jason Bassford May 14 '18 at 3:36
2

He makes me [do the work].

"Make" is a catenative verb and this is a catenative construction. The matrix (main) verb is "make", and "do" is the verb in the subordinate clause "do the work", which functions as catenative complement to "make".

The intervening object "me" is the syntactic object of "make" and the understood (semantic) subject of "do". It's called a 'raised' object because the verb it relates to syntactically is higher in the constituent structure than the one it relates to semantically.

The term 'catenative' comes from the Latin word for "chain", which is appropriate here since there is a chain of verbs, "make" and "do".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.