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I wonder if have is also considered as a copular verb beside be. The reason is that have can sometimes be used as state of being like be. For example, we say "he has a degree in linguistics", which is the same as "he is a linguistics graduate".

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  • HAVE is not a copular verb because it takes a direct object. Copular verbs take a subject complement. Dec 16, 2018 at 5:54
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    But "be" also have a direct object
    – E Zhang
    Dec 16, 2018 at 5:58
  • No, BEs take a subject complement: #1 "He is a good person", #2 "he is good". Note that the adjective "good" complements BE in #2. Direct objects must be noun phrases. Dec 16, 2018 at 6:00

1 Answer 1

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It's important to understand what a copular is. Downing & Locke (2006) gives the following definition:

Copular verbs, a type of intransitive, require a Subject Complement. Only verbs capable of being used as copulas can be used in this way.

Copular verbs do not take direct objects as other lexical transitive verbs do, such as HAVE. BE, for example, takes a Subject Complement as in:

  1. He is a good person
  2. He is good

Note that Objects must be noun phrases, which is not the case in #2.* Gerund-participial clauses can function as an object but only when it's the predicand of a predicative complement as in "I find talking to Max rather stressful".


*'A good person' is not an object either; it cannot be promoted to subject in the passive clause.

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  • How do you feel about promoting the object of "have" to subject in a passive clause: 'A degree in linguistics is had.' That is such a bad use of the passive that it borders on being as ungrammatical as 'A linguistics graduate is been'.
    – James K
    Dec 16, 2018 at 7:46
  • @James K There are many exceptions to passivization even if the verb takes a direct object. Eg. You do not normally say "Jim was wanted by John to write a letter to the mayor", but you say "John wanted Jim to write a letter the mayor". What's important here is a subject complement can be realized by either a noun phrase or an adjective phrase, while an object has a be a noun phrase. Dec 16, 2018 at 7:52
  • I don't agree. "Socrates is a man" is perfectly OK, however, "is" has a direct object "man" which is a noun
    – E Zhang
    Dec 16, 2018 at 23:39
  • @herme of course the sentence is OK. But "a man" is not an object since it cannot be promoted to subject in the passive clause and can be substituted by an adjective (cf. 'Socrates is manly'). All you need to understand is that an object and a subject complement are different. Dec 17, 2018 at 0:22
  • Why do we need such things like subject complement? Now I simply give up copular verb and use state of being verbs that include “have”
    – E Zhang
    Dec 17, 2018 at 0:32

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