I don't quite understand why it is grammatically correct to use another verb after the main verb (main verb + subject + verb) in a sentence,

for example:

I can't believe you remembered that blue is my absolute favorite color.

given that “believe” is not a modal verb or a verb that fits in " verb + object + (bare) infinitive" Syntax, like those words: let, make, see, hear, feel.

Could some explain it to me?


I can't believe [(that) you remembered that blue is my absolute favorite color].

The reason is that the bracketed expression is a separate subordinate clause that is embedded within the larger (matrix) clause. Note that the subordinate clause has its own subject, you, and its own predicate, remembered that blue is my absolute favorite color. Grammatically, the clause subordinator "that" can be optionally added, as shown.

The subordinate clause here is called a declarative content clause, and it is functioning as complement of the verb believe. It is not the object of believe, since objects are (almost) always noun phrases, not clauses. Believe is thus intransitive here.

Incidentally, your example contains the further subordinate content clause that blue is my absolute favorite color, functioning as complement of the verb remembered.

EDIT: The case against the term 'noun clause' (and thus against clauses as objects), extracted from a paper by Huddleston & Pullum, authors of CGEL:

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  • I find that "remember" and "think" are shown in dictionaries as transitive, yet it seems that their uses are always matters of "content". Is there another word than "transitive" that should be used for a verb that can take a complement that is not an object? – Jack O'Flaherty Feb 11 at 13:45
  • @JackO'Flaherty The Oxford has entries for "remember" and "think" without objects, and thus intransitive: link / link – BillJ Feb 11 at 15:16
  • Both words have uses with neither object nor complement. "I think, therefore I am." But if I say, "I remember Jeannie", that would usually be thought of as transitive, with a direct object. It doesn't seem different to me than "I remember that Jeannie had light brown hair." Both seem to be a description of content of remembering. – Jack O'Flaherty Feb 11 at 22:45
  • But it is different; that's the whole point. I'll see if I can find some info for you. Incidentally, content clauses lack the special properties of the other finite subordinate clauses (relative and comparative), and are simply selected for their content. That's the meaning of the 'content' component in 'content clause'. – BillJ Feb 12 at 8:07
  • @JackO'Flaherty I've added an edit to my answer. It's an extract from a paper written by Huddleston & Pullum that explains why the term Noun Clause is a misnomer. – BillJ Feb 13 at 11:50

The verb "believe" has a complement, which is the clause

[that] you remembered that blue is my absolute favorite color.

(The word [that] is an optional subordinator, omitted in this sentence.)

In turn, the verb "remembered" has a complement, which is the clause

that blue is my absolute favorite color.

So, what you have is a complement clause that itself contains a verb and another complement clause.

I have edited this answer, to replace "direct object" with "complement" because of BillJ's objection, which is valid. The distinction is that a direct object receives some sort of action from a transitive verb, and is affected by it, whereas the content of a complement clause is not affected by the verb whose complement it is, but instead provides information about it.

pediaa.com difference between object and complement

An object is what is affected by the subject while complement is a part of a clause following the verb that adds additional information about the subject or the object of the sentence.

  • Thank you for your reply. <br/>Could you tell when is it an optional subordinator and when it is not. – Clement Leung Feb 10 at 22:52
  • Clement, I found a discussion on Stack Exchange ELU that discusses when "that" is optional: tinyurl.com/3lccvsht – Jack O'Flaherty Feb 11 at 2:50
  • I wouldn't say that the subordinate clause is a direct object See my answer for why. – BillJ Feb 11 at 7:52
  • @BillJ Thank you. I have edited my answer to be in line with this terminology. – Jack O'Flaherty Feb 11 at 13:32

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