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In the provided example (below), is 'cry' considered a catenative complement?

He made him cry.

'Him' is the object of 'made,' so 'cry' must be a complement. I know that a verb cannot function as an object complement (only nouns and adjectives can), so this is the only plausible explanation I've been able to find. If this is the case, please could someone explain why 'cry' is a catenative complement?

2 Answers 2

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He made him cry.

You are right in saying that this is a catenative construction.

"Make" is a catenative verb and the subordinate infinitival clause is its catenative complement.

The intervening NP "him" is the syntactic object of "made" and the understood (semantic) subject of the subordinate clause.

That "him" belongs in the matrix clause, not the subordinate one, is evident from the fact that it can be made subject of a passive, as in "He was made to cry".

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It is a complex transitive construction here, i.e. the two elements following the verb are notionally equated with the subject and predication respectively of a nominal clause.

Since nouns or adjectives function as the object comlement in complex transitive constructions and nonfinite clauses don't, the definition "a predication adjunct" was adopted by R.Quirk etal for the nonfinite clause following the direct (raised) object (him).

Hence you can abide by R.Quirk etal and regard "cry" as a predication adjunct.

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  • It's not a complex-transitive construction, but a catenative one. Adjuncts are always optional elements, but in this case "cry" is obligatory for this meaning of "make" and hence is a complement, not an adjunct.
    – BillJ
    Sep 13, 2021 at 8:42
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    @BillJ Sorry, but complements are also optional elements. "Catenative" has just come in fashion.
    – Eugene
    Sep 13, 2021 at 11:45
  • I don't agree. Complements are sometimes optional but generally obligatory as they are required to complete the verb phrase. The term catenative has been in use for at least 20 years. Quirk et al refer to it in their Comprehensive 1985. In the OP's example, "cry" is obligatory for this sense of "make" and hence is a complement.
    – BillJ
    Sep 13, 2021 at 12:52
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    @BillJ If you will call "cry" a complement then you should define it more exactly as "a complement of a catenative verb" because it is not an object complement, of course. But this is too general and dilutes the process of proper apprehension of sentence structure. It's like saying that everything besides the verb in every sentence is its complement - yes, it is, but... I hope you'll take in the logic of Comprehensive 1985 if you peruse its paragraphs 16.49 (here you'll find "predication adjunct") and 16.52. My best regards!
    – Eugene
    Sep 13, 2021 at 15:13
  • I said in my answer that "cry" is a catenative complement of the catenative verb "make".
    – BillJ
    Sep 13, 2021 at 15:23

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